Candidiasis is an infection caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. It can infect the mouth, vagina, skin, stomach, and urinary tract. About 75% of women will get a vaginal yeast infection during their lifetime, and 90% of all people with HIV/AIDS develop Candida infections. Oral infections, called oral thrush, are most common in infants, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system. Normal amounts of Candida live in the mouth, stomach, and vagina and do not cause infections. Candidiasis occurs when there is an overgrowth of Candida. Causes may include taking certain drugs (especially antibiotics, corticosteroids, and some birth control pills), pregnancy, being overweight, having a bacterial infection, or several different health conditions (for example, a weakened immune system, diabetes, and psoriasis).
Herbs are a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care under the supervision of a health care provider.
Following are some of the herbal remedies for yeast infection:
Garlic (Allium sativum) has antifungal properties. Garlic may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you also take blood thinners, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), or aspirin. Garlic may interact with several medications, including those used to treat HIV (1).
The juice of the herb echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) has been shown to help prevent the recurrence of vaginal yeast infections. People with autoimmune diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis should not take echinacea. Echinacea may interact with a number of medications, so ask your doctor before taking it.
In test-tube studies, tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) has antifungal properties. In one study, it effectively treated oral thrush when used as a mouthwash. Tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed and should only be used as a mouthwash under your doctor’s supervision (2).
One scientific study showed that Pomegranate (Punica granatum) gel was about as effective as miconazole gel in treating oral thrush associated with denture stomatitis (mouth sores).
Herbal remedies have been used for many years like conventional medicine. In fact, herbal medicine is the establishment of modern medicine. This medicine also has very few herbal side effects. Tragically, herbal medicine usually takes a back seat compared to conventional drug therapy, which is a shame since herbal remedies offer lots of health benefits. As herbal medicines are natural, the body often responds favorably to them. Unfortunately, this is often not the case with prescription medications. As a result, patients can slowly reduce or even eliminate the number of prescription-related side effects experienced daily by replacing a prescription drug with a natural one.
Prescription medications are expensive. Herbal medicine is often cheaper to produce because the medications are made from bountiful and easy-to-produce natural resources. A lower production cost often equates to a lower retail price. In addition to helping patients save money on the upfront costs of medications, herbal remedies also help teach individuals how to manage conditions and develop the tools and knowledge necessary to prevent illness and promote self-healing. Individuals can use this knowledge to lead healthier lifestyles and, hopefully, prevent very costly chronic conditions — which often come with sky-high medical bills, prescription costs, and time off work — from developing in the future.
Prescription drugs are often designed to mask symptoms and not necessarily cure the underlying condition. On the other hand, Herbal medicine may force individuals to listen to what the body is saying and target the source of pain or discomfort. With assistance from a medical professional who works specifically in alternative medicine, a patient may get on the path to better health sooner than expected.
For many, herbal medicine is more about taking control of personal health than anything else. A good natural healer will educate individuals about what the body needs and how to keep it healthy. The healer will not just hand a patient a prescription to hide the pain.
Natural medicines come with several notable health benefits. For starters, natural cures often aim to identify and eradicate illness rather than suppress the symptoms. This approach is more likely to result in improved health than pharmaceuticals. Additionally, because herbal medicine contains vitamins, antibodies, and other health-promoting agents, it strengthens the overall body and does not just combat illness. As a result, a person who chooses natural remedies versus prescription medications may be better able to fight infections than those who rely on Big Pharma.
However, herbal medicines are advertised to be free from side effects, which is a myth. Possible reasons for the toxic effects of herbal medicines are self-treatment, unqualified practitioners, sub-standard product, and improper uptake (3).
Non-Herbal remedies include conventional approaches like antifungal medications, homeopathy, complementary and alternative remedies.
