by Paul Bergner
Medical Herbalism 7(1-2):18-19
Vaginal infection may be caused either by organisms that are normal residents of the vagina, such as candida yeast overgrowth, or by external microorganisms that are introduced through sexual relations. Itching, irritation, and redness can be severe, and can spread to the vulva. Vaginal discharge may or may not be present.
It is important to investigate the cause of vaginal infection, because some infections, such as gonorrhea, can have serious consequences. Also, conditions as simple as a forgotten tamp on, or as serious as vaginal cancer, can produce the same symptoms. The symptoms may also be caused by allergies, in which case antibiotic treatment, whether conventional or herbal, will not be effective.
The most common infectious agents are trichomonas, candida, and gardnerella. These cause no severe or life-threatening pathology, but they can cause unrelenting discomfort. Trichomonas is sexually transmitted, and male partners may carry the infection without having symptoms themselves, so the partner should be checked and treated if necessary in persistent infections.
Tori Hudson, ND, Professor of Gynecology at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, often recommends a garlic dove suppository for vaginal infections. “Peel the outer paper-like skin on the clove,” she says, “but don’t nick the dove.” Cutting or nicking a garlic clove releases the irritating substances in garlic, and could irritate the vagina. Some individuals are especially sensitive to “garlic bums.” Hudson says the clove can be used for about half a day, either during the day or night. If a woman doesn’t want to retrieve it with her fingers, she can use olive oil-soaked gauze around the clove and thread it like a tampon. Hudson alternates day-or-night garlic treatment with something soothing, like acidophilus capsules, during the other half of the twenty-four-hour cycle. Inserted in the vagina, the gelatin capsule dissolves and releases beneficial acidophilus bacteria.
For serious yeast overgrowth, Hudson recommends a clove-suppository also inserted into the anus. The normal yeast population of the intestine and vagina can become overgrown after antibiotic or cortisone therapy, or other causes that disrupt the normal balance of friendly bacteria in the gut and vagina. It is common in such cases mat yeast from the anus continues to reinfect the vagina, working its way along the “sweat track” between the two orifices. The garlic suppository in the anus fights the yeast overgrowth there.
Mary Bove of Brattleboro, Vt has further suggestions for chronic yeast
infection. She says it’s important to treat the yeast infection in the
intestines as well as in the vagina. For this purpose she suggests
forms of garlic, widely available commercially at health food stores.
capsules have a coating that ensures that the garlic is released deep
the intestines where the yeast infections lie, and not digested in the
upper tract. She also recommends external treatment of the perineum —
space between the anus and the vagina — with an herbal wash to prevent
the spread of yeast from the anus to the vagina. Her patients use
yarrow, or rosemary tea in a squirt bottle, and wash the area after
or defecating, then pat the orifices dry with toilet paper. If people
not want to go to the bother of making the tea, they can put a half
of tincture of equal parts of garlic, echinacea, myrrh, and calendula
an eight ounce squirt bottle and fill with water. “It’s unbelievable
such a simple treatment can make a dramatic difference for yeast
A garlic clove suppository will sometimes come out on its own, unnoticed. Amanda McQuade Crawford, MNIMH, of California tells the story of a woman who called her one night fearful after being unable to find the garlic clove. “She was profoundly disturbed that it might have ascended into the mysterious depths of her being,” Crawford relates. She suggests that the dove sometimes breaks down partially in the vagina, and is evacuated unnoticed with the morning urination or bowel movement. Crawford also plays down the danger of the clove decomposing in the vagina and causing further infection. “I’ve never run into this, with hundreds of patients, including young girls, college girls, and sexually active women of all ages,” she states. Some conventional doctors warn of this as a potential problem. The case of the woman with the missing clove had a happy ending, as it turns out. Crawford suggested that the clove probably came out unnoticed in the toilet, but instructed her to watch for any sign of irritation or infection. The woman continued the garlic treatments and her yeast infection cleared up without the use of over-the-counter or prescription medicines, which had not worked for her in the past.
Another way to use garlic for vaginal infection comes from Chris Deatherage, ND, of Missouri. He suggests mixing three garlic cloves in a blender with three or four cups of water, and using it as a douche. “That works wonders,” he claims. This approach frees the powerfully antibiotic x constituent allicin from garlic. Allicin has been proven in dozens of clinical trials to have antibiotic properties against a wide variety of infectious organism, including trichomonas and candida yeast.
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Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner