7 home remedies to get rid of a yeast infection — and 5 unsafe remedies to avoid
- Home remedies for yeast infections include probiotics with Lactobacillus or fermented foods like miso.
- Boric acid suppositories can also help you get rid of a yeast infection at home.
Roughly three out of four 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.
What are yeast infections?
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:
- Itching and burning of the vulva and vagina
- Painful urination
- Swelling of the vulva
- Redness of the vulva
- Thick, white discharge
The best course of action before trying home remedies to treat yeast infections is to get a proper diagnosis from the doctor.
The moment you develop the symptoms is the best time to go to the doctor. A diagnosis also helps pinpoint the primary factors that could be contributing to the yeast infection, such as ailments due to a compromised immune system.
The fastest way to get rid of a yeast infection is an antifungal
While there are a lot of home remedies that you can try out, the fastest (and proven) way of treating yeast infections is by using antifungal medication.
Antifungal medications either destroy or slow the growth of fungus (including yeast). This can come in the form of ingestible tablets, topical creams, or capsule suppositories. The following are the ones frequently used to treat infections: clotrimazole, nystatin, ciclopirox, and fluconazole. Mycostatin and Diflucan are some of the over-the-counter medications you can buy.
According to a 2019 study, a visit to the doctor is a must for those with recurring or complicated vaginal yeast infections. They can prescribe a long-term treatment supplemented with a diet that incorporates healthy bacteria.
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.
Home remedies for yeast infections
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:
1. Take probiotics
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 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.
Probiotic suppositories are capsules containing the Lactobacillus strain that are inserted directly into the vagina. These introduce the good bacteria directly into the vagina and restore its balance. It can also help treat and prevent bacterial vaginosis and recurring urinary tract infections.
Best probiotic supplements
Our guide to the best probiotic supplements features nutritionist-tested picks to promote good gut health.
- Best overall: Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete, available at Klair Labs and Amazon, $89.99
- Best budget pick: InnovixLabs Multi-Strain Probiotic, available at InnovixLabs and Amazon, $25.99
- Best powder: Designs for Health Probiotic Synergy Powder, available at Amazon, $59.75
- Best shelf-stable: Florastor Daily Probiotic Supplement, available at Walmart and Amazon, $62.06
2. Try boric acid
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.
Important: Side effects can include vaginal burning, watery discharge, and vaginal reddening. Pregnant women should not take boric acid suppositories, as the substance is toxic to a fetus.
3. Use Greek yogurt
As mentioned earlier, Lactobacillus helps introduce good bacteria to the body to prevent and cure yeast infections. Greek yogurt, which is more concentrated than regular yogurt, could be a possible yeast infection treatment.
Greek yogurt can be ingested or directly introduced into the vagina. In a 2015 study, the efficacy of Greek yogurt mixed with honey was compared to the effectiveness of clotrimazole when treating vulvovaginal candidiasis. Honey was added to Greek yogurt for its capability of inhibiting fungi growth and the mixture was applied into the vagina using an applicator, which is typically shaped like a cylinder syringe.
The study concludes that the therapeutic effects of the Greek yogurt-honey mixture were not only comparable to those of clotrimazole vaginal cream but were even more successful in treating some vaginal candidiasis symptoms.
When choosing your honey and Greek yogurt for this home remedy, it is best to choose manuka honey and yogurt with no added sugar. Sugar helps yeast thrive in the vagina, so it is best to avoid overconsumption of it or introducing it directly while treating your infection.
Note: Make sure you consult a doctor first before you try these home remedies, as it is always best to get a medical diagnosis and recommendation.
4. Try essential oil of Oregano
According to a 2017 study, essential oil of oregano has been utilized as a traditional treatment for infections for centuries. It has been used to treat wounds and is considered safe for use. When it comes to treating yeast infections or other vaginal fungal infections, an essential oil of oregano capsule could be inserted into the vagina.
Based on the results of the study, the essential oil of oregano proved to be effective in treating certain strains of infections caused by E. coli, S. aureus, P. mirabilis, and C. albicans.
More studies are needed, however, to learn its possible toxic effect on humans. Since the evidence is lacking here, please use caution before trying this method, and always discuss with a physician before attempting a new remedy.
5. Take a salt water bath
Prepare warm water with epsom salt and soak for 10-15 minutes. Staying for longer can irritate the vulva, so it is best to leave after the recommended time. Wipe dry immediately after.
6. Use vitamin E
Vitamin E suppositories can also help alleviate the symptoms of a yeast infection like inflammation.
One study also showed its effectiveness in reducing inflammation caused by candida (a type of fungus). However, the results were based on a controlled laboratory setting, and further studies are needed to see its efficacy in treating yeast infections in a normal setting.
7. Try lemongrass
When applied topically, fungal infections and skin inflammation were greatly reduced. However, more tests are needed to ensure that there are no harmful side effects on humans.
Since the evidence is lacking here, please use caution before trying this method, and always discuss with a physician before attempting a new remedy.
Home remedies that don't treat yeast infections
The following natural remedies lack evidence for their effectiveness in treating yeast infections at home:
1. Avoid garlic
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 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."
2. Be wary of tea tree oil
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 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.
3. Skip coconut oil
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.
4. Never douche with apple cider vinegar
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.
5. Don't use hydrogen peroxide
While hydrogen peroxide has antifungal properties, it is not recommended to use it when treating yeast infections. In a study on its effect against candida strains, hydrogen peroxide inhibits the growth of some strains but not others. It also affects the balance of bacteria in the vaginal flora. Hence, a yeast infection may reoccur when you use hydrogen peroxide.
How to prevent a 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:
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear
- Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom
- Avoid scented tampons or pads
- Change tampons and pads often
- Never douche
When to see a doctor
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 the 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 to see a doctor who can guide you to the most appropriate treatment plan.
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