Apple Cider Vinegar Vaginal Douche: Is It Safe & Other Ways to Treat Vaginal Infections

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Apple Cider Vinegar Vaginal Douche: Is It Safe & Other Ways to Treat Vaginal Infections
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Many women use an apple cider vinegar vaginal douche to treat vaginal yeast or bacterial infections. A homemade douche with apple cider vinegar is also used as a natural feminine wash to clean the vagina and balance pH levels in the vagina. The reason for using apple cider vinegar in a douche for women is that it is a natural antiseptic and kills off infection-causing germs.

It is thought that around half of all women use a vaginal douche to try and improve their genital hygiene. One study reported that as much as 70% of adolescent girls practice douching to get rid of vaginal odor and make themselves feel cleaner and fresher.1

Even though a water and vinegar douche is popular with many women, you may wonder if it is safe to use a DIY douche. Many websites show conflicting reports about the benefits or disadvantages of using a homemade douche or commercially-available ones. Some people claim that rather than cure vaginal infections, vinegar douches can cause infections and even make it more difficult to get pregnant.

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In this article, I will examine what science and medical practitioners say about the possible benefits of douching and what are the concerns. You will also find out how to make a homemade douche using water and apple cider vinegar.

What is a Douche (Feminine Wash)?

A vaginal douche is a feminine wash that sprays liquid upward into the vagina. According to expert in gynecology Dr. Trina Pagano, douching is used to remove vaginal odor, get rid of leftover menstrual blood, or treat candidiasis (yeast infection) or bacterial vaginosis.2

A vinegar douche is a popular DIY douche that includes mixing vinegar and water to wash out the vagina. Many drugstores and supermarkets sell feminine wash douches that are designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria and improve vaginal odor.

How Vinegar Can Help When Used in a Douche or Homemade Feminine Wash

The reason that apple cider vinegar douches have become very popular is that apple cider vinegar is an effective antiseptic. Apple cider vinegar is the most popular type of vinegar that is used for its health benefits. In fact, many studies into the medicinal use of apple cider vinegar have backed up many of the claims.

Claims that you can douche with apple cider vinegar are based on the fact that it contains significant quantities of acetic acid. The journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that acetic acid is a powerful antioxidant that has antibacterial properties. Raw apple cider vinegar also contains enzymes that promote the growth of healthy bacteria.3

How does an apple cider vinegar douche work for killing off infections in the vagina? Let’s look in more detail at what science says about the ability of apple cider vinegar to eliminate fungal and bacterial pathogens.

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Apple cider vinegar for vaginal yeast infection

Many home remedies for yeast infections include apple cider vinegar for its antifungal and yeast-destroying potential. For example, you can make a healthy tonic with apple cider vinegar to help flush toxins from your system.

The Journal of Yeast and Fungal Research published a report on the ability of acetic acid in destroying strains of Candida albicans. Researchers found that acetic acid inhibits the growth of C. albicans and can be used to help treat candidiasis naturally.4

Also, research into the antifungal effect of apple cider vinegar has also shown it can be used against strains of candida. For example, research in 2015 reported that apple cider vinegar also contains maleic acid. This antiseptic substance also destroyed candida infections. The researchers concluded that apple cider vinegar can be used as a natural treatment for candida infections.5

So, apple cider vinegar is considered by many researchers to be a natural cure for yeast infections.

Apple cider vinegar for bacterial vaginal infection

The powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of apple cider vinegar mean that it can kill off bacteria and bacterial infections.

The journal Burns reported on the effect of acetic acid in preventing bacterial skin infections. Scientists discovered that acetic acid was even better than some commercial antiseptics in eliminating strains of bacteria.6

When discussing various treatments for bacterial vaginosis, the International Journal of Women’s Health reported that acetic acid gel is commonly used as a natural treatment for vaginal infections. However, the research mentioned that some studies show inconclusive results.7 But, the International Journal of STD & AIDS reported that acetic acid preparations can help to prevent recurring bacterial vaginosis.8

When using apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy for bacterial vaginosis, the addition of tea tree oil can help to boost the antibacterial activity of this natural remedy.

Apple cider vinegar douche vs. white vinegar douche

You may be wondering, which is better: a homemade vinegar douche from apple cider vinegar or a DIY douche using white vinegar?