Antifungal medications; include oral rinses and tablets, vaginal tablets and suppositories, and creams. For vaginal yeast infections, medications that are available over the counter include creams and suppositories, such as miconazole (Monistat), tioconazole (Vagistat), and clotrimazole (Gyne-Lotrimin). In addition, your doctor may prescribe a pill, fluconazole (Diflucan). Side effects will vary. Creams combined with low-strength corticosteroids reduce inflammation and itching (4). Most treatments last from 2 to 3 days to 2 weeks. Be sure to take all medications exactly as prescribed. If you do not, the same infection could come back, or you could become infected with a new strain of Candida.
For severe candidiasis that could be life-threatening to someone with a weak immune system, your doctor may prescribe an intravenous (IV) medication, such as amphotericin B.
Homeopathy: Although few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic therapies, professional homeopaths may consider remedies based on their knowledge and experience in treating candidiasis (5). Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths consider a person’s constitutional type, including your physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual. Some of the most common remedies used for candidiasis include:
- Borax. For bleeding oral mucosa, especially with diarrhea.
- Belladonna. For bright red, inflamed skin that is not raw or oozing but is painful, especially with irritability.
- Chamomilla. For diaper rash, especially with irritability.
- Arsenicum album. For burning, itching rashes, especially with anxiety.
- Graphites. For thick, cracked skin (corners of mouth or heels).
- Kreosotum. Leukorrhea causes itching and swelling.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies: Some studies suggest that reducing sugar in the diet may help prevent yeast infections. Some practitioners believe foods that may contribute to candidiasis include dairy products and foods with high concentrations of yeast (cheese, peanuts, alcohol) (6, 7).
The “Candida diet” allows no alcohol, no simple sugars, no yeast, and minimal amounts of processed foods. However, it is not clear whether the diet gets rid of Candida or helps people feel better because it is a healthful diet.
Alternative therapies use natural antifungals or probiotics (“friendly” bacteria), as well as immune-strengthening therapies, to improve the body’s ability to keep Candida in check (8). There is conflicting evidence about whether eating yogurt with live probiotic cultures every day can help prevent yeast infections, but it certainly does not hurt. In addition, adding more garlic (fungicidal), nuts (essential fatty acids), whole grains (B vitamins), oregano, cinnamon, sage, and cloves (antifungal spices) to your diet may help avoid a yeast infection (9).
- Probiotics. Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium helps restore the normal balance of bacteria in the bowel and mucous membranes (10, 11). Taking probiotics or “friendly bacteria” while you take antibiotics may help prevent a buildup of Candida, although the evidence is mixed. If you take drugs to suppress your immune system, ask your doctor before taking probiotics.
- Vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium help reduce inflammation and keep your immune system strong.
- Essential fatty acids help reduce inflammation. A mix of omega-6 (evening primrose) and omega-3 (fish oil) may be best. It also helps minimize animal fats in your diet and increase your intake of fish and nuts. Some essential fatty acids can increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), or aspirin.
- B-complex: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate.
- Caprylic acid is another type of fatty acid that may have antifungal properties.
- According to test-tube studies, Propolis, a natural substance created by bees from pine resin, has antifungal properties. One study in humans showed that a special propolis preparation got rid of oral thrush in people with denture stomatitis (mouth sores) (12). People who are allergic to honey or have asthma should ask their doctor before taking Propolis. Propolis may potentially increase the risk of bleeding in people who take blood-thinning medications (13).
- Avoid overuse of antibiotics that kill the friendly bacteria that usually keep Candida in check. Talk to your doctor about the proper use of antibiotics, when needed, and when it may be safe to try alternative remedies first.
- In one study, a combination of bee-honey and yogurt has a high cure rate for Candida among pregnant women (14, 15).
Non-Herbal remedies seek to bring the body and mind back into a healed state by focusing on the cause of the problem and removing it. Physicians follow a system to cure acute and life-threatening injuries and illnesses that utilize the most advanced technology. There are many advantages of non-herbal remedies; for example, doctors have access to the latest technology to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. In addition, they are highly skilled physicians who can treat illnesses and injuries and perform tests to help improve the quality of life of their patients. Patients have access to the best medicines available to aid healing. All doctors and nurses are licensed, ensuring patients have legal protection and only receive the best treatment. Huge investment goes into research and development. New treatments and medicines are developed daily.
