Cure yeast infection with garlic

There's a nasty rumor that's been around for years that women in need of a yeast infection cure should look no further than the produce aisle. The myth states that the simple act of inserting a garlic clove into your treasured female bits will help to remedy the entirely unpleasant sensation that anyone in possession of a vagina has at some point experienced.

It turns out this DIY method is actually not an effective treatment for that internal burning or itching. In fact, it can actually harm your lady garden. And that's why Dr. Jen Gunter, OBGYN and author of The Vagina Bible, wrote a (now viral) thread of tweets to end the cycle of fake vajayjay news.

At least twice a month, she tells us, her patients inform her that they've attempted to self "medicate" with garlic. The legend is so pervasive, she says, because it's a long-standing tale that's now being further spread by resources like Our Bodies, Ourselves which "people consider legitimate" and automatically believe.

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Why is Gunter taking a stand? Besides the fact that she's had to "dig little pieces of garlic out of vaginas at work, which doesn't make people happy," she adds that using garlic in this fashion is "completely unstudied." Sure, it does have a compound with antifungal properties that's been tested to a small extent—but "something that is seen in a petri dish in a lab is different from what's happening in your vagina."

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Plus, for it to even work in a lab setting, the garlic would need to be crushed to release the compounds, she explains. So she can't stress enough how little putting a whole clove inside yourself will do. Not to mention the fact that introducing anything that's touched soil into your body—no matter how thoroughly it's been washed—can lead to more harm than a yeast infection by damaging the goodbacteria women have.

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She also says that "About 50 to 70 percent of women who think they have a yeast infection actually have something else, so you don’t know what you could be treating."

To the naysayers who claim it's worked for them, Dr. Guntner tries to respond to them directly on Twitter. "There’s a powerful placebo effect," she says. "And these women might not have had a yeast infection (which can go away on its own, regardless) in the first place."

Dr. Guntner explains that she also just hopes to stop the cycle of misinformation. "Part of the problem is women have been mistreated and dismissed by patriarchal medicine, which is why I'm outspoken."

"I want to fill in the knowledge gaps so women can be empowered. I let them know that I'm not discrediting their experience or dismissing their symptoms when I say that garlic doesn't work. I'm just saying that while they might have had symptoms, garlic was not what treated them. If it worked for you, you just got lucky," she says.

While her tweets may feel like an affront to anyone who went the homeopathic err, "root," she says, "I try my best not to blame the woman who feels she was driven to it. Medicine drove her to that. Naturopaths drove her to that. My anger is at the things that made a woman feel that desperate that led her to do that. I want to give them the education so they know topical antifungals—which you can get over-the-counter—are very safe."

And while we're at it. Please refrain from putting yogurt—another common DIY treatment—in your fanny, she asks. Your breakfast shouldn't be near your genital tract.

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Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN and author, is an expert on several aspects of women’s health, but she also seems to have a (perhaps unintentional) specialty in telling us What Not to Put in Our Vaginas. In a piece for the New York Times—one that was literally called “Here Are Things Not to Put in Your Vagina”—she warned against lemon juice, yogurt, and sea sponges. For her own website, she wrote “What You Shouldn’t Put in Your Vagina,” which nixed Vicks VapoRub, makeup sponges, and an Etsy-generated abomination that involved tree bark and ground-up wasp larvae.

And, just yesterday, she posted a nine-tweet thread that explained why garlic cloves weren’t meant to be vaginally inserted, either.

Before we get to Dr. Gunter’s tweets, the idea that garlic can be used to cure a vaginal yeast infection isn’t a new one, but it is one that has made its way around the internet often enough that even Monistat addresses the rumor on its website.

“In some circles, garlic is revered for its detoxifying qualities. For those that subscribe to garlic’s medicinal use, they believe it can be used to treat yeast infections by inserting it into the vagina,” Monistat writes. “In reality, inserting any foreign object in the vagina may cause further complications or even worsen an infection. There is no scientific proof that garlic can cure a yeast infection, so don’t put yourself at risk.”

If you’re someone who can’t or won’t be swayed by the BLATANT PROPAGANDA from BIG YEAST, then maybe Dr. Gunter can help. In her Twitter thread, she wrote that many “vaginal garlic aficionados” slide a clove into nature’s pocket because they believe that allicin, a sulphur compound present in garlic, has antifungal properties. That’s technically not wrong, but garlic has to be cut or crushed in order to produce allicin—and Dr. Gunter really doesn’t advocate turning your vagina into a DIY jar of Christopher Ranch.

“For garlic to even have any medical effect it has to be crushed or chopped, so putting [a] whole clove in your vagina will do nothing except expose your inflamed vagina to the possible soil bacteria (like Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism) that still could be clinging to the garlic,” she previously wrote on her website. “It is not easily removed with washing.”

Gunter also says that, although yeast infections are reasonably common, not everyone who “self-treats” for those symptoms actually has one, so congratulations, you’ve turned your most sensitive orifice into Gilroy, California for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.

And again, although it’s easy to dismiss this idea, or question who would possibly do such a thing, it’s also a surprisingly widespread home remedy. In an interview with Scientific American, Dr. Paul Nyirjesy, the director of the Drexel Vaginitis Center, said that as many as 10 percent of his patients had tried using garlic as a cure for a yeast infection. “But I can't recall a single patient who told me that she used garlic and she thought it was helpful,” he added.

