Have you got a burning or itching sensation in your vagina? Infection or inflammation of the vagina or vulva, medically known as vaginitis or vulvovaginitis, is a common cause for this. This can also cause symptoms like an unusual vaginal discharge, pain, and bad odor. There are mainly four kinds of vaginitis:
- Bacterial vaginosis, which is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the vagina. This upsets the balance between good and bad bacteria. Factors like douching, having a new sexual partner or multiple sexual partners, and using antibiotics or an intrauterine device can affect the balance of bacteria in your vagina.
- Yeast infection, which is caused by the overgrowth of yeast or candida in the vagina. Taking antibiotics or corticosteroid medicines can cause this. Pregnancy and diabetes also increase your chances of getting a yeast infection.
- Trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted disease caused by parasitic protozoa known as Trichomonas vaginalis.
- Atrophic vaginitis, which is seen when there is a decrease in the female hormone estrogen. This hormone keeps vaginal tissues moisturized. Estrogen levels normally fall after menopause. Certain medicines, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pregnancy, stress, depression, and excessive exercise can also cause estrogen levels to drop. And low levels of estrogen can cause vaginal tissues to thin and shrink. This, in turn, can cause inflammation and dryness.
Your doctor may prescribe antifungal medications for yeast infections and antibiotics for bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. But if you are looking for alternative remedies that can be helpful for these conditions, try the following options. But do keep in mind that it’s important to see a doctor if you get vaginal infections when you’re pregnant. If ignored, it can affect the baby’s wellbeing.
1. Consume Yogurt
Yogurt contains “good” bacteria known as Lactobacillus acidophilus which can prevent candida from growing excessively. According to research which studied women who suffered from recurring yeast infections, consuming yogurt daily significantly reduced the number of yeast infections that they got.4
How To Use: Consume 8 ounces of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus daily.
2. Try Garlic
Garlic can be effective against both yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. A sulfur-containing compound called allicin present in garlic inhibits the growth of candida while another sulfuric compound called allein accounts for its antibacterial properties.5 One study even found that garlic tablets were comparable in efficacy to the medicine metronidazole which is conventionally used to treat bacterial vaginosis.6
How To Use: Peel a clove of garlic, wrap it in gauze, and use it as a vaginal suppository. This can be left in overnight to tackle infection.7
Incorporating garlic in your diet can also be useful. But do note that fresh garlic works more effectively against yeast than garlic powder.
3. Use Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is that magical ingredient that works for yeast infections,8 bacterial vaginosis,9 and trichomonas.10 Bioactive compounds like terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, gamma-terpinene, and alpha-terpinene which are present in this essential oil are considered to be responsible for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties.
How to use: Wash your vagina in a tea tree oil solution diluted in water. You can prepare a douche with a 0.4% concentration of the essential oil mixed in a quart of water. You can also soak a tampon in 40% tea tree oil solution and use it as a suppository. Do keep in mind that the tampon shouldn’t be left in longer than 24 hours.11
4. Use Boric Acid
Boric acid capsules can be used as suppositories for treating recurring bacterial vaginosis as well as yeast infections. These have a strong antimicrobial action. However, do keep in mind that this is not a suitable remedy if you’re pregnant.12
How to use: Fill a gelatin capsule with around 600 mg of boric acid powder. Insert a capsule in your vagina each night and remove it in the morning for 2 weeks. You can continue to use boric acid suppositories twice a week for preventive purposes after your infection clears. However, it’s best to get a doctor’s recommendation to see how long this should be done.13
5. Try Goldenseal
Goldenseal, a plant native to North America, is commonly used to clear up Trichomonas and yeast infections. According to research, it contains a compound known as berberine which is effective against yeast as well as Trichomonas vaginalis.14 15
How to use: You can prepare a douche with goldenseal and use to wash your vagina. For a potent trichomoniasis treatment, combine it myrrh as detailed below.16
6. Check Out Myrrh
Myrrh, a resin from the tree Commiphora molmol, has been valued for its medicinal properties all over the world for ages. And according to research, it can work effectively against the protozoa that cause trichomoniasis. In fact, in one study, women with trichomoniasis who weren’t responding to antibiotics benefitted when they took myrrh extract on an empty stomach for 6 to 8 days.17
How to use: Mix in about half a teaspoon each of myrrh and goldenseal to a pint of water. Place this solution on the stove and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain after it cools down and use as a douche twice a day for about 2 weeks.18
7. Moisturize With Natural Oils
If your vaginal dryness and itching are a result of atrophic vaginitis, natural oils like coconut oil and almond oil can be applied inside your vagina to moisturize and lubricate it. Unlike synthetic oils like petroleum jelly which are difficult to flush out, your body can clear these oils. Moreover, do not use synthetic oils to lubricate your vagina as these can remain in the body for days, causing the pH (acid) level in your vagina to change. As a result, it becomes easier for harmful germs to thrive.
