Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common infection that's usually triggered by a change in your vaginal pH.
When your pH is out of balance it can change the balance of the different kinds of bacteria that naturally live in your vagina. This can cause an overgrowth of the Gardenerella vaginalis bacteria — the most common bacteria in your vagina.
What can cause your vaginal pH to change? Some of the most common reasons include:
Antibiotics are usually effective at treating BV, but sometimes the infection can keep coming back, even after rounds of treatment.
There are some natural remedies that, when used together with antibiotics, may help cure BV and prevent it from recurring. One option is boric acid, which is derived from boron, an element typically found in minerals.
Here's a look at the effectiveness of boric acid, how to use it, and other home remedies that may help relieve the symptoms of BV.
Boric acid, one of the common boron compounds, is a natural chemical that has been used for over 100 years as a home remedy to help treat vaginal infections.
In its natural form, boric acid is a white or colorless powder or crystal, that has both antifungal and antiviral properties.
It's available over the counter (OTC), and can be used for a wide variety of purposes including pest control and removing odors from your fridge. It can also be put inside gelatin capsules that you insert into your vagina.
Due to its properties, boric acid is a common ingredient in many types of products including:
According to research, standard antibiotic treatment for BV typically results in a 70 to 80 percent cure rate after one month of treatment.
In a 2009 paper, researchers gave women 600 mg of boric acid, which was inserted into the vagina, along with antibiotic treatment. Participants who used the boric acid along with the usual treatment had an 88 percent cure rate at seven weeks, and a 92 percent cure rate at 12 weeks.
The authors of the study suggest that boric acid might work by removing bacterial mucus from the vagina. By doing this, it may help get rid of disease-causing organisms that antibiotics have a hard time destroying.
In a review published in 2011, researchers looked at 14 different studies that involved using boric acid to treat vulvovaginal candidiasis. The cure rates with boric acid ranged from 40 to 100 percent.
This review, however, did not specifically focus on the bacteria that causes BV.
While these results are encouraging, more studies need to be done to confirm that boric acid is, in fact, an effective add-on treatment for BV.
Boric acid is considered safe to use vaginally. But it can be toxic if it's swallowed. Never take boric acid by mouth, and make sure it's kept out of reach of children and pets.
Seek medical attention immediately if you think you or someone in your household has ingested the chemical.
Boric acid should not be used during pregnancy.
Before using boric acid, talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you, and ask about dosing instructions.
Boric acid is available OTC and is relatively inexpensive. For treatment of vaginal infections, boric acid comes in gelatin capsules, which you insert into your vagina.
To do this:
You can also make your own boric acid suppositories by filling size 0 gelatin capsules with about 600 mg of boric acid.
The usual dose is 600 mg per day, which is taken for 7 to 14 days.
It's important to note that douching won't help BV. In fact, it can make it worse, or cause it to come back.
The following home remedies have some research to support their effectiveness with treating BV symptoms or reducing the chance of it recurring but the data is not super solid, so it is always best to consult with your doctor.
In a 2003 study, researchers reported that using hydrogen peroxide daily for a week helped eliminate symptoms of BV as effectively as traditional therapies.
Some studies have suggested that the use of probiotics may prevent bacterial vaginosis from coming back. Probiotics come in pill or liquid forms. They're also found in yogurt.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antibacterial and antifungal properties. One small study found that the oil effectively killed BV bacteria in the lab.
Tea tree oil is very concentrated and should be diluted before applying. It is also available as a suppository product that you can buy OTC.
See your healthcare provider if you think you might have BV.
Common symptoms to look out for include:
If antibiotics alone don't seem to be able to kick your BV, you may want to give boric acid a try. Although research is limited, it does seem to help improve the cure rate of vaginal yeast infections.
Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of BV and want to give boric acid a try.