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, but 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 to 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.
"There are many things can mess with vaginal pH including diet (namely, sugar), tight clothes, scented sprays, lotions and soaps, sitting in wet clothes or bathing suits, dehydration, and very acidic foods," Dr. Adeeti Gupta, founder of Walk In GYN Care, a walk-in gynecological care clinic, tells Bustle.
First thing's first: 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.
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.
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. "Itchiness can be a sign that your vaginal pH if off balance," Dr. Gupta says. 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).
If you find out your vaginal pH is too basic, your symptoms are probably either due to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. 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.
On the flip side, your vagina can also be acidic. Technically, it's always a *little* acidic (since it's less than a pH of 7), 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. 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.
Let's start off with the home remedies for more basic vaginas:
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. This does not mean you should put it on or in your vagina.
“Use apple cider vinegar on your salad and not your vagina,” Lauren Streicher, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University and author of Sex RX, told Women's Health.
You can also cut it with water (I like mine with warm water and honey) and drink it — including it in your regular diet can even prevent imbalance.
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.
You can buy the same probiotics that make yogurt a powerful vagina ally in pill format to help prevent basic vaginal pH. You can buy them as regular pills you swallow with your mouth to prevent pH imbalance.
Garlic is another natural antifungal that is particularly well-known (by bakers) to kill yeast. Though some studies have found that some compounds in garlic can be helpful when applied topically, most experts say not to put garlic in your vagina. Instead, enjoy your food with an extra clove or two of garlic.
5. Boric Acid Suppositories
Please note I said “suppositories” — boric acid is toxic if you eat it or put it on an open wound. You can cheaply buy pre-made suppositories over the counter, and it's been a natural, effective BV remedy for over 100 years.
Fenugreek has indications that it helps both BV and 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.
8. Coconut Oil
In addition to tasting delicious, coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal elements.
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.
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.
This post was originally published on February 24, 2016. It was updated on June 15, 2018.