Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a very common vaginal condition. In fact, because BV can be asymptomatic, you could have it right now and not even know; one study of over 3,700 women ages 14-49 found that 29.2% had BV, even though 84% of those cases reported no symptoms (Koumans et al, 2007).

Because it is so common, the Internet is full of anecdotal home remedies for bacterial vaginosis. It’s important for you to understand what works--and what doesn’t.

We’ve sorted through all the available research to help you make good decisions about treating your bacterial vaginosis at home.

    Home Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis

    The goal with these home remedies is to restore the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina and alleviate symptoms, though they should not replace medical treatment recommended by healthcare providers. Some popular home remedies include:

    1. Probiotics

    Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus strains found in yogurt and probiotic supplements, are believed to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. They promote the growth of good bacteria, which can outcompete the harmful bacteria causing BV. This helps maintain a healthy vaginal pH and flora.

    2. Apple Cider Vinegar

    Apple cider vinegar is thought to help by balancing the vaginal pH level. A balanced pH can inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause BV. It's typically used in diluted form in bath water to avoid irritation, as undiluted vinegar can be harsh on the skin.

    3. Garlic

    Garlic has natural antibacterial properties, which might help in fighting off the anaerobic bacteria that thrive in the vaginal environment during BV. Eating garlic or taking garlic supplements is thought to offer these benefits, though direct application is not recommended due to potential irritation.

    4. Tea Tree Oil

    This essential oil is renowned for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. When diluted with a carrier oil and applied to the vaginal area, tea tree oil might help reduce the bacterial load and alleviate symptoms of BV. It's crucial to dilute it properly to prevent irritation or allergic reactions.

    5. Hydrogen Peroxide

    Hydrogen peroxide has oxidizing properties that may help eliminate the anaerobic bacteria responsible for BV. A diluted solution used as a vaginal rinse can help lower the concentration of these bacteria, aiding in restoring the natural bacterial balance of the vagina.

    6. Probiotics

    Antibiotics are very good at killing bacteria--but often, they will kill natural, beneficial bacteria in addition to the harmful bacteria. This is particularly relevant in BV, where harmful bacteria grow and replace healthy lactobacilli bacteria.

    Because of this, some clinicians are now trying to supplement antibiotic treatment with probiotics that contain lactobacilli; early results are promising, though we need to do more research to confirm these effects (Senok et al, 2009).

    Some over-the-counter probiotic supplements contain lactobacilli, but you can also obtain probiotics from fermented foods such as cheese, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, pickles, and kombucha (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020).

    7. Boric Acid

    Boric acid is used as a vaginal suppository to help treat BV, especially for those who have recurrent infections. It works by reacidifying the vagina, creating an environment that is hostile to the growth of harmful bacteria and conducive to the growth of beneficial lactobacilli.

    Boric acid is very safe and usually does not have any side effects; where side effects do appear, they are usually mild (Jovanovic, Congema, & Nguyen, 1991). It may be better to avoid during the first trimester of pregnancy, but is usually safe in the second and third trimesters (Iavazzo et al, 2011).

    Boric acid has been well-researched in the treatment of other forms of vaginitis such as yeast infections (Iavazzo) and trichomoniasis (Brittingham & Wilson, 2014); while its use for the treatment of BV is still being researched, an ongoing study predicts that it will be 77-88% effective (Mullins & Trouton, 2015). Ask your OBGYN what they recommend!

      When to See a Doctor

      You should consult a doctor for bacterial vaginosis if home remedies do not improve your symptoms, if you experience recurring episodes, or if you have symptoms like severe discomfort, pain during urination, or bleeding. Medical evaluation is crucial to rule out other infections and to receive appropriate treatment that might include prescription medications.

      When it comes to bacterial vaginosis, there are numerous ways to get rid of BV, obtain relief naturally and help prevent continual infections. They include Boric Acid Suppositories and a daily Women's Probiotic. 

      Tips for Preventing BV

      Here are some specific tips:

      • Avoid Douching: Douching can disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina.
      • Limit the Number of Sexual Partners: Multiple or new partners can increase the risk of BV.
      • Use Protection During Sex: Condoms can help reduce the transfer of bacteria.
      • Choose the Right Feminine Products: Avoid harsh soaps and vaginal sprays that can upset the vaginal flora.
      • Wear Cotton Underwear: Breathable fabrics help keep the area dry and prevent bacterial overgrowth.
      • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can support overall health and immunity.

      How Long Does it Take for BV to Go Away?

      Bacterial vaginosis (BV) typically resolves within a few days to a week with appropriate antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, BV may persist for a longer period, and symptoms can fluctuate in intensity. It's important for individuals experiencing symptoms of BV to consult a healthcare provider to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment. 

      How to Get Rid of BV Without Antibiotics?

      To get rid of BV without antibiotics (after you've received a definitive diagnosis from a medical professional) consider boric acid, probiotics, apple cider vinegar and other natural remedies aimed at restoring the natural bacterial balance in the vagina.

      Conclusion

      There is much we still don’t understand about bacterial vaginosis--particularly because it appears so commonly and is so often asymptomatic. While antibiotic medication is often the first line of treatment, overuse of medications may make the bacterial imbalances causing your BV worse, not better--particularly if you experience chronic BV.

      Luckily, many foods and drinks contain antibacterial and probacterial properties; a combination of the two may help your vagina fight off infection in a more gentle, natural way. Even using these tools (particularly a probiotic) in addition to an antibacterial may help give your vagina a little extra fighting power.

      That said, if your chronic or acute BV is not going away, please see an OB/GYN right away. And please, do not insert anything into your vagina without consulting with your OB/GYN first--most sources that suggest inserting anything into your vagina other than doctor-approved boric acid are based on little to no scientific studies, and may do more harm to your vagina than any potential good.

      Related: Can I Cure BV in a Day? 

      References

      1. Koumans, E. H., Sternberg, M., Bruce, C., McQuillan, G., Kendrick, J., Sutton, M., & Markowitz, L. E. (2007). The prevalence of bacterial vaginosis in the United States, 2001–2004; associations with symptoms, sexual behaviors, and reproductive health. Sexually transmitted diseases, 34(11), 864-869. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318074e565 
      2. Livengood C. H. (2009). Bacterial vaginosis: an overview for 2009. Reviews in obstetrics & gynecology, 2(1), 28–37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2672999/
      3. Office on Women's Health (Ed.) (2019). Douching. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching
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      12. Senok, A. C., Verstraelen, H., Temmerman, M., & Botta, G. A. (2009). Probiotics for the treatment of bacterial vaginosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews https://www.cochrane.org/CD006289/STI_probiotics-for-the-treatment-of-bacterial-vaginosis
      13. Harvard Health Publishing. (2020). How to get more probiotics. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-get-more-probiotics
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      15. Iavazzo, C., Gkegkes, I. D., Zarkada, I. M., & Falagas, M. E. (2011). Boric acid for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis: the clinical evidence. Journal of Women's Health, 20(8), 1245-1255. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2010.2708
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