Boric acid is a form of the element Boron. It is widely available as a supplement to treat several vaginal issues, typically in the form of an intravaginal capsule.
It is also widely available at places like home improvement stores, as it is used as a pesticide, used in a number of cleaning products and adhesives, and added to swimming pools.
Some people get a little scared of the name boric acidbecause of its similarity to common and toxic household cleaner, borax. While borax and boric acid both share an element (they are both borates, which are derivatives of Boron), they are as different as sodium chloride and chlorine!
Boric acid has been shown to treat many different forms of vaginitis.Vaginitis is a kind of umbrella term for infection and inflammation of the vagina. It includes many conditions such as yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and sexually transmitted infections including trichomoniasis (“trich”), chlamydia, and gonorrhea (Cassoobhoy, 2020).
Vaginitis is not the same as vaginismus, a condition that causes pain when inserting anything into the vagina (such as a tampon or a penis) (Todd, 2020). It also does not include urinary tract infections (UTIs), as your urinary tract is separate from your vagina.
One of the most common forms of vaginitis is a type of infection caused by a pathogen called candida. These candidainfections, most commonly coming from candida albicans, are commonly referred to as “yeast infections.”
Yeast infections are so common that most people with vaginas will get one sometime in their lives. Unfortunately, about 3-4% of patients will have chronic yeast infections (or “recurrent vulvovaginal candidosis”), meaning 3-4 yeast infections per year that can last anywhere from 1 year to decades (Denning et al, 2018).
Fortunately, boric acid can be used to treat yeast infections whether they are one-off or chronic. One study showed that intravaginal boric acid cured 72% of yeast infections after 30 days (Van Slyke, Michel, & Rein, 1981).
Candida is not the only pathogen capable of causing vaginitis; another type of infection is called torulopsis glabrata. Unfortunately, the usual treatments for yeast infections do not always work as well for this tricky bacteria--but studies have shown positive results in the use of boric acid to treat T. glabrata. In one small study of 26 cases of T. glabrata, boric acid was shown to improve or cure the infection for 21 of these episodes, or 81% (Sobel & Chaim, 1997).
Neither the candidanor T. glabratainfections are sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but boric acid has been shown to help with one common STI--trichomoniasis, otherwise known as “trich”. Trichomoniasis is associated with an oddly colored and fishy-smelling discharge (often yellow or green), as well as itching, burning, or redness.
As an antimicrobial, boric acid has been shown to be effective in killing the bacteria that causes trichomoniasis in vitro (Brittingham & Wilson, 2014).
Bacterial vaginosis is the most common type of vaginitis. We do not yet know whether boric acid is a good treatment for bacterial vaginosis, but one ongoing study looked at the small data we do have and estimates that at the end of its trial, boric acid will be found to be 77-88% effective in the treatment of BV (Mullins & Trouton, 2015).
As you can see, there are many different vaginal conditions that can be treated with boric acid. Don’t let its name fool you--it is not the same thing as Borax, and studies have shown that it is generally safe, with only a few minor side effects (such as a burning sensation and watery discharge) reported in a small minority of those who use it (Jovanovic, Congema, & Nguyen, 1991). It is effective both in one-off and chronic cases of many different forms of vaginitis, and one of its best features is that it is very affordable and widely available as an intravaginal supplement.
If short- or long-term vaginal problems are causing you discomfort and distress, talk to your doctor about how boric acid may be able to help you fight vaginal infections and regain your quality of life.