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What Are the Best Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis?

Applying pure witch hazel, from the witch hazel plant, may provide relief to women with bacterial vaginosis.
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  • Written By: Caitlin Kenney
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 March 2014
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Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a vaginal infection in which the normal bacteria in the vagina become unbalanced, causing a fishy smell, discharge, and sometimes itchiness or burning. This condition can be diagnosed and treated with antibiotics by a doctor, though there are also natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis. Deciding between conventional and natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis should be discussed with a doctor or an expert in natural medicine, or both.

Bacterial vaginosis is a very common infection, especially amongst women of childbearing age. The infection occurs when the naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria in the vagina overproduce and the pH of the vagina falls. The cause of the infection is still unknown, though it has been related to sexual activity. People with new or multiple sexual partners are more likely to develop BV, though women who are not sexually active, can also develop BV. Because it irritates the vagina and flushes the “bad” bacteria out with the “good,” douching can also increase risk of BV.

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BV traditionally hasn’t been considered a serious problem, but it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. It is now known that it can also increase susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections. A doctor can diagnose BV by taking a swab of the vagina and testing it for smell, pH, and clue cells. Clue cells are epithelial cells that have an unusually high amount of bacteria on them. It is important to get tested before trying antibiotics or natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis, as it can be confused with other vaginal ailments, such as yeast infection.

Doctors typically prescribe a cream or pill-form antibiotic, such as clindamycin, for BV, but many women don’t feel it works well, especially for recurrent infections. The alternative, natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis include garlic pills, herbal douches, healthy diet, and probiotics. Garlic is believed to have natural antibiotic properties and can be taken in pill form, infused in water, or eaten. Some people recommend herbal douches, prepared with essential oil and natural antiseptics, such as tea tree oil, calendula, garlic, Echinacea, and goldenseal. Douches are not recommended by most doctors, however, so it’s best to seek some professional guidance in choosing whether or not to douche.

Healthy diet changes may also be a great and harmless example of natural remedies for bacterial vaginosis. Many naturopaths recommend cutting out processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, refined flour, and foods high in saturated fat. It may also be beneficial to eat yogurt, which contains live “good” bacteria, though the effectiveness of this treatment alone has been debated in conventional medicine. It is certainly useful with prescribed antibiotics to prevent all of the bacteria from being wiped out, which can lead to a yeast infection.

To relieve the symptoms of BV, one could also try taking a bath with a few drops of tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar. Some women also try applying witch hazel to relieve the itching and odor. If the area is burning or tender, however, these remedies may cause more irritation.

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