Both Dr. Gunter and Dr. Nyirjesy have referenced either of two studies that examined the effectiveness of garlic as a potential vaginal yeast treatment, and neither were conclusive. The first, which was published inThe Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, compared the use of the antifungal cream clotrimazole to a garlic-and-thyme cream. Sixty-four women who all had symptoms of a yeast infection were treated with one cream or the other and, according to the study authors, all of the women were “identically improved,” regardless of what they’d been prescribed.

The researchers seemed content to shrug and say “YOU’RE ALL CURED,” but Nyirjesy pointed out that no follow-up studies or examinations were performed to see if any of the women suffered subsequent infections after discontinuing the garlic and thyme cream.

The second study investigated whether oral garlic supplements could be used to reduce vagina yeast counts but—spoiler alert—it didn’t work. “This study provided data for sample size calculations in future studies on the antifungal effect of garlic, but provided no evidence to inform clinical practice regarding the use of garlic in vaginal candidiasis,” the authors concluded.

It’s not just garlic, and it’s not just weird Facebook groups that advocate for this kind of thing. Earlier this year, Marie Claire UKposted an article that listed several things women could do to “kickstart” their periods, including putting parsley in one’s vagina. “Parsley can help to soften the cervix and level out hormonal imbalances that could be delaying your cycle,” the article said, a claim that prompted several gynecologists to respond with a near simultaneous “DO NOT PUT PARSLEY IN THERE EITHER.” ( Marie Claire quickly deleted the article, calling it “misguided.”)

“There are only a few things that should go in your vagina and vegetables generally aren’t one of them,” Dr. Sheila Newman, a New Jersey-based OB/GYN, said at the time. “There are ways to manipulate your menstrual cycle and avoid having your period at certain times but they should be discussed with your gynecologist.”

And as “misguided” as the idea of filling our vaginas with parsley or garlic or other herbs or whatever sounds, it could be less about being misinformed or uneducated than it is about the near-eternal stigmatization of women’s health problems. It’s easier, less invasive, and less embarrassing to go to the supermarket than it is to go to a doctor. And even in a clinical setting, we can (and have been) shamed, criticized, and questioned about everything from our sexual activity, to our appearance, to whether or not we’re even experiencing our symptoms after all.

If something out-of-the-ordinary is happening down there, let’s all try to ask a medical professional about it, and hopefully it will be someone we trust and feel comfortable with.

And let’s all try not to put garlic ANYWHERE other than in our own mouths between now and then.

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How to Treat a Vaginal Infection with a Clove of Garlic

Photo by Tom Chamberlain

by Judy Slome Cohain | September 1, 2003

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Birthkit, Issue 38, Summer 2003. and was updated by the author in April 2007.
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Garlic kills yeast. Those who bake bread know not to add garlic while the dough is rising or it will kill the yeast. Instead, garlic is added to the dough after it has risen, just before baking it in the oven.

A fresh garlic clove can easily cure a yeast infection. The trick is to catch the infection early. A woman who suffers from frequent yeast infections knows the feeling well. The first day, she feels just a tickle of itchiness that comes and goes. The next day, or sometimes two or three days later, the vaginal discharge starts to look white and lumpy like tiny bits of cottage cheese. By this time, she has a full-blown yeast infection and the lips of the vagina are often red and sore.

If a woman can pay attention to the first tickling of the yeast infection, she can use the following treatment. Take a clove of fresh garlic and peel off the natural white paper shell that covers it, leaving the clove intact. At bedtime, put the clove into the vagina. In the morning, remove the garlic clove and throw it in the toilet. The garlic often causes the vagina to have a watery discharge. One night’s treatment may be enough to kill the infection, or it might have to be repeated the next night. Continue one or two days until all itchiness is gone. The reason that the treatment is done at bedtime is that there is a connection between the mouth and the vagina. The moment the garlic is placed in the vagina, the taste of the garlic travels up to the mouth. Most people will find this strong flavor annoying during the day, so the treatment is recommended for nighttime.

If the infection has advanced to the point that a woman has large quantities of white discharge and red sore labia, it can still be treated by garlic but with a higher dose. Use a dry tissue to remove some of the discharge, then take a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Put it in the vagina at bedtime and repeat this for a few nights. If there is no improvement, she might consider a conventional over-the-counter treatment because it is a shame to suffer for many days. Remember that a woman should never douche during a vaginal infection. Yeast loves water and any water will make it grow faster.

Any cut in the clove makes the activity of the garlic stronger. Thus, the more of the inside of the clove that is exposed, the higher the dose. Each woman should learn the dose that works best for her, from the lowest dose, an uncut clove, to a clove with one or more small fingernail slits, to a clove cut in half.

If a high dose of garlic, a cut-open garlic clove, is inserted in a healthy vagina, it will often “burn” the healthy skin. When the woman is suffering from an advanced yeast infection, the skin is already red and “burned” and the garlic cures the infection by killing the yeast. Then the skin repairs itself. By the way, veterinarians have been using garlic to heal infections in livestock for many years. If drug companies could patent garlic and make money off of it, they would be advertising it everywhere!

