It is fabulous to see the response to the previous post about holistic options for yeast infections. Author and Medical Herbalist Katolen Yardley has taken the time to respond to readers’ comments and provide more detail, in particular to questions about the safety and effectiveness of douching, yoghurt, Tea Tree essential oil and common OTC (over the counter) mainstream remedies.
Reviewing some of the comments from readers it is apparent that clarification is needed regarding certain terminology and to ascertain whether we are at the same starting place. Of course an accurate diagnosis should always be sought before ANY steps are taken with remedying one’s ailment, always. The purpose of the post is to provide numerous tools and resources for women – not only just pharmaceutical options – once she knows that a yeast infection exists.
Effectiveness is easy to assess. Yeast infections are disruptive, uncomfortable and annoying. If one has a yeast infection, ANY relief is welcome and one will quickly be able to assess what is helping and making a difference and what is not. Perhaps one of the best ways to assess how home remedies work, is to try them out and have a personal experience. Feedback from clients, students and customers all indicate that herbal remedies DO WORK.
Many women have encountered the endless cycle of using OTC medications and find that they are NOT addressing the problem, and the yeast infection comes back – this is when many women become frustrated with mainstream medical treatments and often start investigating other holistic options. Herbal remedies are tried and true (they do not work for everyone all the time, yet they are an option) – their effectiveness is known through trying them. They are gentle and one will quickly know if they are providing relief.
The comments offered on my previous post may reflect the different paradigms in which our occupational training has occurred, the very ‘philosophy of health’ which we have been taught to view the world is different based on this. A commenter may have training in mainstream (allopathic) medicine as an educator, whereas my training is as an educator in the field of herbal medicine and holistic health. The mainstream medical model at times can discredit other healing paradigms, or even other health care choices, citing ‘a lack of evidence’ (the irony is that there are numerous universities now offering bachelor degree and master of science degree programs in herbal medicine – like we are finally now confirming what traditional knowledge has known all along – and these findings are now being taught in universities). Herbal medicine does work and when used responsibly can offer a valuable option, while negating many side effects frequently experience by pharmaceutical options. Neither paradigm is wrong and BOTH have incredibly valuable tools to offer in terms of education and empowerment of women.
An important question to ask is: at what point did we begin believing that our female bodies must only rely on pharmaceutical medication to get well? How quickly does our society reach for prescriptions or pharmaceutical agents when more gentle options might be first considered? Where did women loose the connection with tools for self healing and stop being the healer and the expert on our own bodies? There is, in my opinion, huge space for the use of herbal remedies, before resorting to stronger pharmaceutical agents.
To address specific comments, and clarify some terminology which might be contributing to some confusion from the first post:
Acidophilus yoghurt: one commentor states that there is no evidence of its effectiveness. Yes of course – if it is a double blind placebo controlled study that one is seeking – it will not be found. I smile as I imagine the day when pharmaceutical companies will spend the time, money and considerable investment in a study conducted on yoghurt being to minimize the burning and irritation on our mucous membranes from a yeast infection. Unlikely to happen any time soon. In my opinion the feedback on success is from personal feedback and traditional references. The huge gratitude shared from women as they experience relief IS evidence enough, when we find something that works we want to share this knowledge with others.
Again, these are home remedies, try them and if they work for you, then great. If not, then try something else, if the problem is not solved or improve noticed within a couple days, then is the time to seek a professional guidance for additional options. Topical application of Yoghurt containing live bacteria is also a known remedy for thrush (a yeast infection in the mouth). To put things in perspective; we are still speaking about a candida yeast living on mucous membranes in the body: the only difference is location – the yeast populating the mucous membranes in the mouth, versus vaginal yeast infections populating on the mucous membranes in the vagina. The mucous membranes are the same embryotically related tissue, identical cells in the body, with the same yeast present- perhaps the only question at play is that one mucous membrane related to our sexual organs. Many traditional texts offer yoghurt as a tool for symptoms of yeast. It is an option to try. Yoghurt can offer relief from the symptoms of burning itching and irritation on our mucous membranes in both the mouth and the vagina.
Tea Tree Essential Oil: first, we are NOT speaking about an OIL. It is apparent that there is a misunderstanding from the commentor, tea tree essential oil is NOT an oil. It is not oily in nature; instead it is an essential oil which is extracted through steam distillation (or sometimes cold pressing). Unadulerated, they are pure, not oily and evaporate once they are exposed to air. When used diluted, tea tree essential oil is certainly a useful option for both thrush in the mouth (as a gargle) as well as for vaginal yeast as a rinse.
