I travel internationally a lot and it isn’t always easy to find over-the-counter yeast infection treatments especially in third world countries. I usually try to bring along a couple of yeast infection treatments on longer trips, but they take up a lot of space in my bag and honestly, sometimes they don’t always work. I’ve had my fair share of recurrent yeast infections that just won’t quit and I’ve learned to not put too much faith in prescription or over-the-counter medicines to solve the problem. We always have yeast in our bodies and in fact, it’s part of a delicate balance that’s not only necessary, but healthy. We don’t want to obliterate the yeast. We want balance. So I’ve learned a few tricks when it comes to treating a yeast infection using stuff that’s available almost anywhere in the world. Stuff that won’t completely wipe out your intestinal flora or cause other weird side effects.
What is a yeast infection?
Many vaginal yeast infections are caused by an over-proliferation of yeast in the colon (candida albicans—not the yeast you’d use to make bread or beer). What happens in the colon spreads easily and directly to the vagina since the vagina and the rectum are located close to each other on a woman’s body. Normally, the vagina contains a few candida albicans cells and other bacteria that keep the population of candida under control, but a variety of things can cause an imbalance. Then, the candida do a coup and take over causing yeast infection symptoms like itching and vaginal soreness. A yeast infection can cause pain or burning when you pee or have sex. Some women (including myself at times) mistake a yeast infection for a urinary tract infection or cystitis. A clumpy, white, cottage-cheese like discharge is common.
The colon’s involvement in the yeast infection is why many yeast infections include a feeling of being bloated and swollen. I’ve had trouble finding information online about yeast infections in the colon, though I did find an article that talked about the sparsity of data about yeast infections in the colon despite the fact that they do happen . I spent several years going to the doctor every other month for urinary tract infections and cystitis and every-so-often, the doctor would tell me that my problem was yeast and that I should be particularly hygienic whenever I’d wipe myself (“front to back”, they’d say…as though I didn’t know that already) and after I’d have sex. The moral of the story is, whatever is in the colon can end up in the vaginal or urethra if you’re not careful. So whenever I suspect that I’ve got a vaginal yeast infection starting, I start by taking Pau d’Arco orally, if I have some available. I take four 1 gram capsules up to 4 or even 5 times per day depending on the severity of the infection and my discomfort level.
But I don’t always have Pau d’Arco on hand. My next line of defense is oregano, specifically oregano essential oil (I use the Plant Therapy brand). This stuff is compact, cheap, it travels well and it’s really effective. Put 1-3 drops on a spoon with some olive oil and take it orally up to 4 times a day. Oregano essential oil works quickly, but be sure to dilute it first because otherwise, it can burn your lips or your throat. And be sure that you purchase a brand of oregano oil that can be taken internally.
Yeast Infection Douche
When I have it on hand, I use Yin Care, which was introduced to me by my acupuncturist several years ago. Yin Care takes a little bit longer than pharmaceutical over-the-counter yeast infection treatments, but it works more reliably in my opinion and it’s less harsh. I wouldn’t recommend Yin Care for pregnant women though because it contains Wormwood, an herb that can cause miscarriages in high doses. Because Yin Care an herbal medicine, the yeast don’t become resistant to it. And you can even use it daily as a preventative douche if you have trouble with recurring or ongoing infections.
Yeast Infection Suppositories
If I don’t have Yin Care available to me, I go out in search of some pure cocoa butter and tea tree oil to make my own little anti-yeast suppositories. You can buy tea tree oil suppositories online, but I prefer to make my own because they’re much cheaper and just as effective.