Garlic has been shown in vitro (in laboratory petri dishes) to kill bacteria also. In some important research done in China (1), garlic was shown to inhibit the growth of all of the following microorganisms: Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Staphylococcus aureus, Mycobacterium phlei, Streptococcus faecalis, Bacillus cereus and Micrococcus luteus.

Researchers found that garlic lost its antibacterial activities within 20 minutes of being boiled at 100° C. At the Maxwell Finland Laboratory for Infectious Diseases in the Boston Medical Center, researchers examined the use of garlic for ear infections (2). They found that fresh garlic was bacteriocidal, killing even the dangerous bacterium Streptococcus agalactiae (commonly known as Group B Strep) but is heat- and acid-labile and loses activity when cooked or taken by mouth.

Group B Strep (GBS) can kill newborns, most commonly premature babies. Current U.S. protocols call for culturing women toward the end of pregnancy to see if they are GBS carriers, since newborn strep infections occur more often—but not exclusively—in babies of women who culture positive for beta-strep. About 15 to 30 percent of women carry the beta-strep bacterium, the vast majority without any symptoms, although at least two women with GBS vaginitis have been documented (3). The risk of contracting GBS by infants probably increases with the quantity of GBS in the birth canal (4). Between 1–3 in 1,000 babies develop beta-strep infections after birth (5). Many of these infections may be iatrogenic, caused by the hospital protocols. The strep bacillus originates in the anus. When the membranes are ruptured, fluid washes down and out of the vagina—until someone checks the cervix. Every time a cervical check is done, the examiner may carry GBS up on his or her gloved finger and deposit it on the cervix. Inserting an internal electro-fetal monitor electrode or an internal monitoring catheter also opens a pathway for bacteria to enter. Any of these scenarios could also explain why length of time after rupture of membranes correlates with infection rate. No randomized controlled studies have been undertaken comparing women with no vaginal checks or internal monitors to women with frequent vaginal checks. Intrapartum prophylaxis with intravenous antibiotics, preferably targeted on GBS-colonized parturients with risk factors, is, at present, considered the “new standard of care.” However, its efficacy and safety at preventing early-onset infection is still in debate. [Editor’s Note: See “Facing the Challenge of Group B Strep” in Midwifery Today, Issue 63, Autumn 2002.] Vaginal chlorhexidine disinfection during labour in GBS-colonized women may, in addition, offer a minor contribution to prevention. Chlorhexidine is a compound with plaque-inhibiting effects and available only by prescription in the U.S.* Its side effects include staining of teeth, restorations and the tongue, bitter taste and other disturbances, such as dryness of the mouth and development of oral ulceration (6).

A fresh garlic clove inserted into the vagina for one or two nights will also, most likely, reduce the colonization of the vagina with GBS, with no known side effects, besides garlic breath. But none of the funding agencies or drug companies are interested in providing support for research—likely because the product could not be patented. Chlorhexidine vaginal gel or wash reduces GBS colonization, so the idea of using local measures is not too radical. But at this time, a clinical trial in the U.S. to demonstrate efficacy of these topical methods will be almost impossible, given the established standard of care (intrapartum antibiotics) established by the CDC. So garlic experiments to reduce neonatal GBS will have to take place outside of the U.S.

Garlic protocol:

  • Break a clove off of a bulb of garlic and peel off the paper-like cover. Cut in half. Sew a string thru it for easy retrieval.
  • Put a fresh half in your vagina in the evening before you go to sleep. Most women taste garlic in their mouths as soon as it is in their vagina, so it is less pleasant to treat while awake.
  • In the morning, the garlic may come out when you poop. If not, many women find it is easiest to take it out on the toilet. Circle the vagina with a finger, till you find it. It cannot enter the uterus through the cervix. It cannot get lost, but it can get pushed into the pocket between the cervix and the vaginal wall.
  • Most people will taste the garlic as long as it is in there. So if you still taste it, it is probably still in there. Most women have trouble getting it out the first time.
  • For easy retrieval, sew a string through the middle of the clove before you put it in. You don’t want to get irritated. Be gentle. Don’t scratch yourself with long nails.

*A compound of chlorhexidine is the main ingredient in Hibiclens®, an antimicrobial skin cleanser available over the counter.


  1. Chen, H.C., Chang, M.D., Chang, T.J. (1985) Antibacterial Properties of Some Spice Plants Before and After Heat Treatment. [English translation of Chinese article]. Zhonghua Min Guo Wei Sheng Wu Ji Mian Yi Xue Za Zhi 18: 190–5.
  2. Klein, J.O. (1999) Management of Acute Otitis Media in an Era of Increasing Antibiotic Resistance. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol 49: S15–17.
  3. Honig, E., Mouton J.W., van der Meijden, W.I. (1999) Can Group B Streptococci Cause Symptomatic Vaginitis? Infect Dis Obstet Gynecol 7: 206–09.
  4. Christensen, K.K, Dykes, A.K., Christensen, P. (1985) Reduced Colonization of Newborns with Group B Streptococci Following Washing of the Birth Canal with Chlorhexidine. J Perinat Med 13: 239–43.
  5. Irving, W.L. Best Practice in Labour Ward Management. Edited by L.H. Kean, P.N. Baker and D. Edelstone. London: WB Saunders, 2000.
  6. Albandar, J.M., Gjermo, P., Preus, H.R. (1994) Chlorhexidine Use after Two Decades of Over-the-counter Availability. J Periodontol 65: 109–12.