Do keep in mind that you shouldn’t use an oil-based moisturizer or lubricant with a condom as oil can break down and damage the condoms.19
How to use: Apply coconut or almond oil inside and around your vagina with your fingers to get rid of vaginal dryness and itching.
8. Have Soy And Soy Products
Soy is rich in isoflavones, a kind of phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are bioactive compounds which exhibit estrogen-like properties and can be helpful for menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. One study found that when women had a phytoestrogen-rich diet that included soy products like miso, tofu, soy drink as well as flaxseed, it reduced vaginal dryness and even hot flashes.20
How to use: Since soy is high in fiber, it can cause gas and bloating. So start small and gradually increase the amount of soy in your diet to give your system time to adapt. And remember, it’s always better to go for whole soy products like edamame, soy milk, or tofu rather than processed soy like soy protein isolates.21 Try substituting sour cream in sauces, dips, and dressings with pureed tofu or use soy milk in your smoothies.
9. Try Flax Seeds
Flax seeds contain phytoestrogens just like soy does. Lignans, the phytoestrogen in flax seeds, can help improve menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flashes.22
How to use: Grind up some flaxseeds and take with plenty of water. But remember flaxseeds need to be consumed within 24 hours of being ground to remain effective. You can consume about 9 g of flaxseed per day, but do add it into your diet gradually – like soy, flax seeds too are high in fiber.23
Do keep in mind that this remedy might not be suitable for you if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding because of its estrogen-like activity. Also speak to your doctor before incorporating flax seeds into your diet if you have endometriosis, bowel obstruction, or uterine, breast, or ovarian cancer.24
10. Drink Licorice Tea
Licorice roots have an estrogenic effect. They also contain compounds that can stimulate mucous production and so can be useful in relieving vaginal dryness.25
How to use: Try drinking 2 or 3 cups of licorice tea a day. Boil half an ounce of licorice root in 500 ml of water for around 15 minutes and strain for licorice tea. Do keep in mind though that licorice can raise your blood pressure so you should take it only after checking with your doctor. Also, it’s best not to use licorice for longer than 2 weeks.26
11. Try Ashwagandha
The ancient science of ayurveda has traditionally used ashwagandha to treat inflammation in the vagina.27 According to research, this herb can improve vaginal lubrication and even increase successful sexual encounters in women who are healthy.28
How to use: Ayurveda recommends having ashwagandha with ghee and honey. You can also take half a teaspoon of ashwagandha powder mixed in a cup of milk before going to bed. However, before taking ashwagandha, do check in with an ayurvedic practitioner who will be able to determine whether this herb is suitable for you and advise you on the appropriate dosage.
Your Doubts Answered
1. Can I Treat Vaginal Itching Or Burning Using Natural Ingredients?
[expert_opinion expertname=’andrewsiegel’ opinion=”Petroleum jelly gently applied to the area of “vagitch” can be very helpful for symptomatic relief.”]
2. Do I Need To Buy A Feminine Hygiene Wash To Keep My Vagina Clean?
[expert_opinion expertname=’andrewsiegel’ opinion=”No, normal bathing habits should do the trick. The vagina has an ecosystem of healthy bacterial flora that maintains proper acidity, which you do not want to interfere with. Unscented plain soap and water should be all that is sufficient to maintain hygiene.”]
