11 Home Remedies For Vaginal Itch & Rebalancing Your pH
We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: home remedies for vaginal itch that rebalance your pH.
Q: I get a lot of yeast infections. I know what to do when I have a full blown one (an antifungal cream if it’s really bad, I call my doctor for an antifungal pill), but I feel like there should be something I can do when I feel that first itch or notice smell or texture changes in my discharge. There have to be some homeopathic remedies to rebalance my vaginal pH before I get a full blown infection! Right?
A: Ah the perpetual vagina struggle. Pussies are strong, badass, and self-cleaning, and part of how they clean themselves is by maintaining a delicate balance of a bunch of different bacteria that keep you in optimal pH range. When your vagina is anything other than in the 4 - 5 pH range, you can start to feel not great. We’re going to learn about some of the things that can help you rebalance your most tender of bits without a trip to the clinic.
But first, a really important note: your doctor is your friend, or at least she's your vagina's friend. The home remedies I'll be describing below are all backed by research and personal accounts as working — otherwise I wouldn't be sharing them with you! However, the amount of research backing them up is lacking (as in, there are studies of vaginal itch home remedies but not that many, or the studies aren't that rigorous, or they don't study a huge group of people). So basically, read up, try these out for yourself if you like, but if things start feeling bad go to your doctor.
OK, disclaimer over.
What Can Unbalance My Vagina?
Your vaginal pH can get unbalanced by many things you probably encounter on a regular basis, including menstruation (because blood is pH neutral, which is higher than your optimal slightly acidic pussy), tampons that have been inside you for too long, and diet (including sugar and gluten, which make you more acidic). Antibiotics can knock out the good flora while they’re destroying whatever unwanted bacteria you’re taking them to vanquish. Finally, semen is very basic, because Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. And the same goes for lots of soaps, not to mention nearly all vaginal “cleaners” or douches you find in the “Feminine Aisle” of your local drugstore.
How Do I Know If My pH Is Unbalanced?
If you’re in touch with your vagina, it won’t be that hard to know your pH is off, because you’ll start to feel not-great. What’s harder is knowing in which direction. By which I mean: are you too acidic or too basic? This is critical to know because the treatments are opposite. So step one after you notice that first itch or weird discharge is to go to your local drugstore and buy an at-home pH test (you can also go to your doctor for a vaginal pH assessment).
Causes Of Being Too Basic
If you have a yeast infection, your vagina might itch in your labia (vaginal lips) or inside your vagina. In addition, your vaginal discharge might look like and have the consistency of cottage cheese — white and clumpy. Finally, some people feel burning in their vaginas, as well as pain during sex or urination.
With bacterial vaginosis (BV for short), your vagina may get itchy and your discharge can be thin, gray or white colored, and smell fishy. Unlike yeast infection, BV isn’t associated with pain during sex or urination.
Things That Can Help A Basic Vagina
Both of those options sound less than optimal, I know. The good news is that there are a ton of home remedies for a vagina that’s too pH basic. The better news is that you don’t even have to know which basic vagina affliction you have, because all of these help to vanquish both yeast infections and BV. However, take the test to make sure, because some options might help more depending on your particular pH imbalance and fungal/bacterial overgrowth.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a very strong natural antibiotic. As its name indicates, it is acidic, which makes it helpful if your pH has become too basic. It can kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa and make way for good bacteria to recolonize your intestines and vagina, thereby solving any pH unbalanced problem and making it harder for bad bacteria to take hold!
Be warned though, this stuff is STRONG! Don’t just pour some up your pussy, you will regret it immediately because it burns. There are a few ways you can use apple cider vinegar to help right your vaginal pH. You can cut it with water (I like mine with warm water and honey) and drink it, or eat it as a salad dressing or marinade. In fact, including it in your regular diet can even prevent imbalance. You can also soak a clean towel in the vinegar for a couple minutes (diluted with water! you’ll thank me) and put the cloth on your vagina. Finally, you can sit in a bath of a couple cups of vinegar to a full bath of water and then hang out in it, or make a diluted vinegar douche.
Yogurt contains lactobacillus, a good bacteria that helps fight bad bacteria in your intestines and vagina and helps your vagina stay in the optimal pH range. Eating yogurt regularly can prevent your vagina from becoming too basic, but it can also be used topically to cure a yeast infection or BV. You can do this by dipping a pad in (unsweetened!) yogurt, wearing it for around half an hour, and then giving yourself a rinse. If you do this three times a day, your problem should resolve itself. You can also dip a tampon in yogurt and wear it for a couple hours twice daily.