About Author: Judy Slome Cohain

Judy Slome Cohain, CNM, has run All the Way Homebirth practice in Israel since 1983. She would love to hear from women who have tried to change a positive GBS culture to a negative one by using garlic. Please email with the outcomes, which will be collected for future research.

View all posts by Judy Slome Cohain

Fact or Fiction?: A Clove of Garlic Can Stop a Vaginal Yeast Infection

The feisty warning signs of an oncoming yeast infection can strike at any time: irritation, burning, discharge. This excessive buildup of microscopic fungi can flourish in any moist region—anuses, throats, genitals of both sexes—but most commonly takes root in a woman’s nether regions. Yeast can grow out of check when a person is stressed, has recently used antibiotics or has a weakened immune system. Persistent infections, however, know no health, race or age boundaries. In fact, about 75 percent of women suffer occasional yeast infections. For an unlucky 5 percent these itchy infections grace their private parts more than four times a year.
Many sufferers have devised creative home remedies for calming this vaginal fury. Some freeze yogurt into ice cube–size popsicles and insert them into their vaginas. Others swallow capsules of probiotics or douche with tea tree oil. Perhaps most unusual is an alternative therapy that uses a common culinary ingredient—garlic. But instead of ingesting the Allium, women insert it into their vaginas as aromatic suppositories for hours at a time. Do these old wives tales really work? And whether they do or not, can they be dangerous?
To get the medical perspective on such treatments, Scientific American spoke with Paul Nyirjesy, an obstetrician–gynecologist and director of the Drexel Vaginitis Center at Drexel University College of Medicine. He treats women with complicated and chronic vaginal problems, including recurrent yeast infections. He recently published a paper examining how a majority of women with such problems use alternative treatments—primarily out of desperation.
[An edited transcript of the conversation follows.]

What is your background in treating yeast infections?
I did a fellowship in infectious diseases about 20 years ago. I used that training to focus on seeing women with chronic vaginal problems. For the past 11 years, I've been the director of the Drexel Vaginitis Center. We see women with all sorts of complicated problems, including but not limited to recurrent yeast infections.
How common is it for a woman to try an alternative therapy at home before she goes to the doctor?
For women who have chronic vaginal problems, a majority of them—about two thirds—will try at least one form of alternative medication.
What are the most common types of alternative therapies that you’ve seen women try?
By far the two most common are going to be either yogurt or probiotic pills—usually taken orally, sometimes taken vaginally.
Is there any indication that these treatments might work?
Can these treatments make yeast infections worse?
They probably don’t make them worse; I don't think it really makes a difference. There have been a bunch of probiotic studies—most of them don't show any benefit at all. A few have shown potential benefit, but it's not totally clear that the studies didn't have flaws that might make the results questionable.
There’s a strong cadre of women on the Internet who swear that inserting a garlic clove into the vagina will clear a yeast infection. Do you think this method is helpful?
Almost 10 percent of the patients we see have tried garlic before they get to us. I'm biased, of course, because I'm seeing patients where things haven't worked. But I can't recall a single patient who told me that she used garlic and she thought it was helpful.
Do any scientific studies suggest that garlic may clear an infection?
I did a literature search and the only paper I found was a paper from The Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research in December 2010. They compared a cream that had clotrimazole, a standard antifungal cream, to a cream that contained garlic and thyme. They found that the garlic and thyme cream was as effective as the clotrimazole cream. The problem was that if you looked at the actual results, it's hard to know which patients really got better. They didn't really have follow-up cultures. It's difficult to look at the paper and base any firm conclusions on it, other than the patients had a decrease in vaginal symptoms when they were using this cream.
Another study out of Australia looked at oral garlic. The group has been doing some pretty serious studies looking at alternative medications to treat vaginal infections. They did a small study looking at what oral garlic does to the growth of yeast in the vagina and they found that there was no impact. That was a well-done, randomized controlled trial.
Where did this remedy originate?
There is some information that there's a compound in garlic, called allicin, that is considered fungicidal. In the lab it looks as though it has antifungal activity. There have been some animal studies that look interesting. Theoretically it makes a lot of sense. But you don't know how much garlic you need or how effective it is. If you put a clove of garlic in your vagina, does it really treat what's going on in the vagina or is it just sitting there with all the active ingredients sitting in a clove of garlic?
Are there any risks associated with walking around with a garlic clove in the vagina?
Probably not. The main concern would be that if you put anything in your vagina, there's a chance you'll get irritation and burning from whatever you put in there.
Are there any alternative remedies that appear to actually work?
One remedy with a fair amount of data is boric acid. Boric acid has been around since the 1860s. It's the same thing you use to get rid of cockroaches. It's a very effective antifungal, and for some of the more resistant types of yeast infections we see it's actually the first line therapy.
How is it taken and where can you get it?
Boric acid is poisonous if taken by mouth. When I prescribe it, I usually have a compounding pharmacy mix it into 600-milligram capsules that patients use vaginally. There are patients who order gelatin capsules and boric acid, and they make it up themselves. My concern is I'm not sure they're necessarily getting the correct dose, which is why I like to get it mixed by a pharmacy. Studies have usually looked at a two- or three-week course of treatment.
Is boric acid as effective as prescription medications used to treat vaginal yeast infections?
For short-term treatments, probably. And for some of the more resistant yeast, it's actually better. There's a fair amount of literature showing that this is the way to go. If you look on the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for treating yeast infections, you'll see them talk about boric acid. If you read the guidelines by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, they talk about it as well.
Can boric acid be toxic if used at too high of a dose?
If you use too much of it, yes. But if it's a little bit off from 600 milligrams, probably not. Just like any other thing you put in your vagina, the most common side effects are going to be burning and irritation. It's actually in general pretty well tolerated. And the other big thing is to keep it out of reach of little children and pets.
Do you think women have enough options to get correct medical treatment?
The treatments available over the counter are comparable in terms of efficacy to what you can get with a prescription. Over-the-counter Monistat treatment is as good for an isolated episode as one pill of fluconazole, which is the standard for a single yeast infection episode. I think the issue is that there are loads of women out there self-treating for yeast infection who don't have it at all. The data is that a lot of women don't really know when they have a yeast infection. The good news is that the treatments available have a very low risk to them. They probably, for the most part, aren't doing themselves significant harm. But some of the treatments are probably not the right treatments.
What is the best course of treatment for a woman with a yeast infection that simply won’t go away?
The first thing is to get a culture to identify which type of yeast is causing the infection. In most women it's going to be Candida albicans, which is the most common cause of yeast infections in general and also the most common cause of recurrent yeast infections. The approach that seems to work the best right now is putting patients on maintenance therapy. For six months they take a pill of fluconazole once a week. It's very effective—about 90 percent of people do great during that six-month period of time. About 10 percent may have occasional breakthroughs, where they get an occasional infection while on treatment. The issue is that about half the time, once patients stop treatment, the infection comes back.
Why do you think that a lot of women resort to these alternative therapies before seeing a doctor?
I think a lot of times they don't feel that doctors are going to have a good answer for them. Unfortunately, many doctors aren't aware of recommendations for maintenance therapy. Another thing is that alternative remedies sound great. You don't have to go in, you don't have to be evaluated. There's a perception that if it's a natural remedy, it's going to be completely safe and there won't be any side effects. There's this perception that natural is going to be better because it helps your body take care of the problem.


