A vaginal yeast infection is rarely serious, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Proponents of home remedies sometimes advocate using garlic to treat even the most serious of yeast infections. The garlic method isn't for the squeamish, and according to MayoClinic.com, it may not even work. If you suspect you have a yeast infection but don't know for sure, please see your doctor first before you self-treat.
Yeast Infection Basics
Three out of four women will have a vaginal yeast infection at some point during their lives, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. This common infection occurs due to an overgrowth of a fungus called candida, part of your vagina's natural flora. Yeast infections are typically precipitated by a change in your vaginal pH. This disruption can occur for many reasons, including antibiotic or steroid use, menstruation, pregnancy, diabetes, birth control pills and douching. Symptoms of a yeast infection can range from mild to severe. Typically, women experience itching and burning of the vagina and vulva, as well as redness, swelling and pain. You may also notice a white, clumpy discharge that looks similar to cottage cheese. Purportedly, applying garlic cloves directly to the source of the infection restores your vaginal pH.
A 2003 article published in "Midwivery Today" explains how garlic can be used to treat a severe yeast infection. According to the author Judy Slome Cohain, CNM, if you have a severe yeast infection, take a clove of garlic, cut it in half and place it inside of your vagina at night. This procedure should be repeated for "a few nights. According to Cohain, cutting the garlic makes it stronger and more effective. She also notes that this home treatment may burn and unfortunately, it burns the skin in a very tender part of your body. Jezebel.com writer Sadie Stein penned a personal account of her own experience with the DIY garlic cure in November 2003. Stein's lively account describes the odious smell, the difficulty of removing it and the intense burning, which she describes as being worse than any over-the-counter antifungal.
Information from the Feminist Women's Health Information indicates that using garlic to treat yeast infections was more common before over-the-counter antifungal medications were available without a prescription. Women who had to wait to see a doctor or who could not afford the costly medications resorted to using garlic and other home remedies, such as gentian violet, boric acid, tea tree oil and vinegar. MayoClinic.com states that well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm if these home remedies do in fact work. The only assurance you have is the word of other women who have successfully cured severe yeast infections using garlic cloves.
Conventional treatment for yeast infections both mild and severe is an over-the-counter antifungal cream, gel, tablet or suppository. MayoClinic.com states that these drugs, known as azoles, include butoconazole, clotrimazole, miconazole and terconazole. More serious yeast infections may need to be treated with these medications for one to two weeks. Alternately, your doctor may suggest you take multiple doses of a prescription oral medication called fluconazole. If your yeast infection doesn't clear up with conventional treatment or if you've never had one before and are unsure of your diagnosis, don't continue to self-treat. The symptoms of a severe yeast infection are easy to confuse with those of a sexually transmitted disease.
- MayoClinic.com; Yeast Infection (Vaginal); May 2010
- American Academy of Family Physicians; Vaginal Yeast Infections; August 2010
- Feminist Women's Health Information; Infections and Insurrection: Women Treating Yeast; L. Vickery; 1993
- "Midwivery Today"; How to Treat a Vaginal Infection with a Clove of Garlic; J. Slome Cohain, CNM; 2003
- MedlinePlus Supplements; Garlic; December 2010
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Vaginitis; 2011