Natural Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
Suffering from bacterial vaginosis? You can breathe a little easier. I'm going to tell you how best to cure bacterial vaginosis yourself at home using natural herbal treatments and home remedies. This is particularly beneficial for those who do not have insurance or for whom traditional antibiotics do not work. You do not have live with BV. You can get rid of it using over-the-counter products and herbs, some of which you may already have in your medicine cabinet.
What Is Bacterial Vaginosis?
Let's start by discussing just what bacterial vaginosis is. Bacterial vaginosis, or "BV," is an infection caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria within the vagina. Bacteria thrive within the human body and, at any given time, there are literally billions of bacteria living, dying and replicating in your system. The human body, however, is particularly adept at maintaining an efficient bacterial balance. Beneficial bacteria keep the numbers of harmful bacteria down, preventing an infection and keeping us healthy.Bacterial vaginosis occurs when the numbers of "bad" bacteria in the vagina outnumber the "good" bacteria.
Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis
Many women initially confuse BV with a yeast infection due to the fact that it shares some of the same symptoms. BV differs from a yeast infection in that a yeast infection is a fungal infection whereas BV is bacterial in nature. If you have BV, you may notice some of the following symptoms. Keep in mind that this list does not apply to everyone. You may have all of the symptoms or just one or two. Every woman's body is different.
- Burning during urination
- Watery discharge
- Foul odor
- Tenderness or pain in the vaginal area
- Pain during intercourse
Getting Rid of the Vaginal Odor
Possibly the most prevalent symptom women with bacterial vaginosis experience is an extremely foul vaginal odor. Although each woman's odor differs, most describe it as a fishy smell. The odor associated with bacterial vaginosis is so strong that it can quickly permeate clothing and be an embarrassment to the sufferer. Should the woman lack any other symptoms of a problem, she may believe this odor is her and not the infection. This belief has undesirable results such as isolation and depression.
Fortunately, you can rid yourself of the foul odor relatively quickly with simple home remedies from your own medicine cabinet. First, lets discuss hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is a home remedy for the odor of BV that you probably have in your medicine cabinet right now. Remember all those doctors who told you never to douche? They were right. Douching throws off the natural bacterial balance of the vagina. In the case of BV sufferers, the natural bacterial balance is already disrupted, so douching isn't going to do any additional damage.
You can douche with hydrogen peroxide by using a funnel to pour it directly into your vaginal cavity or, lacking a funnel, positioning yourself properly to wash out the area with a steady stream of the antiseptic. As strange as this home remedy sounds, its amazingly effective.
Don't worry, the hydrogen peroxide won't burn and it can't hurt you. All it will hurt is the bacteria causing that embarrassing, fishy odor. If you opt for this method, do so while in the bathtub or shower to avoid making a mess. Keep in mind that while douching with hydrogen peroxide will kill the smell – sometimes for several days – it doesn't cure the infection. Right now you are merely treating the symptoms to make yourself more comfortable. Women who have a particularly strong odor may need to douche with hydrogen peroxide more than once before the odor of BV goes away.
Note: Don't believe the myths you may hear about hydrogen peroxide pushing bacteria further into the vagina (it doesn't, it kills them) or damaging your mucous membranes. This treatment is far less taxing on your body than chemical laden topical antibiotics your doctor would give you – and it works MUCH faster for eliminating BV odor!
Use Tea Tree Oil to Treat Vaginal Odor
If you've ever used tea tree oil in the past, you know that undiluted tea tree oil has an incredibly strong, antiseptic smell. Don't let this deter you. If I were to choose, I'd have to say that the tea tree oil is the most effective of all potential natural remedies for the offensive odor associated with bacterial vaginosis. This treatment, however, is a bit more involved than the hydrogen peroxide douche. You will need tampons, tea tree oil and a bottle of olive oil.
The steps are as follows:
1. Pour a small amount of the olive oil into a container.
2. Push roughly one inch of the tampon from the applicator. Dip the tip of the tampon into the olive oil until it becomes saturated (5-10 seconds).
3. Pour a small amount of tea tree oil on the tampon after saturating it in the olive oil. The amount you use depends on you. You can apply the tea tree oil with a dropper, a q-tip or pour it directly onto the tampon. Try not to waste it, it isn't cheap.
4. Insert the tampon. Leave it there for a minimum of one hour. When you remove it, the smell will be gone.
Don't attempt to use tea tree oil without the olive oil base. The olive oil serves two purposes. First, it dilutes the tea tree oil to reduce any discomfort you may experience (the tea tree oil feels very cold upon insertion. Some women don't mind this while others find it unpleasant). Second, the olive oil provides a resting base for the tea tree oil. Without the olive oil, the tea tree oil would soak directly into the tampon and be less effective.