Non-herbal medicines or drugs are not categorically risk-free, despite undergoing rigorous clinical trials and approval processes. The FDA only considers a medication safe when the benefits outweigh the risks. Consequently, some people may experience side effects after taking prescription medications. Sometimes these side effects are minor, but they can be serious on rare occasions.
Medication use risks include:
- Harmful interactions: This could happen when medication reacts with food or supplements a person has consumed.
- Allergic reaction: A person may not know they have an allergy to a specific ingredient within the medication until they take it.
- Unexpected effect: The medication works differently from what the doctor expected.
It is important to note that although non-herbal remedies carry some risk of side effects, these risks are primarily minor and are unlikely to occur in most people. Furthermore, complementary ‘natural’ supplements and herbal treatments do not undergo the same amount of testing. People need to be aware that when a manufacturer markets a product as natural, it does not mean it is safe or safer than prescribed medication.
1. Khodavandi A, Alizadeh F, Aala F, Sekawi Z, Chong PP. In vitro investigation of antifungal activity of allicin alone and in combination with azoles against Candida species. Mycopathologia. 2010;169(4):287-95.
2. Giannini PJ, Shetty KV. Diagnosis and management of oral candidiasis. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 2011;44(1):231-40.
3. Barrett B, Kiefer D, Rabago D. Assessing the risks and benefits of herbal medicine: an overview of scientific evidence. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1999;5(4):40.
4. van Boven JF, de Jong-van den Berg L, Vegter S. Inhaled corticosteroids and the occurrence of oral candidiasis: a prescription sequence symmetry analysis. Drug safety. 2013;36(4):231-6.
5. Witt A, Kaufmann U, Bitschnau M, Tempfer C, Özbal A, Haytouglu E, et al. Monthly Itraconazole Versus Classic Homeopathy for the Treatment of Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis: A Randomized Trial. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 2010;65(1):26-7.
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7. Watson C, Pirotta M, Myers P. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis—Results of a practitioner survey. Complementary therapies in medicine. 2012;20(4):218-21.
8. MacPhee RA, Hummelen R, Bisanz JE, Miller WL, Reid G. Probiotic strategies for the treatment and prevention of bacterial vaginosis. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy. 2010;11(18):2985-95.
9. Hronek M, Vachtlova D, Kudlackova Z, Jilek P. Antifungal effect in selected natural compounds and probiotics and their possible use in prophylaxis of vulvovaginitis. Ceska gynekologie. 2005;70(5):395-9.
10. Hatakka K, Ahola AJ, Yli-Knuuttila H, Richardson M, Poussa T, Meurman JH, et al. Probiotics reduce the prevalence of oral Candida in the elderly—a randomized controlled trial. Journal of dental research. 2007;86(2):125-30.
11. Pirotta M, Gunn J, Chondros P, Grover S, O’Malley P, Hurley S, et al. Effect of lactobacillus in preventing post-antibiotic vulvovaginal candidiasis: a randomised controlled trial. Bmj. 2004;329(7465):548.
12. Santos V, Pimenta F, Aguiar M, Do Carmo M, Naves M, Mesquita R. Oral candidiasis treatment with Brazilian ethanol propolis extract. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives. 2005;19(7):652-4.
13. Santos VR, Gomes RT, Mesquita RAd, Moura MDd, França EC, Aguiar EGd, et al. Efficacy of Brazilian propolis gel for the management of denture stomatitis: a pilot study. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives. 2008;22(11):1544-7.
14. Abdelmonem AM, Rasheed SM, Mohamed AS. Bee-honey and yogurt: a novel mixture for treating patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis during pregnancy. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics. 2012;286(1):109-14.15. Nyirjesy P, Robinson J, Mathew L, Lev-Sagie A, Reyes I, Culhane JF. Alternative therapies in women with chronic vaginitis. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2011;117(4):856-61.
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