Home remedies for yeast infections that work — and which to avoid – Insider

Roughly 75% of women experience a yeast infection in their lifetime, making it a common — but no less irritating — predicament. It should be no surprise then that the internet is filled with advice on how to cure one, from douching with vinegar to lathering on yogurt. Many of these suggestions are not only ineffective but can actually harm your body. 
Here is what the science says about which at-home remedies for yeast infections are helpful, and which are not. 
Yeast is a type of microscopic fungi, and most yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called candida albicans. This fungus is present in all healthy vaginas and is kept in check by other bacteria. But, at times, this equilibrium can be disrupted due to causes such as antibiotic use and hormone imbalance — like during pregnancy. This can result in an overgrowth of yeast, causing an infection.  
Typical symptoms of a yeast infection include: 
The typical treatment for a yeast infection is an antifungal medication — usually a cream. Over-the-counter creams include Monistat and prescription creams include terconazole. Some patients may also be prescribed a one-time dose of an oral antifungal, such as fluconazole
But, for those who would prefer to treat their yeast infection naturally, here are the home remedies that may work — and the ones that don’t. 
The following natural remedies have been well-studied, and there is sufficient evidence that they can naturally treat a yeast infection at home, or at least decrease the likelihood of a recurrence: 
Certain strains of probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus, supply the vagina with healthy bacteria. This may help treat yeast infections and improve vaginal health altogether, by restoring the balance of bacteria in the vagina.
A 2015 study published in BMC Infectious Diseases involving 19 women with recurrent yeast infections found that the probiotic Lactobacillus effectively prevented the recurrence of infection. Participants who used vaginal capsules with Lactobacillus for 10 days in addition to medication saw an 89% cure rate one year later. Meanwhile, the 12-month cure rate for those who just used medication was 70%. 
Tamika Auguste, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Medstar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC, says “it’s actually when someone stops or removes the probiotics from their regimen when they will develop a yeast infection.” Therefore, some physicians caution against relying solely on probiotics as a treatment. Instead, they could be more of a preventative measure. 
Some easy ways to integrate probiotics into your diet include eating more Lactobacillus-rich foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso. Probiotic supplements that contain at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) may also be helpful for improving vaginal health. 
Boric acid is a powdery substance with antifungal properties and probiotics like Lactobacilliales, meaning it balances the bacteria in the vagina, thereby treating yeast infections. Early evidence of boric acid’s ability to treat yeast infections is promising.
For example, a 2011 literature review in the Journal of Women’s Health looked at 14 separate studies where the efficacy of the substance was compared to nine other antifungals like fluconazole and terconazole. The review found that boric acid cured between 40% to 100% of patients. 
You can find boric acid at a grocery store, usually in the pharmacy or cleaning aisle. 
To treat yeast infections, place about 600mg of boric acid into suppository capsules — cone-shaped pills that dissolve in your body — that can then be inserted into the vagina. Standard treatment requires using a pill once a day before bed for seven days straight. 
Take note that there are some side effects to using boric acid. Some people have complained of vaginal burning, watery discharge, and vaginal reddening. Pregnant women should not take boric acid suppositories, as the substance is toxic to a fetus.
The following natural remedies lack evidence for their effectiveness at treating yeast infections at home: 
Some have suggested garlic is a good over-the-counter remedy for yeast infections. That’s because allicin, a substance released when fresh garlic is crushed, has well-known antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can damage bacterial yeasts. However, these benefits do not outweigh the risks.
Auguste says she does not recommend garlic as an at-home treatment for yeast infections due to potential side effects. Placing raw garlic in your vaginal canal not only introduces a foreign object, but she says it can also cause skin in the canal to burn and become irritated. 
Moreover, there’s limited research to suggest that garlic is more effective than other treatments. For example, a 2010 study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery looked at the effect of treating yeast infections with a medicinal cream filled with garlic and thyme, and how it compared with a typical clotrimazole vaginal cream, an antifungal cream available over the counter or by prescription. The garlic cream was just as effective as the clotrimazole. However, the population studied was quite small, and the group using the garlic treatment reported more side effects overall. 
According to Auguste, “there’s no proof that a clove of garlic alone will prevent or treat an infection.” 
Tea tree oil is often marketed as a natural substance to help manage acne and other skin conditions. But, there is debate as to whether it can help with yeast infections.  On its own, it certainly won’t cure an infection. But it could prove helpful when combined with other treatments in certain cases.
For example, a 2015 study published in Biomedical Research International examined how 32 strains of antibiotic-resistant Candida Albicans reacted to tea tree oil. The researchers found that tea tree oil may reduce this yeast’s level of resistance. In other words, tea tree oil could increase susceptibility of certain yeast infections to fluconazole — the antifungal medication often used to treat these infections.
While coconut oil is often touted as a cure-all thanks to its antimicrobial properties, there is little evidence it can combat yeast infections. 
Some preliminary studies have found that coconut oil may be effective in combating candida overgrowth. However, these studies were conducted in petri dishes and mice making it unclear if coconut oil would safely treat yeast infections in humans. 
Some research suggests apple cider vinegar inhibits yeast growth, which in turn allows white blood cells to consume yeast bacteria. However, the general consensus among the medical community is that douching with apple cider vinegar — or with anything else — will cause more harm than good when it comes to vaginal health.
That’s because douching can alter the delicate pH balance in the vagina, which can actually lead to more yeast infections. Douching is also associated with pelvic inflammatory disease and problems getting pregnant. 
“In the past, [apple cider] vinegar douching was really common. And some women at the time thought that was to help cleanse the vagina. That is not necessary,” Auguste says. 
In rare cases, apple cider vinegar has helped. For example, a 2017 case study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine described a patient with chronic yeast infections that did not respond to traditional medication. The patient was successfully treated with topical application of apple cider vinegar. But this was just one patient and does not mean that the same approach will work for you.
In fact, most doctors caution against using apple cider vinegar to try to fix a persistent yeast infection. 
Some women are naturally more prone to recurrent yeast infections than others due to compromised immune systems, pregnancy, or genetics. But, there are some practices one can follow to reduce their risk of infection and otherwise maintain vaginal health, such as: 
Auguste recommends visiting a doctor whenever you experience yeast infection-like symptoms, even if you hope to treat it without medication. This way you can speak to your doctor about the best treatment options for you and your body. 
“If discharge that is present is clear, no odor, no itching, most times it is normal,” Auguste says. “It’s when that discharge either changes color, extra yellowish or green, becomes thickened or clumpy, or there is a strong odor, that is the time when you should go and see a gynecologist.” 
The nuisances of yeast infections are quite common. Certain home remedies like taking probiotics may aid in recovery, but others may actively harm you. Above all, your best bet is seeing a doctor who can guide you to the most appropriate treatment plan.