Candida albicans is the fungus that causes vaginal thrush, which is another term for a vaginal yeast infection. Thrush is a yeast infection that can occur in different parts of the body. The presence of small amounts of candida albicans in the vagina is normal, but a yeast infection, or vaginal thrush, results from the overgrowth of the fungus. Yeast infections occur in nearly 75 percent of women. Antifungal medications are the usual treatment for vaginal thrush. The use of garlic capsules to treat the condition is considered an alternative or complementary treatment, but science does support the use of garlic as an antifungal agent.
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Vaginal thrush affects the vagina and the vulva. Symptoms include itching and burning, redness, swelling of the vulva and the vagina, vaginal rash, pain during urination or sex and a thick, white discharge. A woman may have all or just a few of the symptoms. Doctors perform an examination and tests to diagnose vaginal thrush. The usual causes of vaginal thrush are stress, illness, menstruation, pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and complications of diseases such as diabetes. Certain medications, such as antibiotics and steroids, can also cause vaginal thrush. An unhealthy diet, such as large amounts of sugar, can cause vaginal thrush, as well. Tight clothing and underwear, douching and scented feminine and bath products can all increase the risk of development of a yeast infection, according to WomensHealth.gov.
Garlic’s Antimicrobial Properties
Researchers have studied garlic’s antifungal and antimicrobial properties for years. Recent studies have focused on the effect of garlic on the fungus that causes vaginal thrush – candida albicans. A study conducted by Katey Lemar, et al, and published in PubMed Central in 2009, concluded that garlic kills and inhibits the growth of candida albicans. The study confirmed the “significant anticandidal” properties of garlic reported in a 2002 study by Lemar and identified allicin as the component of garlic with the strongest antimicrobial properties. The study concluded that extracts of garlic components are more effective against the infection than whole garlic cloves or other forms of the plant.
Garlic capsules may contain powder, oil or other extracts of the garlic plant. Garlic capsules that contain allicin, the component of garlic identified as most effective against the yeast fungus, are available for oral use or for use as a vaginal suppository. Some women, however, prefer to use a fresh garlic clove to treat vaginal thrush. The clove treatment requires sewing a string through half of the peeled garlic clove and inserting it in the vagina before going to bed. The string is used to remove the garlic in the morning.
Talk to your doctor before using garlic capsules, or garlic in other forms, to treat a vaginal yeast infection. Most adults can use safely use garlic, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, garlic has a few side effects and interactions that require caution. The side effects may be different with different forms of garlic. Raw garlic is more likely to cause body odor, allergic reactions and heartburn. Garlic also acts as a blood-thinner and may interfere with HIV and other medications.
- WomensHealth.gov: Glossary
- PubMed Central; Katey Lemar, et al; Allyl Alcohol and Garlic (Allium Sativum) Extract Produce Oxidative Stress in Candida Albicans; July 2009
- Midwifery Today; Judy Slome Cohain, CNM; How to Treat a Vaginal Infection with a Clove of Garlic; 2003
- AllicinNow; Garlic Capsules; August 2011
- National Institutes of Health: Garlic