Garlic cloves as suppositories work surprisingly well for yeast infections. It’s a simple method and one that can be a useful trick in a pinch, especially if you’re traveling in a place like Nepal or Cambodia and yeast infection treatments just aren’t available. Just break off a clove of garlic, remove the skin so that the smooth outer layer of the clove is exposed, cut into the outer skin just a bit to expose the garlic juices and stick it inside the vagina overnight. To make the remedy stronger, cut into the clove of garlic so that more of the innards of the clove are exposed to the vaginal walls. Within minutes, you’ll notice that your breath smells like garlic which demonstrates that it’s flowing through your bloodstream and working systemically. It might take two to three days of treatment with a garlic suppository to get a raging yeast infection under control. You can remove the clove during the day, if necessary.
Read more about the garlic suppository remedy here.
The Best Natural Yeast Infection Treatment
One yeast infection cure that a lot of people don’t know about is an herb call Chilcuague. The herb grows in central Mexico and people make throat sprays, teas, and other Chilcuague products to help treat problems like thrush. The spray produces an interesting effect in your mouth when you take it. It makes your mouth tingle and salivate! It’s a strange sensation that lasts about 15 to 30 seconds and then wears off. When my husband took Chilcuague for the first time, he’d had a thrush infection chronically for about 2 decades. The infection cleared up in a few days taking this herb. Unfortunately, it might be difficult to get Chilcuague outside of the Bajio region of Mexico (Guanajuato state). For people who’ve suffered with thrush for years, it might be worth a trip to get some!
If you have recurrent yeast infections that aren’t responding to over-the-counter yeast infection treatments or prescription fluconazole (diflucan), consider taking a teaspoon of bentonite daily to get the problem under control. My husband has taken bentonite at times to help control geographic tongue, a problem caused by a yeast infection in the gut (yeast infection in men is expressed differently, but it can be just as distressing). A combination of bentonite, oregano oil, and Pau d’Arco can help you get control of a yeast overgrowth without throwing your intestinal flora completely out of balance. Add a daily dose of probiotics or Kombucha tea (you can cheaply brew your own with a kombucha kit and take it with you on longer trips) to the your regime if needed. If you have ongoing or recurrent infections that are driving you mad, the use of herbal remedies would be a good choice because while yeast may become resistant to a drug like fluconazole, it won’t be able to fight off complex herbal remedies for very long.
Another home remedy for yeast infections that works REALLY WELL (this is always my first course of action with a vaginal yeast infection) is to take a fresh clove of garlic, cut it in half and stick it up inside the vagina. Do it overnight because you’ll notice this will make your breath smell like garlic almost immediately (which demonstrates how powerful this treatment is). You may need to do this treatment for two to three days along with the oregano oil and Pau d’ Arco mentioned above, but it really does work! If you have recurrent or chronic yeast infections that are really irritating during the daytime, use Yin Care to make the itching less annoying. Yin Care contains some cooling herbs that relieve the itching and at the same time help treat the yeast infection.
To get rid of a stubborn yeast infection that isn’t responding to pharmaceuticals, be consistent with the natural and herbal remedies you’re using. And cut back on the sweets in your diet. Yeast loves sugar! You may even find that you crave sweet treats when you have a yeast infection, but don’t indulge!
For women, remember that most vaginal yeast infections will end when your period begins because the pH of blood is deadly for yeast. If your periods are irregular, consider taking herbs like Vitex, Maca, or Evening Primrose Oil to level out your hormones. Hormones that are out-of-wack can lead sometimes to yeast infections, so by getting control over your hormones, you can sometimes get control over the yeast too.
Above all, don’t give up even if you doctor loses hope and tells you he has nothing left to help you. Natural and herbal remedies for yeast infections do work! Also consider the possibility that you may have Trichomoniasis, a super common STD that’s easy to treat if you know what you’ve got. The CDC says it’s “the most curable STD”, so don’t go into denial if there’s even a small possibility that you have Trichomoniasis. If you’ve been struggling with a “yeast infection” that just won’t go away, go to the doctor and get metronidazole or tinidazole prescribed to you (in pill form). There’s no reason to be embarrassed…this STD is really common.
 Surat Praneenararat (2014). Fungal Infection of the Colon. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4211850/ January 23, 2017.