First things first: If you think you have a yeast infection—which isn't uncommon, considering three out of four women will experience at least one in her lifetime—you should call your gynecologist. While some yeast infection symptoms are easy to diagnose (e.g., itching or thick, clumpy discharge), it's best to run those symptoms by your ob-gyn. Your doc can tell you, yep, it's a yeast infection, and these are the treatment steps you need to take or advise you to come in because something sounds off.
What you shouldn't do is try one of these home remedies to treat a yeast infection. Despite what the internet might say, doctors agree they're no good. "There are absolutely no home remedies to get rid of yeast infection," says Lauren Streicher, M.D., associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. And if they're basically useless, that means you're going to be stuck suffering from your uncomfortable symptoms even longer. Here's what to avoid:
While some studies claim applying yogurt to the vagina is one of the home remedies to cure a yeast infection, you shouldn't rush off to buy some Fage. It's true that lactobacilli, a bacteria in yogurt, can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans, the yeast that causes the fungal infection. But that only helps you prevent a yeast infection—not cure it, says Lakeisha Richardson, M.D., an ob-gyn in Greenville, MS. "The few studies that have looked at the use of yogurt vaginally or orally have methodological flaws (no control groups, short follow-up, very small numbers of women in the study), and this approach to treatment is considered unproven," says Barb DePree, M.D., of Lakeshore Health Partners in Holland, MI. "The same can be said for use of probiotics in pill form." And whatever you do, do not follow Gabrielle Union's lead and stick a yogurt-covered tampon in your vagina. "I would not recommend anyone put yogurt into their vagina," says Dr. Richardson. Let's just leave it at that.
Cranberry Juice or Pills
What woman hasn't tried chugging cranberry juice at the first sign of vaginal discomfort? Unfortunately, doing so won't help if your hope is to get rid of a yeast infection, says Dr. Richardson. "They're better used for the urinary tract system," she explains. (Cranberry juice also happens to be great for making cocktails—just saying.)
Studies have shown that boric acid can effectively treat vaginal issues, but "it is not a most commonly used method for simple yeast infections," says Dr. Richardson. That's probably because you have to make it by pouring boric acid powder into gel capsules or diluting the liquid form with water—and then put it in or on your lady parts. And let's be real: Do you really want DIY acid down there? "The only time boric acid should be considered for treatment of yeast infections is if there is known resistance to the more commonly used medications," says Dr. DePree. Another reason to hesitate? "There is no safety data on long-term use of boric acid, and it causes local irritation," she says.
A small study once claimed that oral garlic supplements could be a smart home remedy for yeast infections, thanks to its strong antifungal properties. Some women even try eating garlic straight, or make a paste to apply to their vagina. But it's not a smart strategy. "Even with its antifungal properties, garlic cannot help treat a yeast infection," says Dr. Richardson. "And I don't know if anyone would want their vagina smelling like garlic." Valid point. (Related: 6 Reasons Your Vagina Smells and When You Should See a Doc)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Is there anything apple cider vinegar can't do? Actually, yes. It is not a home remedy for yeast infections, regardless of whether you bathe in it or apply it topically, says Dr. Richardson. One study did show that ACV's antifungal properties could help against the yeast candida, but there's one problem: It's not the same strain that's present in vaginal yeast infections. There's also the idea that the high acidity in ACV could create a vaginal environment that's hostile to yeast, but Dr. DePree says you don't want to mess with your vagina's pH levels. "Yeast infections do not disrupt the normal vaginal pH, unlike some of the other vaginal infections, so 'balancing' the pH isn't a solution of treating or preventing a yeast infection," she says. (P.S. You don't need to "clean" your vagina— ever.)
Coconut oil seems to be a cure-all, right? Studies show that coconut oil has antifungal properties and that it could help curtail the growth of certain candida strains, but it hasn't been proven to help with vaginal yeast infections. "Coconut oil cannot help control the growth of yeast," says Dr. Richardson. And, again, don't put anything up your vagina that hasn't been specifically approved for that purpose. (You can, however, use coconut oil in a lot of other ways.)