These itchy, uncomfortable infections can often be hard to remove. Many people treat yeast infections with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription creams, some though, are investigating home treatment options; one of which is coconut oil.
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is a fatty oil that comes from the white pulp of the coconut. The oil is said to have many health benefits, including:
- aiding digestion
- boosting metabolism
- reducing seizures
- reducing hunger
Additionally, according to some research, coconut oil has antibacterial properties; these properties can make it an effective treatment for yeast infections.
Coconut oil research
Research shows that coconut oil has antifungal properties.
Researchers have established that coconut oil is an effective anti-fungal. Studies indicate that coconut oil may be effective against Candida albicans, a type of fungus that is most commonly responsible for fungal infections.
One study, published in 2015, examined whether coconut oil could reduce C. albicans infections. The authors reported a "10-fold drop in colonization in mice fed coconut oil."
Another study, conducted in Nigeria and published in 2007, found that, in the lab, coconut oil effectively fought off a range of fungal species. The authors concluded:
"Coconut oil should be used in the treatment of fungal infections in view of emerging drug-resistant Candida species."
Results of several studies point to the positive effect of coconut oil in the treatment of fungal infections. Also, there is a lack of negative side effects associated with coconut oil, which is a plus.
Picking the right coconut oil for treatment
Coconut oil is generally safe and can be ingested or used topically (on the skin). Typical treatment for yeast infections involves topical treatment of the infected areas.
There are some considerations before buying coconut oil for treatment. Not all coconut oil sold is 100 percent pure, which should be used for best results. The list of ingredients should consist of just one ingredient - coconut oil. Additionally, pure coconut oil will typically smell less strong than oils sold with additives.
Treating yeast infections
Yeast infections may occur on the skin, in the mouth, or in the vagina. Though similar, the site of infection helps determine how it is treated.
Mouth Yeast Infections
Unlike many oils, at room temperature, coconut oil is a relatively thick solid. When a person uses coconut oil to treat a yeast infection in the mouth, they should do the following:
- Melt the coconut oil in the microwave for a few seconds.
- When it is cool enough to not burn the skin, swish in the mouth for about 30 seconds.
- Spit out the coconut oil.
- Avoid eating or drinking for a half an hour.
Skin Yeast Infections
When a yeast infection occurs on the surface of the skin, coconut oil can be applied much like an OTC or prescription cream. A person should rub a small amount onto the affected areas, including in creases or folds.
Vaginal Yeast Infections
As with any hard to reach area, treating a vaginal yeast infection with a topical cream can be a bit more challenging. Many conventional methods come with an applicator designed to put the medicine where it will work.
Coconut oil does not have such a convenience. However, a suggested workaround is to lightly coat a tampon with coconut oil. By inserting the tampon, the coconut oil is directly applied to the infection site.
Before using coconut oil vaginally, a woman should check with her doctor.
Risks and warnings
Anyone who is allergic to coconut should not use it to treat a fungal infection.
While research has revealed no ill side effects from coconut oil, people should still exercise caution before using it to treat yeast infections.
Anyone who is allergic to coconuts or coconut oil should not use it under any circumstances.
Additionally, people should not use coconut oil to treat yeast infections if:
- Another form of treatment including OTC or prescription treatments are in use.
- It is not certain that there is a yeast infection present.
- Yeast infections are recurring.
People with other health conditions or who are pregnant should consult their doctor before using coconut oil to treat a yeast infection.
When to see a doctor
A doctor should be consulted before self-treating a yeast infection with coconut oil. A doctor can confirm the infection is actually a yeast infection and recommend additional options to treat the infection. A doctor will also have input on whether using coconut oil will be effective or interact poorly with other medications.
For chronic yeast infections, a doctor can help determine the cause of the infection. Once the source is determined, a doctor can treat the source of infections. By treating the source, it will reduce or eliminate the recurrence of yeast infections in future.
Other ways to treat yeast infections
There are other means to treat yeast infections. Coconut oil might be effective for some people, but other effective methods exist.
Other natural options include dietary changes. Reducing sugar intake and eating foods, such as yogurt, that is full of healthy bacteria, can help prevent and reduce symptoms of a yeast infection.
More traditional treatments for yeast infections involve OTC, prescription antifungal medications. These treatments are taken orally, as a suppository, or applied topically. Some users may experience additional irritation when using topical antifungals. Often, they come in one to two doses from a doctor. OTC treatment times will vary by product.
If at any point the infection is not improving or a treatment is causing unwanted side effects, a doctor should be consulted.