Both types of vinegar contain high levels of acetic acid and both are used for vaginal douching. However, it seems that using apple cider vinegar in natural remedies is usually a better choice. When using apple cider vinegar as a DIY remedy, always buy the type that is raw, unfiltered and organic. A popular brand of apple cider vinegar is Bragg’s organic raw type.

The journal Medscape General Medicine says that raw, unprocessed vinegar contains the “mother.” This contains healthy bacteria like acetic acid bacteria. Raw apple cider vinegar is considered by many to be “healthier than other types of processed vinegars.”9

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What is an Apple Cider Vinegar Vaginal Douche?

An apple cider vinegar vaginal douche is a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar that is applied via a vaginal syringe bulb directly into the vagina.

What is a Vinegar Douche Used For?

Vaginal vinegar douches are generally used to try and improve the health of the vagina and get rid of infections.

The journal Epidemiologic Reviews says that a douche is used for addressing some of the following conditions:1

However, it has to be said, that none of these claimed benefits have any scientific basis, and research indicates that there are more health risks associated with douching. For example, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine reported that women who douche are at more risk of vaginal infections, excess discharge, vaginal discomfort, and abdominal pain than those who didn’t.10

DIY Vinegar Douche (Feminine Wash)

A DIY female douche is a mixture of fluids used to rinse and wash the vagina internally.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that to make a douche, a woman fills the douche bottle or bag with the vinegar mixture and squirts the fluid up the vaginal passage. The douche mixture then flows back out the vagina.11

How to make a douche at home

It is very easy to make a homemade douche if you decide to use this type of feminine wash.

Homemade douche recipe:

  1. Mix 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in 2 cups of lukewarm water.
  2. Fill a douche bag or vaginal syringe bulb with vinegar douche mixture.
  3. Stand in the shower or bathtub.
  4. Insert the end of the feminine wash bottle into the vagina.
  5. Squeeze to release the fluid up your vagina until all the douche mixture has been used.
  6. Shower yourself, remembering to wash the outside of your vagina with a mild soap.

It is good to remember, however, that doctors don’t recommend vaginal douching. For example, doctors from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say that douching is linked to various health problems. Even websites that promote the benefits of douching say that you shouldn’t douche frequently.

Is Douching Safe?

What do science and scientific research really say about the risks of douching to your vaginal and reproductive health?

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that douching is not necessary beneficial because it can disrupt the natural bacterial flora in the vagina. This can have a number of health implications for women. For example:12

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  • Vaginal douches disrupt the normal pH of the vagina and can actually cause yeast infections.
  • Douching can spread vaginal infections deeper into the vaginal tract and infect other reproductive organs.

Dr. Conrad Stöppler also says that douches that are used for vaginal discharge, eliminating odor, or relieving itching are generally ineffective and may prevent a woman receiving proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Studies into the practice of douching say that the reason women douche is often because they were advised by other women on the perceived benefits. However, the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases reported that vaginal douching is a potentially harmful habit. It also seems that many women are not fully aware of the potential risks douching causes.13

Douche can increase risk of vaginal infections

Even though douching is used for treating yeast infections or bacterial infection, it can actually have the opposite effect.

The journal BMC Women’s Health reported that feminine washing by douching increases the risk of various vaginal infections and reproductive problems. For example, researchers found that some of the health risks associated with douching include:14

  • Risk of bacterial vaginosis
  • More likely to develop pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Greater risk of developing cervical cancer

Risk of vaginal douche during pregnancy

Research into the effects of douching before or during pregnancy has shown that it can have an adverse effect on the health of mother and baby.

The Saudi Medical Journal reported that vaginal yeast infections and bacterial infections were more common among pregnant women who were vaginal douche users. Researchers warned that this practice could put pregnant women at greater risk of encountering complications during pregnancy.15

According to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vaginal douching can put women at greater risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. The reason for that is that many women who use a feminine douche for hygiene reasons often develop symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease. This has been linked with ectopic pregnancies.16

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler also says that douching can increase the risk of preterm labor, make it harder to conceive, and cause other pregnancy complications.12

So, the question should not be: “how often should you douche?” But, “should you douche or not?”

Safer Natural Solutions for Vaginal Infections

Many scientific studies seem to point to the fact that using a vaginal douche for yeast infection or to clear up bacterial vaginosis has little or no benefit, and may even cause more harm than good.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use apple cider vinegar as a natural and safe home remedy for vaginal infections. This article has already examined the benefits of apple cider vinegar for candidiasis and bacterial vaginosis.