You can buy the same probiotics that make yogurt a powerful vagina ally in pill format. These are called probiotics, and they help prevent and cure basic vaginal pH. You can buy them as regular pills you swallow with your mouth to prevent pH imbalance, but probiotic suppositories have also been shown to help people with chronic yeast infections.
Garlic is another natural antifungal that is particularly well-known (by bakers and now vagina-owners) to kill yeast. Garlic can be employed vaginally to stop basic pH in its tracks, but it’s best administered very early on.
How you use this delicious cooking material to rebalance your pH is as follows: peel a clove of fresh garlic, and stick it up your vagina before bed. If you’re further along, you can stab the garlic before you put it up there so more of the essence gets into your area of need. You can also mash up a few garlic cloves and smear them on your vulva, leave it for around 20 minutes, and then rinse. The garlic may burn you a bit, but your skin will soon repair. Whatever you choose though, be warned: when you put garlic in or on your vagina, you’ll taste it in your mouth. How wild is that?!
Please note I said “suppositories” — boric acid is toxic if you eat it or put it on an open wound. You can get this antifungal, antiviral crystalline chemical without a prescription and make your own suppositories, or you can buy pre-made suppositories over the counter. If you’re making your own, around 600 mg is the right amount. Just put one suppository in your vagina when you go to sleep and repeat for seven days.
6. Over-The-Counter Gels
Vaginal gels like RePhresh are available over-the-counter, meaning you don't need to get a prescription. It can help you out with many kinds of vaginal discomfort by helping to restore a healthy pH level. If you're looking for something in a pinch, this could be a good option.
Fenugreek (which realtalk I only learned about from that episode of Six Feet Under ... anyone?) is a great BV cure and also has indication that it helps yeast infections. It not only rebalances your vaginal pH, but it helps to boost your immune system so you get better faster.
To use it, you can soak two tablespoons of the seeds in water overnight and then drink it first thing in the morning, before you’ve eaten. You can also mix fenugreek powder in yogurt and eat it twice a day (the power of two remedies in one!). Or you can steep a teaspoon of the seeds in hot water for around five minutes, strain it, add some honey for taste, and drink it a couple times a day.
8. Coconut Oil
In addition to tasting delicious, coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal elements. Just dip a tampon in coconut oil and wear it for a couple hours. If you do this daily, your symptoms should get better. Plus you’ll taste buttery and amazing!
9. Hydrogen Peroxide
This may sound scary because it’s used as a foamy wound cleaner, but hydrogen peroxide is actually already hanging out in your vagina. It’s there to battle the fungus that causes yeast infection and BV. You can help out by adding more of this important material to your vagina — either topically or by soaking a tampon in the solution and inserting it for 20 to 30 minutes. Just add a teaspoon of it to a cup of water and apply. Make sure not to make it too strong, or it will burn!
Symptoms of Being Too Acidic
Your vagina is normally pretty acidic, but what it if gets to be too acidic? The technical term for this is cytolytic vaginosis, which is when you have too much lactobacillus — yes, that’s the bacteria in yogurt and probiotics that you take to cure a pH basic vagina. No one really knows why this happens, but it definitely can happen to you.
This type of vaginal problem is often mischaracterized as a yeast infection or BV, but really it’s just the opposite! The symptoms are a bit different, so make sure to take the pH test to know for sure that you're too acidic. If you have this, you’ll know because you’ll be experiencing an itchy or red vulva and vagina, vaginal discharge that’s either “watery thin” or “curd-like thick,” and discomfort when you have sex or pee.
Things That Can Help An Acidic Vagina
Once you figure out that you have a too-acidic vagina, what home remedies can solve this problem? Unfortunately there are only a couple options.
1. Baking Soda
The primary solution to an over-acidic vagina is baking soda, the ultimate basic material. You can employ this common household material by using baking soda douches or suppositories. If you’re douching, mix one to two tablespoons of baking soda to four cups of warm water and douche away. You can also make your own suppositories. Inserting one of these twice a week will help you get back to normal.
2. Eliminate Sugar
Unfortunately, it’s less sugar in your diet, not more. Cutting sugar out of your culinary repertoire has been shown to help vaginas get back to their optimal pH.
The Bottom Line
Vaginas are pretty good at maintaining their optimal pH balance, but sometimes they need help. If you’re someone who likes to go the natural route, or you just are tired of going to the doctor every time you feel a tickle, these home remedies are great options to check out.
Just remember that if you don't start to feel better after a couple of days or if you start to feel worse, you should go see your doctor. You should also know that sometimes an itchy vagina or weird discharge is actually a sign of something more serious. Basically, do what you gotta do to feel better, but don't ignore chronic symptoms just because you want to avoid your copay.
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Images: Bustle, Giphy
Editor's note: This story was updated from its original version on June 15, 2018.