With cure yeast garlic infection

Why Putting Garlic in Your Vagina to Treat Yeast Infections Is a Really Bad Idea, According to Ob-Gyns

If you've ever googled "yeast infection home remedies," you've probably come across claims that inserting a garlic clove—or a paste made from raw garlic—into your vagina will help you feel better fast. The theory behind this natural treatment is that garlic's antifungal properties could help clear up the uncomfortable condition, which is caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast.

My friend actually tried this remedy one night when she was desperate to ease the itch down there and unable to get to a pharmacy. She went to bed with a garlic clove in her vagina, but woke up with the same discomfort and discharge. What's more, she discovered the garlic actually sprouted(!!) inside her.

After hearing about her somewhat disturbing experience, I was curious: Is there actually anything to this garlic treatment, or is it just an old wives' tale? To learn more, I turned to Lauren Streicher, MD, an ob-gyn based in Chicago—and she cleared the situation right up.

"It's ridiculous," Dr. Streicher said. "[Garlic] isn't something that any gynecologist would ever recommend." And it's no substitute for science-backed medicinal treatments (like over-the-counter antifungal creams, and the oral antifungal medication fluconazole).

Recently, ob-gyn Jennifer Gunter, MD joined the fray to further bust this persistent myth with a viral eight-tweet Twitter thread using the dare-we-say brilliant hashtag, #VaginaIsANoGarlicZone.

"My advice," Dr. Gunter tweeted, "do not take medical advice from anyone recommending vaginal garlic for yeast or anything else." There's a big difference, she explains, between garlic demonstrating antifungal properties in a petri dish in a lab and garlic clearing up a pesky yeast infection. "Your vagina is not a dish of cells," she wrote.

RELATED: 20 Facts Every Woman Must Know About Her Vagina

So why has the garlic myth persisted for so long online? Dr. Streicher's guess is that some women become frustrated when expensive OTC antifungal creams don't offer relief and decide to experiment with home remedies instead.

But that led to another question: If antifungal creams are the right treatment for yeast infections, why do they sometimes fail to ease the itch?

One possible reason is that yeast may not be causing the itch in the first place. Many women who think they have a yeast infection actually have bacterial vaginosis, explains Dr. Streicher, who is the author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever. Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition triggered by an overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria.

The two below-the-belt issues have similar symptoms, including discharge—though with a yeast infection, it's "a characteristic white, clumpy, thick discharge" that isn't associated with a foul odor, says Dr. Streicher. Bacterial vaginosis, on the other hand, leads to thinner discharge with a distinctive "fishy" smell.