The term douche. Yes, this is a misleading word; choosing another descriptive word may alleviate the negative association to it. The terms ‘herbal rinse’, or an ‘herbal wash’ may be less charged, just as accurate, and still would describe the option to dilute a tincture in warm water and bathe the inflammed area. When I first heard the term ‘douche’ I also only negatively associated it with a packaged OTC product (that was and still is) laden with perfume, chemicals etc. YES, in my opinion perfume douches should be avoided at all costs. There is nothing natural about these options and they have been linked with allergic reactions and infection.
The use of an herbal wash, in comparison, is free from any fragrances, perfumes, chemicals, additives and can be an effective choice for treating viral, bacterial and fungal infections both topically, internally and reducing inflammation of mucous membranes in the body. More detail: a plant tincture is a sterile preparation for both topical and internal use. Professionally made tinctures are free of bacterial contamination, and free from chemicals, fragrances, and carcinogenic items.
There is much evidence that herbal medicine does NOT cause mutation in bacteria, and unlike the overuse of antibiotics, no plant medicine has historically contributed to the development of super bugs. That said, the overuse of antifungal medication can lead to challenges with the development of resistant strains of bacteria and also can cause unwanted side effects (more below).
OTC (Mainstream) Remedies. Putting things in perspective: let’s consider the larger picture and investigate the options available OTC for treating yeast infections- One of the most common OTC remedy for yeast is Monistat. When looking at the ingredient listing of monostat cream, for example, there may be some valid concerns for individuals who are extremely sensitive to artificial agents and chemicals. Ingredients found in Monistat cream, according to the insert: One tube of vaginal cream containing the active ingredient Miconazole nitrate 2% (200 mg per dose). Inactive Ingredients include: Benzoic acid, BHA, mineral oil, peglicol 5 oleate, pegoxol 7 stearate, purified water.
The Monistat suppositories contain: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil Base, Benzoic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Polysorbate 60, Potassium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Water (Purified), Stearyl Alcohol. Not surprisingly, there are health warnings associated with the use of the product: the insert included inside the box states: “Stop using miconazole vaginal and seek emergency medical attention if you experience an allergic reaction (shortness of breath; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, face, or tongue; or hives). Other, less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. These include burning, itching, irritation of the skin, and an increased need to urinate.”
Personally, I would be inclined to try the more natural solutions first. Let’s look at the ingredients of these pharmaceutical options in more detail:
Mineral oil: a petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores and interferes with the cells ability to eliminate toxins effectively. Manufacturers use it frequently use it because it is inexpensive and a cheap/ inexpensive lubricant.
Propylene glycol: frequently found in many commercial personal care products. It is also used in antifreeze and de-icing solutions for cars, boats and aircraft, and found in solvents for paints, plastics and laundry detergents. It is a skin sensitizer, causing irritation to mucous membranes, can lead to burning, itching, scaling, hives, blistering of the skin, contact dermatitis, and unfortunately allows other chemicals to penetrate deeper into the skin, increasing the likelihood of chemicals being absorbed into the bloodstream. Research has shown that propylene glycol may be mutagenic and Japanese studies have shown that it is toxic and it can damage cell DNA.
What we put into our bodies is a personal choice. Many women have severe reactions to chemicals, fragrances and additives found in almost every OTC. Other women avoid pharmaceutical items after discovering they are sensitive to chemicals contained within that are contributing to chronic yeast infections, topical sensitivities, allergic reactions and chronic urinary tract infections.
At a time when there are FINALLY more environmentally conscious options available to women for personal hygiene products and as we become more educated and more informed about the unnecessary chemicals being used (in personal hygiene products, cosmetics, pills and foods); chemical free options and non irritating, more natural remedies are a desirable and preferred first choice for many.
As a woman working in holistic health care, I believe that women should become familiar with their bodies. Be reminded to love their bodies, and also have the tools and knowledge available for self-healing rather than only relying on the advice of others. The evidence is in the experience: no remedy or treatment is 100 % for every person all the time, the same is true for pharmaceutical options, what we are speaking of is offering options. Try it. If it is not working then try something else. There is room for both options (mainstream allopathic or pharmaceutical items as well as herbal medicine choices) to exist. The more options that are available, the more that women can make informed choices based on personal preference.
At what point do we turn over responsibility of the healing of our bodies to ‘the other’, the expert? At the point when we have exhausted our personal skill, training or resources. Many people still have the skill and wisdom today to effectively deal with a cold or flu, for example, a urinary tract infection or numerous other health ailments without relying on pharmaceutical agents taking over the function of the body, having tools for addressing yeast is no different.
All healing comes from within. At any point assistance can be sought from doctors, therapists, healers, herbalists but the responsibility for our healing comes from within our bodies. Herbal medicine can assist in this process. We have been largely conditioned to hand over our self healing power to “the experts”. Perhaps an important remembering is that each one of us has the right to be our own advocate and authority on our body. As a woman, living at this time in history, I am eternally grateful that our health care decisions are our own, based on our personal preference and choice.
Be well – Blessings, Katolen Yardley