This treatment is beneficial because not only are you treating the odor of your bacterial vaginosis, you're also killing off bacteria. Tea tree oil cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria, but starting with a semi-clean slate is better than allowing the bacterial vaginosis to continue.
Bacterial Vaginosis Home Treatment Step 1: Kill the Bacteria
The first step to actually treating your condition is to kill off as much of the bacteria within your vagina as possible. As I stated previously, treatments cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria. That's okay. You're going to reintroduce the good bacteria into your body. For now, however, you're focusing on wiping the slate clean. You can do this with either the tea tree oil tampon trick, hydrogen peroxide or good old garlic. Yep, you can use garlic!
Not only does garlic taste great, it's a natural antibiotic like few others – and you can use it to combat both the odor of BV and the harmful bacteria thriving within your body.
First, break off and peel a garlic clove. Tie a small string (unflavored, unwaxed dental floss is good for this) to the clove's tip and insert it into your vagina. Try to use this method when you know you'll be stationary for a while, such as a night when you're sitting down to watch a movie or during a nap. You can even leave the garlic clove in overnight while you sleep.
If you're using garlic, you will need to repeat the treatment more frequently than you would if you opt for the hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil methods. Regardless of which method you choose, its crucial that you kill off as much of the bacteria as possible and then replenish it with good bacteria.
Taking garlic orally is also beneficial. Most people can't force themselves to swallow or chew and entire garlic clove 6-8 times a day, but liquid garlic capsules contain concentrated amounts of this natural antibiotic and the dosage is much lower than if you were eating garlic cloves.
Note: Watch out for the odor! If you eat lots of garlic, the smell will literally seep through your pores. The same is true for some garlic supplements. If you go this route, choose an odorless variety.
Natural Antibiotic Herbal Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis
Many, many herbs serve as natural antibiotics. They help cleanse your body of infection and carry fewer side effects than traditional BV treatment. Keep in mind that, in excess, herbs can be just as dangerous as traditional antibiotics. Use these in conjunction with the other steps to ensure that you are fighting the bacterial vaginosis to the best of your ability. Just like your doctor's antibiotics aren't likely to work on their own, natural antibiotics can also fail without proper backup. The liquid form of these herbal treatments, if you can find it, is always more potent and better for your body than the pill form!
DO NOT USE HERBS TO TREAT BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR NURSING WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING WITH A PHYSICIAN. SOME CAN CAUSE COMPLICATIONS.
Herbs to consider include:
- Oil of oregano
- Black walnut
Testing For Alkalinity
Your body strives to keep its pH in balance, but this isn't always possible. The pH balance of your vagina is naturally acidic and should remain below 4.5 at all times. When the vaginal pH shifts to a more alkaline environment, harmful bacteria thrive and can quickly outnumber the beneficial bacteria – resulting in bacteria vaginosis.
You can test your vagina's pH by purchasing litmus paper and conducting a pH test. You can pick up litmus paper at a science supply store or order it online. Some health food stores also carry litmus paper, so call around! Don't worry, no one will know you need it to test for BV. They will assume you are a student or science teacher.
You can test the pH of your vagina by swabbing some of your vaginal discharge and placing it on the litmus paper. The litmus paper will then give you a reading of your pH. Do not do this test right after using the hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil treatment as that may skew your results.
Bacterial Vaginosis Home Treatment Step 2: Fix Vaginal pH
Odds are, if you have BV, your litmus paper will show you a reading greater than 4.5. Even if you do not do the alkalinity test (its optional) you must strive to get your body's alkalinity down and acid up. You can do this in several ways:
1. Drink more water. Seriously. Put down the soda and do it. Water helps flush your body of toxins. If you can't tolerate just water (there's no shame in it) drink unsweet tea or Crystal Light.
2. Cut out the sugar. Don't panic, this is temporary, but you absolutely must do it. Just turn down the cookies and the soda and the bubble gum until you get the infection under control. The harmful bacteria that cause bacterial vaginosis feed on sugar and it increases their ability to fight the good bacteria in your body. Don't chance it.
3. Avoid exposing your vagina to soap. Pick your jaw up off the floor and stop looking so shocked. Most soaps and shampoos have a high alkalinity – extremely high. So if you're scrubbing away at yourself with soap to combat the odor of bacterial vaginosis, all you're successfully doing is increasing your vagina's alkalinity and making it easier for the harmful bacteria to multiply which, in turn, makes the odor worse. Its easier to avoid soap if you shower rather than bathing in a tub of soapy water.
