Some patients rely on natural or home remedies to treat yeast infections. Yogurt, garlic, tea tree oil, and herbal suppositories are a few of the most common.
There is little research supporting the efficacy of home remedies for yeast infections, and some (like yogurt) may fuel the yeast growth or otherwise worsen inflammation.
Antifungal medications, such as fluconazole, effectively treat a yeast infection. If the infection persists, boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine may be of use.
Vaginal itching or soreness, abnormal discharge: These are the tell-tale signs of a case of vaginal candidiasis, or a yeast infection, in patients. Accounting for at least 1.4 million outpatient visits annually, this pesky condition ranks as No. 2 on the list of most common types of vaginal infections, according to the CDC.
Some women who experience symptoms of a yeast infection are quick to reach for a natural remedy instead of seeking medical treatment. Despite their popularity, some of these methods are potentially unsafe, let alone ineffective. Doctors may safely treat patients who show signs of yeast infections with clinically tested antifungal medications.
Common home remedies
When it comes to treating yeast infections at home, there is no shortage of natural remedies that have been tried.
The following are among the most common, as discussed in a 2019 article published by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.
Garlic. Patients may eat garlic in an attempt to treat vaginal candidiasis.
Some may even insert whole garlic cloves into their vagina, despite the lack of clinical evidence supporting this treatment method.
Yogurt. In addition to garlic, women who have yeast infections may modify their diet to include more yogurt.
Others have reportedly saturated tampons with yogurt in order to create a DIY-suppository—which is not clinically proven to cure or prevent yeast infections.
Tea tree oil. As with yogurt, some patients may apply tea tree oil to tampons in order to make suppositories.
Unfortunately, there is once again very little research supporting the use of tea tree oil in a suppository. In fact, such treatments may risk allergic reactions or irritation of the mucus membranes.
"Vaginal douches or female intimate hygiene products may irritate the skin, making the inflammation worse."
— Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care
Yoni Pearls™ (or other herbal suppositories). The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care didn’t mention Yoni Pearls, but that is one remedy for yeast infections that took the internet by storm, according to a 2020 study published by the FASEB Journal.
Yoni Pearls is a cluster of herbs wrapped in a mesh enclosure and used as a homeopathic suppository, with the intention of curing yeast infections.
Despite the popularity of Yoni Pearls, experts at Mount Sinai warn against their dangersand those of similar products. Killing off of the vagina’s good bacteria is one risk, and others include toxic shock syndrome (TSS)—when products are left in the vagina for long periods of time—and various poor health outcomes.
When in doubt, use what works
Physicians have clinically tested treatments to choose from for their patients with vaginal infections.
According to the CDC, HCPs most commonly treat vaginal candidiasis with antifungal medications. Fluconazole is an example of an oral medication that patients can use, while other antifungal medicines may be applied vaginally.
In the event of severe or recurrent cases, the choices include vaginally administered boric acid, nystatin, or flucytosine.
As the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care notes, additional antifungal medications include clotrimazole and ciclopirox.
The authors state that the amount of time it takes for the infection to clear up is dependent on the type of medication used.
“Simple infections clear up after a few days of locally applied treatment (vaginal suppositories or creams). Depending on the drug used, the treatment takes one, three or six days,” they wrote.
On top of antifungal medications, the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care states that patients may support their vaginal health by taking some probiotics. Some vaginal suppositories or capsules contain live lactic acid bacteria.
“They may help to fight a yeast infection when used in addition to antifungal drugs. But it’s not clear whether they can effectively fight a yeast infection when used on their own,” the authors wrote.
Overall, home remedies for yeast infections may be ineffective and potentially harmful. Patients who come to you with a yeast infection are better served by treatment with antifungal medications, to ensure that they receive a tried-and-true, evidence-based treatment plan.
What this means for you
Women may feel inclined to treat what they think could be a yeast infection with natural remedies. Unfortunately, many of these remedies have yet to be clinically tested, and some of them may even disrupt the healthy bacteria in the vagina. Evidence-based treatments for your patients with yeast infections include antifungal medications such as clotrimazole, nystatin, ciclopirox, and fluconazole. Patients may also support their vaginal health by taking probiotics.