Bottom line: If an OTC antifungal cream doesn't clear up your symptoms within a few days, or they recur within a week, call your ob-gyn. She can prescribe a stronger antifungal, or figure out if something else is causing your discomfort.

As for natural home remedies for your nether regions, Dr. Streicher recommends steering clear. “Any time you put something inside a body that’s never been studied, it could be harmful,” she says. “There’s no way to know if it’s helpful [and] there’s no way to know that it’s harmful, because it has never been studied.”

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This post was originally published on July 13, 2017 and has been updated.


That itch you can’t seem to scratch. Suspicious discharge. Irritation in the nether regions. Burn baby burn, you might just have a yeast infection. 

Sound familiar? If so, we apologize. 

Vaginal yeast infections are no fun. Quite the opposite of fun actually. They can ruin your mood, make it difficult to leave the house, and put a damper on your self-confidence. Considering that three out of four women will develop one at least once in their lifetime, it’s helpful to know what your treatment options are.

It’s important to know the signs of a yeast infection, Since many of these symptoms can be mistaken for an STI, you may want to see your doctor before treating it. 

Just as a refresher (as if you needed a reminder), these are some common yeast infection symptoms to look out for:

  • Vaginal rash
  • Cottage cheese-like discharge
  • Swelling, itching, and burning of the vulva and/or vagina

While there are plenty of helpful over the counter and prescription remedies available for yeast infections, for many people they would prefer to turn to natural remedies before turning to the pharmacy. This is especially true for people who have developed a resistance to the most common antifungal medications. 

Don’t: Back Away from The Garlic

Researchers found that garlic may be effective in reversing fungus growth amongst eighteen strains of Candida, which can lead to yeast infections.

One old folk remedy is actually putting a clove of garlic into your vagina at the first sign of a yeast infection. The compounds in garlic that actually make it effective at treating fungal overgrowth are only released when it’s crushed or cut, so sticking a whole clove up there is not only probably ineffective, but possibly exposes your vagina to other pathogens.

Consuming garlic raw or cooked can help boost the immune system, which may in turn decrease your chances of getting a yeast infection.

Having said that, the use of a topical cream made from garlic and thyme may be helpful in treating yeast infections, especially for those who have a tolerance for or experienced side effects from standard topical creams. 

Do: Say Yes to Yogurt

The lactobacillus bacteria in plain yogurt may be helpful in treating pesky yeast infections. 

Eating plain yogurt may help suppress the growth of Candida, lowering your chance of developing a yeast infection. You can also take a probiotic supplement with lactobacillus.

Another common folk remedy is to actually put plain yogurt inside your vagina. A combination of plain yogurt and honey, which has natural antimicrobial properties, may reduce symptoms of a yeast infection. 

How exactly do you go about putting yogurt into your vagina?

Of course, you can manually scoop a bit in and around the vulva, but one of the most common methods is by soaking a tampon in it, inserting the tampon, and then sitting on a towel while you cue up a show to binge watch.

While yogurt may not be as effective as traditional antifungal creams, it’s much more affordable, and comes with little to no risks, with the hopeful promise of immediate relief from itching and irritation, at least while inserted.

Many companies have developed probiotic suppositories that can be inserted into the vagina in lieu of yogurt.

Do: Use Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is one of the oldest tricks of the trade. Plants are powerful, and they work. 

Tea tree essential oil used heavily diluted in a carrier like coconut oil, or a premade vaginal suppository may be helpful in treating yeast infections thanks to its antifungal properties.

Cream made with the flower calendula may be more helpful long term in treating vaginal yeast infections than other antifungal medications. Calendula is commonly used in baby products and postpartum, as well as to treat rashes and skin irritations. Meaning it’s extra gentle, but strong enough to help fight off infections. 

Do: Think Ahead to help  Prevent Yeast Infections

Of course one of the greatest cures nature has to offer is prevention. Knowing some of the hidden causes of yeast infections like excess alcohol and scented tampons, let’s you change your behavior and prevent them from happening in the first place – no pharmacy required.  

  • Go Commando: Tight fabrics, especially synthetic ones can irritate the sensitive tissue surrounding the vulva, and also make it easier for bacteria to creep from your rectum to your vagina, which can lead to a nasty infection. If you prefer to wear panties, try to opt for breathable cotton, and looser fitting clothes.
  • Watch the Sugar: Candida feeds off of sugar, and a high amount of simple sugars in your diet may increase your risk of yeast infections while lowering your immune system.
  • Avoid Antibiotics: While antibiotics can kill off harmful infection-causing bacteria, they also damage the good bacteria in your gut. Avoiding antibiotics when possible is essential in protecting the natural flora in your system. 

Medical disclaimer – Although many of these remedies have been used for generations, not all of them have clinical research to back them up. It’s advised to check in with your provider before beginning any treatment protocol. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make yeast infections more common. Again, be sure to check with your doctor or midwife if you have any symptoms of a yeast infection. 

Just like yeast infections, UTIs may also be treatable or maintained through natural remedies.

Natasha Weiss Intimina author

Natasha Weiss

Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.


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12 home remedies for yeast infections

While yeast infections can be a common occurrence, they can also be an annoyance, and even worse, embarrassing for women. Although severe infections may require a trip to the doctor’s office and a prescription, there are over-the-counter options and several home remedies for yeast infections. Learn how to identify a yeast infection, when to go to the doctor, how to treat a yeast infection at home, and how to prevent them from recurring.

