Home Remedies for Yeast Infections

A yeast infection occurs when Candida yeast in the vagina overgrows, causing an infection. Yeast infections are common, and it’s estimated that most women will experience at least one in their lifetime. As soon as the burning and itching hit, you are most likely ready to try whatever it takes to get rid of it. While yeast infections are usually treated with over-the-counter creams or a prescription antifungal, some home remedies can potentially also help clear it up. 

Before Trying Home Remedies, Get a Diagnosis First

Before trying home remedies, it's important to get the right diagnosis first. It’s estimated that up to two-thirds of women who buy over-the-counter yeast infection treatment do not have a yeast infection. Other types of infections like bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted diseases, and urinary tract infections can be easily mistaken for yeast infections. If you are unsure of what you are experiencing, see your gynecologist before trying to treat it yourself. 

Foods and herbs with natural antifungal properties may help treat or prevent yeast overgrowth in the body. Most home remedies have still not been proven by science, so it’s important to use caution when choosing one. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor. 

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Yogurt

Eating plain yogurt without sweetener and with probiotic live cultures may help prevent future yeast infections. Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be consumed for health benefits, especially for the digestive system. Eating probiotic-rich foods can help restore your gut flora back to a healthy balance, killing bad bacteria that lead to disease, and increasing good bacteria. 

A common side effect of antibiotics is a yeast infection because antibiotic kills the bacteria in the vagina that is responsible for preventing yeast overgrowth. When the number of good bacteria is too low, yeast growth can become out of control and lead to a yeast infection. 

Eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt may therefore be an effective yeast infection prevention measure. It has yet to be proven whether eating yogurt can cure a yeast infection. 

Boric Acid

Boric acid is a natural compound that has been found to have antifungal effects. It contains both probiotics and antioxidants to help the body restore its supply of good bacteria.

A 2011 clinical review found that boric acid is a safe alternative treatment for yeast infections, especially when traditional antifungal medication is not effective. Boric acid may be helpful for women who experience chronic yeast infections and have been prescribed antifungals several times.

Boric acid usually comes in the form of a vaginal suppository, which is inserted into the vagina and should never be taken by mouth. Follow the package instructions and check with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve. Boric acid has not been proven safe in pregnant women, so if you are expecting, talk with your doctor about a safe antifungal. 

Oil of Oregano

Oregano oil is an essential oil known for its health benefits. A 2016 study found that oregano oil was able to inhibit both the growth and activity of Candida albicans, the most common type of yeast that causes vaginal yeast infections. The essential oil was more effective at fighting yeast overgrowth than the prescription antifungal medication clotrimazole.

In the study, oregano oil was more damaging to the cell wall of Candida yeast than the antifungal prescriptions tested. It should be noted that this study examined oregano oil’s effects on yeast in a lab setting. However, more research is needed to determine how to use oregano oil in the body. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has been found to inhibit the overgrowth of bacteria in the body. A 2018 study found that when dissolved in water, coconut oil was an effective antimicrobial agent. This may be helpful for preventing yeast infections since infection occurs when the bacteria and yeast in the vagina become out of balance.

Coconut oil can be taken by mouth or mixed into foods such as oatmeal or baked goods. More research looking into how to use coconut oil to treat a yeast infection is needed. 

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a proven antifungal agent and is effective at fighting Candida albicans. A 2020 study found that tea tree oil was effective at fighting yeast that was resistant to antifungal medications. Talk with your gynecologist if you’d like to incorporate tea tree oil into your treatment plan. Avoid placing the essential oil directly on or in the vagina or consuming it by mouth. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been found to have both antifungal and antimicrobial effects. This means that it may treat and prevent an overgrowth of both yeast and bacteria in the body. In fact, apple cider vinegar has been found to be an effective yeast infection treatment in tough-to-treat infections that do not respond to traditional treatment. 

Apple cider vinegar appears to work by inhibiting Candida from adhering to smooth surfaces. This can help prevent a yeast infection because the yeast is unable to bind together and stay in the vagina. Try mixing a spoonful of apple cider vinegar into a large glass of water each morning. Don’t attempt to use vinegar directly on your vagina.

Garlic

Garlic has antifungal properties and has been found to be effective at reducing the number of yeast during a vaginal yeast infection. Studies have not found that garlic can prevent the infection, though.

Garlic can be consumed raw or in a concentrated supplement. Add garlic to your cooking or try an over-the-counter garlic pill or oil. Follow the package instructions and check with your doctor if you do not experience symptom relief within a few days. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C can do a lot more than help you get over the common cold. It has proven antimicrobial and antifungal properties and can be taken orally as a way to help fight yeast infections.

You can get vitamin C by eating leafy greens and citrus fruits. You could also take a vitamin C supplement. 

Lemongrass

Lemongrass essential oil has been found to be effective at treating Candida albicans. Lemongrass oil can be inhaled as a vapor. In a 2014 study, the vapor method was more effective at treating yeast overgrowth. Internal consumption of this oil can be toxic, and should only be done under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.

Lemongrass oil also has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Cutting down on inflammation could help reduce the itching and burning associated with yeast infections. 

Preventing a Yeast Infection Naturally

The best treatment for yeast infections is prevention. To lower your risk of developing a yeast infection:

  • Never douche or use soap inside your vagina
  • Wear cotton underwear that is not too tight and is breathable
  • Change out of sweaty workout clothes or wet bathing suits right away
  • Avoid scented soaps and detergents
  • Change pads and tampons often
  • When using the bathroom, always wipe from front to back
  • Avoid spending too much time in hot tubs and very hot baths
  • Minimize yeast-promoting foods in your diet, such as alcohol and sugar

Unproven Treatments

Trying an oral home remedy to treat your yeast infection may be worth a shot. For example, adding apple cider vinegar or yogurt to your diet has health benefits. However, keep those foods and supplements away from your vagina. A quick internet search yields dozens of unproven yeast infection treatments that can cause even more problems. 

While yogurt is packed with probiotics, it’s also loaded with natural sugars that could feed yeast and make a yeast infection worse. Apple cider vinegar is acidic and can be very irritating to the skin. It may even cause a chemical burn. 

Another internet remedy involves douching with or bathing in a hydrogen peroxide-water mixture. This is dangerous and can cause serious skin irritation. Hydrogen peroxide kills both yeast and bacteria, so while it may clear up a yeast infection, it could also put you at risk of developing another. This is because the good bacteria in the vagina prevent yeast from overgrowing. If those bacteria are killed by hydrogen peroxide, another yeast infection is possible. 

When To Call Your Doctor

Most over-the-counter yeast infection treatments take anywhere from a day to a week to work. If you are still experiencing symptoms after a week of trying home remedies, see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe Diflucan (fluconazole), an antifungal oral medication that can usually treat a yeast infection in one dose. 

If a yeast infection treatment is not providing relief, it’s possible that you do not have a yeast infection. That's why it's important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections, skin disorders, and other conditions can sometimes present with similar symptoms to those of a yeast infection. Some of these infections can have serious complications when left untreated, so don’t hesitate to see your doctor. 

If you notice that you are experiencing frequent yeast infections, see your gynecologist. You may need a more long-term antifungal treatment to wipe out the infection and prevent future ones.

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