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Let’s look at some safer ways to use vinegar solutions for treating vaginal itching and other symptoms of vaginal infections.

Apple cider vinegar bath

A sitz bath with apple cider vinegar can help to treat candidiasis and prevent a yeast overgrowth in your vagina.

According to doctors on WebMD, sitting in warm water (called a sitz bath) can help to relieve vaginal swelling, pain, and discomfort of the genitals.17

How to make an apple cider vinegar sitz bath for vaginal infections:

  1. Fill a bathtub with a few inches of warm water so that there is enough to cover your genitals when you sit in it.
  2. Add 2 cups of raw apple cider vinegar and a cup of sea salt and mix until dissolved.
  3. Sit in the bath with your knees at your chest to allow the apple cider vinegar remedy get to your vagina.
  4. Relax in the bath for 20 minutes to help kill off the yeast or bacterial infection.
  5. Rinse yourself and pat yourself dry.
  6. Repeat 2-3 times a week to help alleviate the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection.

You can also boost the infection-fighting properties of the apple cider vinegar bath by adding a few drops of tea tree oil diluted in a tablespoon of a carrier oil to the bath water.

Apple cider vinegar tampon

Another way to cleanse your vagina of germs rather than using a female douche is to insert a tampon soaked in an apple cider vinegar solution. This can help to kill off candida yeast strains that cause candidiasis.

How to make homemade candidiasis remedy:

  1. Mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water (never use undiluted apple cider vinegar).
  2. Place an unscented tampon in the apple cider vinegar remedy until fully absorbed.
  3. Place in your vagina for 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. Remove the tampon and thoroughly rinse your vagina with water.
  5. Pat dry to remove all moisture and prevent candida growing.
  6. Repeat the process daily until you no longer have symptoms of candidiasis and the vaginal itching has gone.

The remedy may sting a little and this is normal. If the stinging sensation is too much, try diluting the apple cider vinegar with more water.

Other Safe Alternatives to Vaginal Douching

Apart from using apple cider vinegar remedies for vaginal infections, there are other home remedies that are safer than using a female douche.

Coconut oil and tea tree oil. Mix one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil with 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and warm the coconut oil until it liquefies. Soak a tampon in the antifungal coconut oil remedy and insert into your vagina and leave for 2 to 3 hours. For more information, please read my article on how to use coconut oil for candida.

Garlic. Research has shown that garlic is full of medicinal properties and antibacterial potential. One study showed that taking garlic capsules for their antibiotic use daily can help to alleviate the symptoms of bacterial vaginosis. In fact, garlic was just as effective as some popular oral pharmaceutical medications for fungal infections.18

Raw yogurt. Cool, plain yogurt for yeast infections can help to take the sting and discomfort out of a bacterial vaginosis or candidiasis. Yogurt also helps to promote healthy bacteria in your vagina. All you have to do is soak a tampon in cooled raw yogurt and insert into your vagina for 2 to 3 hours. Use daily until you no longer have signs of candidiasis like swelling around your vagina, itching and redness.

Read my other related articles:

Medical References

  1. Epidemiologic Rev. 2002 Dec;24(2): 109-124.
  2. WebMD. Vaginal douching: helpful or harmful?
  3. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 6473678.
  4. J Yeast Fungal Res. 2010 Aug;1(6): 100-107.
  5. J Prosthodont.2015 Jun;24(4):296-302.
  6. Burns. 2009 Aug;35(5):695-700.
  7. Int J Womens Health. 2011; 3: 295–305.
  8. Int J STD AIDS.2005 Nov;16(11):736-8.
  9. MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 61.
  10. J Reprod Med.1991 Oct;36(10):753-8.
  11. WomensHealth. Douching.
  12. MedicineNet. Vaginal douche (douching)
  13. Sex Transm Dis.2003 Jan;30(1):71-4.
  14. BMC Women’s Health. 2013; 13: 23.
  15. Saudi Med J.2006 Feb;27(2):215-8.
  16. Am J Obstet Gynecol.1985 Dec 1;153(7):727-9.
  17. WebMD. Vaginal yeast infections – home treatments.
  18. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2014 Jul
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