Types of yeast infections

There are different types of yeast infections, but all happen when an area of the body becomes infected with yeast-like fungi called candida (about yeast infections). This fungus thrives in moist, warm, folded areas of the skin, such as the groin, under the breast, or the armpits. “Candidiasis is the primary type of fungal infection in the body: It is caused by yeast and can occur in the mouth, gut, throat, and vagina,” explains Niket Sonpal, MD, an internist and gastroenterologist in New York. “If it is not treated correctly with medication, it is likely it can grow out of control and infect your kidneys and heart.” 

There are many different types of infections caused by candida fungus, depending on the location on the body it happens and the type of candida that is present. While they do have some overlap in symptoms, they can also have different symptoms. The most common candida infections are:

  • Cutaneous Candidiasis happens when the skin on the body is infected. The most typical places the candida will grow are skin between the fingers or toes, nails, armpits, under the breasts, or around the groin. The main symptom is a red, itchy rash.
  • Diaper rash in babies can sometimes be caused by a candida overgrowth, which happens when there is a moist environment from wet diapers helping candida to thrive. A red rash appears between the creases of the skin and small red dots represent the infected area.
  • Oral thrush happens when candidiasis affects the lining of the mouth or throat. Oral thrush presents as white lesions on the insides of the cheeks or on the tongue. Symptoms may also include bad breath, pain while swallowing, abnormalities in taste, and dryness of the mouth (more about oral thrush). 
  • Vaginal yeast infections, also called vulvovaginal candidiasis, happen when there is an overgrowth of the candida in the vagina. Candida albicans is a common fungal strain in yeast infections. Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are irritation, itchiness, inflammation, and a thick, white vaginal discharge. 

“Yeast infections are common and happen in three out of four women at least once in their life,” says Dr. Sonpal. Because vaginal yeast infections happen to most women, this article will be specific to the treatment and prevention of vaginal yeast infections only.

Can a yeast infection go away on its own?

“Mild versions of yeast infections have the chance of going away on their own,” explains Dr. Sonpal. “However, it is not recommended to ignore a yeast infection because it is most likely to return if not medically treated.” 

While some individuals may choose to try home remedies for yeast infection or over-the-counter treatments, there are certain people who should visit the doctor when they have symptoms of a yeast infection. These patients include:

  • Those who have recurring yeast infections (four or more times in a year)
  • Pregnant women
  • Those who were possibly exposed to a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
  • Women who are unsure if their symptoms are from a yeast infection
  • Individuals who do not have success with home remedies or over-the-counter medicines
  • Patients with uncontrolled diabetes or a weakened immune system due to certain medications or conditions such as HIV

What can a doctor prescribe for yeast infections?

Over-the-counter antifungal medications treat yeast infections and are available in creams or suppositories for internal application. Yeast infections can last three days to two weeks, so there are one-day, three-day, or week-long treatments available.

There are also anti-itch antifungal creams that come along with most treatments to help external itching. The most popular brands of antifungal creams to treat vaginal yeast infections are Monistat (get a Monistat coupon | What is Monistat?) or Vagistat. These treatments are also available online for those who are uncomfortable buying them in the store. 

A healthcare provider may prescribe Diflucan (Diflucan coupons | Diflucan details) fluconazole (fluconazole coupons |fluconazole details) a tablet that will treat fungal vaginal infections, or a prescription antifungal such as terconazole (terconazole coupons | terconazole details), which is inserted internally at bedtime.

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Home remedies for yeast infections

There are natural ways to treat yeast infections. These home remedies for yeast infections are convenient for those wanting to go a more natural, discreet route.

1. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been found to inhibit the growth of candida albicans, the strain of fungi that typically causes yeast infections. 

To use this natural remedy, run a bath and add a half cup of apple cider vinegar and soak in the bath for at least 20 minutes. 

Never use apple cider vinegar at full strength. Because of apple cider’s ability to kill bacteria and fungi, it could also kill the healthy bacteria in the body. Dilute apple cider vinegar before using it.

2. Boric acid

Boric acid vaginal suppositories remedy yeast infections because of boric acid’s antiseptic properties. While research supports the use of these suppositories, it concludes that this should only be used for recurrent and hard to treat yeast infections. Because boric acid is so potent, milder treatments should first be used.

3. Coconut oil

Coconut oil, drawn from the flesh of coconuts, has naturally occurring antifungal properties. A Scientifica study found coconut oil can help inhibit the candida bacteria that causes yeast infections. To utilize this treatment, simply apply coconut oil to the affected area. 

4. Cranberry juice or pills

Cranberry juice has been found to help with urinary tract infections by preventing the formation of the candida albicans (the fungus that causes yeast infections). While studies have not shown its ability to help cure candida albicans in the vagina, some women claim to have results. Cranberry juice and pills are also very high in vitamin C, which can also help prevent infection.