4. No sexual intercourse. For some, this is the hardest rule to stick to, but its also one of the most important. Semen is a high alkalinity fluid. Although its alkalinity isn't as high as that of soap, its introduced directly into the vagina whereas soap is not. Intercourse is one of the worst offenders when it comes to dragging out a BV infection.
Note that I didn't say "no unprotected sex." This is because if you've got BV, odds are your partner does as well. The bacteria that cause the infection don't only live within your body, they live on your body too. Unless you're both covered in shrink wrap during lovemaking (don't do that. You'd suffocate, and that's not how you want to be discovered, trust me) intercourse isn't safe. He loves you, he'll understand.
Bacteria Vaginosis Home Treatment Step 3: Introducing Good Bacteria
Ever heard of Lactobacillus? No? Well that's the official name of the good bacteria that helps keep your vagina healthy. Lactobacillus normally keeps your vaginal pH acidic while fighting invading bacteria. Killing off the bad bacteria also kills off Lactobacillus, but you can re-populate the Lactobacillus within your body – giving it a jump on the invaders.
There are three primary methods for introducing Lactobacillus into your body to fight bacterial vaginosis.
1. Acidophilus supplements
Acidophilus supplements are pills that contain a high amount of Lactobacillus. Once dissolved, these bacterial cultures spread throughout your body and fight the harmful bacteria where they're needed. The pills will begin working immediately, but you may need to take them for a week or so before you see noticeable results.
For quicker results, you can crush an acidophilus pill, mix it with a bit of water to make a paste and apply the paste to your vaginal cavity. It does not need to be inserted to be effective. The bacteria will travel where they're needed.
When purchasing acidophilus, look for LIVE cultures. High potency acidophilus contains 1 billion live cultures. If you can only find acidophilus that contains 50 million live cultures, take two pills daily instead of just one. You can purchase acidophilus at Wal-Mart, health food stores and most grocery stores.
2. Plain Yogurt
Yogurt is the absolute best source of Lactobacillus you can find. My recommendation? Eat a couple servings of yogurt a day in addition to taking the acidophilus. If you're lactose intolerant, you can stick with the acidophilus alone and avoid the yogurt.
If you choose the yogurt option, make sure that you're sticking to sugar-free yogurt. You might be surprised to learn that the tastiest yogurt flavors are loaded with excess sugar that will thwart your efforts to quash the bacterial vaginosis infection.
Plain yogurt isn't very exciting, so dress it up with fruit, nuts or granola. You can also use it to make a delicious smoothie.
Some women even choose to insert plain yogurt directly into the vagina. While this is a viable option for replacing beneficial bacteria following the tea tree oil or hydrogen peroxide bacteria-killing methods, its extremely messy. If you're going to do this, do it right before bed. The yogurt will drain out if you don't – and that isn't pleasant at all.
Continuing Home Treatment Remedies for BV
Unless you've been spending your time living happily under a rock, you know that antibiotic-resistant bacteria flourish in our society. This is because, after a few days of treatment, the individual often feels better and stops taking her or her medication – giving the handful of antibiotic resistant bacteria that are left a chance to multiply and be passed on. In addition, the infection can come back twice as potent.
The same is true with natural home treatment for bacteria vaginosis. Do not stop your treatment regimen simply because you feel better after a day or two. Continue to treat yourself for a week, minimum. This ensures that you knock out the problem for good.
Tips to Remember When Treating BV
I'm going to leave you with a few tips to remember when treating your bacterial vaginosis at home. Hopefully this will help you get rid of the infection and prevent it from recurring. All too often BV becomes a chronic condition and sufferers do not understand why. Keep these facts in mind when eradicating your BV infection:
- Treat your partner too. You can cure your bacterial vaginosis, but your partner can and will give it right back to you if he or she isn't also treated.
- Avoid beginning the home remedy treatment regimen until after menstruation. Menstrual blood is an alkaline substance and will make your efforts to stabilize your body pH much more difficult.
- Test your pH periodically, if possible, to identify the potential for new bacterial vaginosis infections before they start.
- Avoid bathing in the tub. If you do need a hot bath, do not allow your family members to bathe until you've cleaned out the tub with bleach or hydrogen peroxide to kill any harmful bacteria that remain. Bathing in the tub yourself without effectively cleaning it can cause your bacterial vaginosis to return.
- Seek medical help if you're pregnant or nursing. Natural home treatment isn't for everyone, and can be dangerous to pregnant women. Pregnant women should always seek help from a doctor before treating BV as both the BV itself and many effective remedies can harm the baby.
How Did You Successfully Treat Your Bacterial Vaginosis Infection?
For More Information on BV Infection
- CDC STD Facts - Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) Fact Sheet from CDC. What is BV? How common is BV? How do people get BV? And more...