An overgrowth of yeast within the vagina causes vaginal yeast infections. They occur more frequently after antibiotic use and if certain medical conditions are present. Women who are pregnant and those with diabetes develop yeast infections more frequently. Women who are obese also develop them more frequently than women of a normal weight. Yeast infections are commonly treated with over-the-counter vaginal creams inserted vaginally. For a more natural approach, garlic cloves may be used because of their antifungal properties. Garlic should not be used in place of prescribed treatment by your doctor. If you think you have a yeast infection, contact your doctor for proper diagnosis. Talk to a physician, herbalist or other healthcare provider with knowledge of natural remedies for advice.
Using Garlic Vaginally--Mild Infections
Midwives and naturopathic doctors may recommend garlic more often than medical doctors due to their natural and holistic health approach. Judy Slome Cohain, a Certified Nurse Midwife with Midwifery Today, explains that whole cloves of garlic can be used to treat yeast infections that range from mild to severe. Mild yeast infections can be treated by inserting one peeled garlic clove into the vagina at bedtime and removing it in the morning. If needed, it can be repeated a second night, or until symptoms of itchiness, redness and white discharge disappear.
Using Garlic Vaginally--Advanced Infections
If the yeast infection is more advanced as evidenced by copious discharge and severe itching and redness, a garlic clove can be cut in half, exposing the flesh inside and increasing the amount of fresh garlic exposed. Small, shallow cuts can also be made into the skin of the garlic with a knife or even your fingernail for increased surface area. The garlic clove is then inserted into the vagina at bedtime and removed in the morning. If there is no improvement after two to three days, garlic should be discontinued and medical treatment sought from a knowledgeable provider.
Garlic cloves may be irritating to the delicate tissue of the vagina. When a yeast infection is present, the tissue is already red and inflamed. Some women may find that garlic temporarily worsens the localized discomfort until the yeast resolves and the vagina begins to heal. If this irritation occurs, you can discontinue use and consult your doctor for conventional remedies, or try using a whole clove that hasn't been cut. When using garlic vaginally, you may also notice that you taste the garlic. This is one reason you should use the treatment at night, so it doesn't bother you all day.
Garlic can be removed from the vagina in two ways. Women who are comfortable with their anatomy can sit on the toilet and locate the garlic clove by sweeping one or two fingers inside of the vagina. Garlic cloves cannot get lost inside of the body because the cervix blocks their passage. You can also use a needle to insert a thread through the center of the garlic clove before insertion, so it can be removed the next morning like a tampon.
Always talk to your doctor or midwife before treating a yeast infection at home with garlic. Do not use this remedy if your doctor advises against it. Garlic may not be effective for treating yeast infections in all women. Medical studies supporting the use of garlic in this manner are lacking.