5. Douching

Over-the-counter douches may combat yeast infections and relieve inflammation and irritation. However, most studies show adverse effects of douching, and few studies give positive outcomes. According to the Office of Women’s Health, doctors recommend that women do not douche because douching can lead to problems getting pregnant, vaginal infections, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

6. Garlic

Garlic and garlic oil are well-known antifungal agents. Studies have even found it to have antifungal activity against candida albicans. While more traditional approaches may recommend inserting the garlic clove directly into the vagina, a less invasive approach is to simply add more fresh garlic to food and incorporate it into more meals. 

7. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong antiseptic that has been found to kill yeast. It has not been studied specifically on vaginal infection strains of yeast. Before applying to the vagina, be sure to dilute the hydrogen peroxide first.

8. Oregano oil

Oregano oil, or origanum oil, has been shown to inhibit the growth of candida albicans. To use oregano oil, use a couple of drops in a carrier agent, like coconut oil or olive oil, and apply to the affected area.

9. Probiotics

Probiotics contain live bacteria, such as the bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus,which helps foster a healthy balance of bacterias in the vagina. They may treat or prevent bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections in addition to yeast infections.

Buy probiotic supplements online or in stores. These oral supplements may take up to 10 days to show results. To decrease the length of time for results, some women have used probiotics as vaginal suppositories. Eating yogurt (with live and active cultures) is another good way to increase probiotic intake. 

However, like many natural remedies, there is a lack of evidence that probiotics cure yeast infections. Researchers are still studying probiotics for yeast infections, but many doctors recommend taking one whenever an antibiotic is prescribed, as yeast infections are a possible side effect of antibiotics. 

RELATED: Learn which probiotics are best

10. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil with antifungal properties, that some people claim to cure yeast infections. It works by killing the cell walls and membranes of the yeast. While more studies are currently needed, a 2015 study found that vaginal suppositories containing tea tree oil were able to work as a fungicidal agent thereby killing the candida albicans. 

As with all essential oils, use a few drops of tea tree oil with a carrier oil when using it on the body. Women can purchase vaginal suppositories with tea tree oil online. 

11. Vitamin C

Vitamin C  (Vitamin C coupons | What is Vitamin C?) boosts the body’s immunity and, with a strengthened immune system, the body is able to fight off a yeast infection better. Add more vitamin C by taking a supplement or eating vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables like oranges and broccoli. 

12. Yogurt

Yogurt (with live and active cultures) is a good way to treat yeast infections because of its high probiotic concentrate. As mentioned above, probiotics can help fight off candida albicans. A recent study found that the ingestion of yogurt containing probiotics with Lactobacillus acidophilus helps suppress the growth of yeast. While eating yogurt with probiotics can improve yeast infections, some women even find relief in soaking a tampon in yogurt and inserting it vaginally, remembering to change it frequently. With this technique only use plain, unsweetened yogurt or unsweetened Greek yogurt. Yogurt containing sugar would help the candida grow and flourish. 

How to prevent yeast infections

There are a number of ways to prevent a yeast infection.

  1. Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. Antibiotics can kill off the healthy bacteria in the vagina, causing an overgrowth of yeast, thus leading to a yeast infection.
  2. Wear cotton underwear. Loose-fitting, cotton underwear is most conducive to a healthy microbiome. Avoid garments that are tight and aren’t as breathable, such as leggings. These clothes can create a humid, damp area, which is the ideal environment for candida overgrowth. Because of this, it is also important to change out of damp or sweaty clothes, like workout clothes or swimwear, quickly.
  3. Avoid hot tubs and scalding hot baths, which foster candida growth, due to the warm, moist environments.
  4. Take probiotics or eat yogurt with probiotics since they help balance the vaginal microflora. As well as treatment for yeast infections, probiotics are helpful in the prevention of yeast infections. The best probiotic to take will be with those containing the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 bacteria.
  5. Avoid behaviors that may lead to yeast infections, such as poor hygiene. When performing personal hygiene practices, avoid douching, scented vaginal washes or scented lotions, as well as perfumed sanitary products near the genitals, which can throw off the balance of the vagina’s microflora.
  6. Avoid sugary and processed foods. Yeast grows from sugar, so this can cause a surplus of yeast growth.

Causes of recurring yeast infections

Some women are more susceptible to yeast infections than others and will have recurring yeast infections or chronic yeast infections. There are a few possible reasons someone may deal with recurrent yeast infections:

  • Sexual activity. While yeast infections are not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is possible for partners to pass the candida to each other. To prevent this, use condoms or dental dams and practice good hygiene after sexual intercourse, such as showering. Avoid having intercourse when one partner has a yeast infection.
  • The original yeast infection was not completely treated or the yeast infection is caused by a drug-resistant strain. Symptoms may disappear before the infection is fully treated. When this happens, the yeast infection will come back. There are also strains of yeast that are more drug-resistant, which makes it harder to get rid of than others. 
  • It is not a yeast infection. There are other infections, such as bacterial vaginosis, or STIs, that may have similar symptoms. This is one of the most important reasons for visiting a doctor, such as a gynecologist or primary care physician, when a yeast infection does not clear up.
  • Those with certain conditions, such as impaired immune systems, pregnancy, or uncontrolled diabetes, are more susceptible to yeast infections.

Although they may help, home remedies for yeast infections are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Results vary. If symptoms do not resolve within a few days, be sure to see a healthcare provider.


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