3. Can I Use Coconut Oil Or Almond Oil To Treat Vaginal Dryness?
[expert_opinion expertname=’andrewsiegel’ opinion=”Yes. These two oils are excellent lubricants, moisteners and emollients.”]
|↑1||Vaginitis. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||What are the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis? National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Vaginal dryness. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Hilton, Eileen, Henry D. Isenberg, Phyllis Alperstein, Kenneth France, and Michael T. Borenstein. “Ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus as prophylaxis for candidal vaginitis.” Annals of Internal Medicine 116, no. 5 (1992): 353-357.|
|↑5||Lemar, Katey M., M. P. Turner, and David Lloyd. “Garlic (Allium sativum) as an anti‐Candida agent: a comparison of the efficacy of fresh garlic and freeze‐dried extracts.” Journal of Applied Microbiology 93, no. 3 (2002): 398-405.|
|↑6||Mohammadzadeh, Farnaz, Mahrokh Dolatian, Masoome Jorjani, Hamid Alavi Majd, and Nasrin Borumandnia. “Comparing the therapeutic effects of garlic tablet and oral metronidazole on bacterial vaginosis: a randomized controlled clinical trial.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 16, no. 7 (2014).|
|↑7||Khalsa, Karta Purkh Singh, and Michael Tierra. The way of ayurvedic herbs: The most complete guide to natural healing and health with traditional ayurvedic herbalism. Lotus Press, 2008.|
|↑8||Mondello, Francesca, Flavia De Bernardis, Antonietta Girolamo, Antonio Cassone, and Giuseppe Salvatore. “In vivo activity of terpinen-4-ol, the main bioactive component of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (tea tree) oil against azole-susceptible and-resistant human pathogenic Candida species.” BMC infectious diseases 6, no. 1 (2006): 158.|
|↑9||Hammer, K. A., C. F. Carson, and T. V. Riley. “In vitro susceptibilities of lactobacilli and organisms associated with bacterial vaginosis to Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil.” Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy 43, no. 1 (1999): 196-196.|
|↑10||Azimi, Hanieh, Mehrnaz Fallah-Tafti, Maliheh Karimi-Darmiyan, and Mohammad Abdollahi. “A comprehensive review of vaginitis phytotherapy.” Pakistan journal of biological sciences: PJBS 14, no. 21 (2011): 960-966.|
|↑11||Pizzorno Jr, Joseph E., and Michael T. Murray. Textbook of natural medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2012.|
|↑12, ↑13||Boric Acid Treatment for Vaginosis. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority.|
|↑14||Goldenseal. University of Maryland.|
|↑15||UDVARDY, ANTAL, ADRIENN MISKOVICS, and ATTILA SIPOS. “A PERSPECTIVE ON THE ANTI-INFECTIVE ACTIVITY OF GOLDENSEAL (HYDRASTIS CANADENSIS) AND ITS CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MULTIDRUG PUMP INHIBITORS.”|
|↑16, ↑18||Banks, Scott. Natural Cures For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.|
|↑17||El-Sherbiny, G. M., and E. T. El Sherbiny. “The Effect of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) in Treatment of Trichomoniasis vaginalis infection.” Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal 2011, no. 7, Jul (2011): 480-486.|
|↑19||Know How to Use Vaginal Moisturizers and Lubricants. University Health Network.|
|↑20||Brzezinski, Amnon, Herman Adlercreutz, Roger Shaoul, Ariel Rosier, Avigail Shmueli, Vasilus Tanos, and Joseph G. Schenker. “Short-term effects of phytoestrogen-rich diet on postmenopausal women.” Menopause 4, no. 2 (1997): 89-94.|
|↑21||The Joys of Soy! University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers.|
|↑22||Mayo, Joseph L. “A natural approach to menopause.” Applied Nutritional Science Reports 5, no. 7 (1999): 1-8.|
|↑23||Goyal, Ankit, Vivek Sharma, Neelam Upadhyay, Sandeep Gill, and Manvesh Sihag. “Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food.” Journal of food science and technology 51, no. 9 (2014): 1633-1653.|
|↑24||Flaxseed. University of Maryland.|
|↑25||Watson, Cynthia. Easing Menopause Symptoms. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2003.|
|↑26||Licorice. University of Michigan.|
|↑27||Puri, Harbans Singh. Rasayana: ayurvedic herbs for longevity and rejuvenation. Crc press, 2003.|
|↑28||Dongre, Swati, Deepak Langade, and Sauvik Bhattacharyya. “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study.” BioMed research international 2015 (2015).|