Can Apple Cider Vinegar Treat Yeast Infections?

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Apple cider vinegar is a home remedy that some believe can effectively treat a yeast infection (also known as vaginal candidiasis). A yeast infection is a common condition that occurs when Candida albicans, a type of fungus normally found in the vagina, suddenly overgrows.

Some test-tube studies have suggested that apple cider vinegar can neutralize fungi like C. albicans due to its high acidity. But, would the same be true if taken by mouth or applied topically?

This article reviews what the current body of research says about the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar in treating vaginal yeast infection, including the possible risks and benefits.

apple cider vinegar

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How Apple Cider Vinegar Affects Vaginal Yeast 

Under normal circumstances, there is a natural balance of bacteria and fungi in the vagina that keep each in check. When there's an imbalance—possibly caused by pregnancy, antibiotics, or oral contraceptives—C. albicans may grow out of control causing an infection.

Apple cider vinegar is thought by some to be used in treating the overgrowth by creating a hostile environment for C. albicans. There is a small handful of lab studies to support this hypothesis.

A 2015 study found that apple cider vinegar was able to kill a Candida strain associated with a mouth infection known as denture stomatitis. According to lab tests, apple cider vinegar was as effective in neutralizing the fungi as the antibiotic nystatin (although the antibiotic was longer-lasting). 

By contrast, a 2019 study concluded that apple cider vinegar was not substantially effective in killing C. albicans when compared to certain bacteria found normally in the body.

Human studies investigating the use of apple cider vinegar in Candida infections are even less common.

A 2018 case study reported that apple cider vinegar applied twice daily to the mouth of a single individual with oral candidiasis (oral thrush) reduced C. albicans by 94%. 

A similar case study reported that a 32-year-old woman with chronic vaginal candidiasis was able to clear the infection with applications of apple cider vinegar. However, it was not reported how often or how long the treatment was applied.

The Verdict

Due to the lack of research, there is little evidence that apple cider vinegar can treat yeast infections when applied topically or taken by mouth.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar 

Apple cider vinegar is said to have other health benefits besides treating yeast infections. If you’d like to try apple cider vinegar for any health reason, it should only be taken by mouth.

Applying apple cider vinegar to the vaginal tissues can be harmful and may even increase the risk of vaginal infections by disrupting the pH balance of the vagina.

Even apple cider vinegar diluted to 0.5% can be irritating to the skin. So, adding apple cider vinegar to a soaking bath is not recommended.

Apple cider vinegar is available in supplement form as a capsule, gelcap, or gummies. There is no approved dosage so follow the instructions on the package label.

If you decide to use storebought apple cider vinegar, you will need to dilute it before drinking. To be safe, limit your intake to one tablespoon taken twice daily and mixed with at least 8 ounces of water. This amount has been shown in some studies to be safe.

Apple cider vinegar can also be used as a dressing for salads and vegetables. 

Health Warning

Drinking excessive apple cider vinegar may cause stomach upset, heartburn, sore throat, nausea, tooth decay, and hypocalcemia (low calcium). It can also interact with drugs like insulin, Digox (digoxin), Lasix (furosemide), Demadex (torsemide), and diuretics ("water pills") like warfarin.

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Most over-the-counter (OTC) yeast infection preparations take several days to work. If you see no results after three days, call your healthcare provider. In some cases, your "yeast infection" may actually be another condition.

According to the Office of Women's Health in Washington, D.C., up to two-thirds of women who buy OTC yeast infection products don't have a true yeast infection.

It's important, therefore, to know the signs and symptoms of a yeast infection which may include:

  • Vaginal itching or burning
  • Vaginal redness
  • A thick, white discharge that looks like cottage cheese
  • Pain with sexual intercourse
  • Pain or burning with urination

These symptoms can occur with other vaginal infections. Speak to your healthcare provider if an OTC treatment fails to provide relief or if symptoms recur.

Summary

Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar can lower levels of Candida albicans (the fungus that causes yeast infections) in test tubes. However, there isn't yet enough human research to recommend it as a safe and effective treatment for a yeast infection.

If you want to add apple cider vinegar to your diet for health reasons, be sure to dilute it in water. Never put apple cider vinegar into your vagina as it can cause irritation and tissue injury.

If symptoms of a yeast infection last more than three days despite OTC treatments, contact your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Apple cider vinegar is thought to have many health benefits, including weight loss and lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. While there may be some evidence to support these claims, there is not enough to suggest that apple cider can actively "treat" things like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol.

It is important to remember that just because a product is "natural" doesn't mean that is either effective or safe. If considering a natural remedy of any sort, speak with your healthcare provider about the possible benefits and risks.

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10 Sources
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