Probiotics and other supplements may help treat bacterial vaginosis (BV) without antibiotics. Using barrier protection and practicing proper hygiene can also reduce the risk of developing BV.

In the United States, as many as 21.2 million women aged 14–49 have bacterial vaginosis (BV). This equates to almost a third of people in this range. Many people may have no symptoms, while others may mistake their symptoms for another infection, such as a yeast infection.

The most common symptom of BV is an odor coming from the vagina. Some people also experience itching, burning, or an unusual gray discharge.

Antibiotics can treat most cases of BV. However, some people may prefer to try home remedies first.

This article explores home remedies for preventing and treating bacterial vaginosis.

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The exact cause of BV is not known, but it is more common in sexually active people.

The vagina is home to a complex colony of organisms that maintain vaginal health and chemical pH. When vaginal pH or bacteria change, the vagina is more vulnerable to infections, including BV.

Sexual practices that disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina may play a role in BV development. Strategies that lower the risk include:

  • Avoiding transitioning from anal to vaginal sex: Studies show an association between this practice and the risk of BV. People should change condoms before going from anal to vaginal intercourse, and never place anything in the vagina that has been in the anus without washing with soap and warm water.
  • Using barrier protection: Using condoms and other barrier protections for all forms of penetrative sex can reduce the risk of BV.
  • Urinating immediately after intercourse: After urinating, a person should then rinse the vagina and vulva with clean water. Sexual fluids and lubricants change the delicate pH balance of the vagina, making them more vulnerable to a BV infection.

People who think they have BV should either abstain from sex or practice sex with barrier protection until the infection is gone.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ that does not require douches, soaps, or perfumes. In fact, the use of these products can alter vaginal pH.

Safe hygiene practices may help reduce a person’s risk of developing BV.

To reduce the risk of developing or worsening BV, the following may help:

  • avoiding scented vaginal products
  • abstaining from douche usage
  • washing the vagina with water only
  • wearing breathable cotton underwear
  • keeping the vaginal area dry
  • washing the hands before touching the vagina

Learn more about vaginal hygiene here.

BV rarely causes severe symptoms. However, anyone who suspects they have BV should contact a medical professional, especially if:

  • They are pregnant: In rare cases, BV can cause pregnancy loss, low birth weight, and other pregnancy complications.
  • There are other symptoms: A burning sensation during urination, intense pain, blood discharge, or fever may suggest a more serious condition.
  • Home treatments do not work: Some other infections can mimic BV. These infections can worsen without appropriate treatment.
  • They are unsure whether the problem is BV: Those with a history of recurring yeast infections, for example, should contact a doctor before beginning home treatment.

In most cases, a doctor can quickly diagnose BV. A short course of antibiotics should clear up the infection. These antibiotics rarely produce significant side effects.

If a person suspects they have BV, they should contact a medical professional as a first option. However, some people may wish to try alternative remedies, such as those below.

Probiotics help the body grow beneficial bacteria that can fight the bacteria associated with BV. A 2019 review concluded that probiotic therapy might have both short- and long-term benefits in treating BV.

People may wish to take probiotic supplements. However, natural probiotics can also support the bacterial colony that keeps the vagina healthy. These include:

Learn more about probiotic foods here.

Several compounds in garlic have natural antibacterial properties.

A 2014 study found that garlic supplement tablets had a similar therapeutic effect in treating BV as metronidazole, an oral antibiotic.

However, it is important to note that the above study assessed oral garlic supplements only. A person should never place garlic or garlic products in or around their vagina.

Vaginal suppositories containing boric acid may help treat BV.

A 2021 study found that using intravaginal boric acid in addition to antibiotic medications can be of benefit in treating BV. A 2019 review reported similar benefits for boric acid in treating BV and yeast infections.

However, the authors of both studies concluded that further research is necessary to assess how boric acid assists in treatment fully.

Boric acid is toxic if people take it orally. A person should only ever use this product as per instructions.

Limited anecdotal claims suggest that tea tree oil may help treat BV. However, there is no scientific evidence that tea tree oil or products containing tea tree oil can help with the condition.

Tea tree oil treatments may cause allergic reactions in some people and are not safe for use during pregnancy. People considering purchasing tea tree oil treatments should always consult a doctor first.

Some people claim that apple cider vinegar can assist in treating BV. However, it is important to note that these claims are purely anecdotal, and there is no evidence to prove them.

Home treatments may benefit some people but should not take the place of evidence-based treatment plans. A person wishing to use home remedies should speak with a doctor before doing so.

Below are some commonly asked questions about BV.

How can a person treat BV at home ASAP?

Taking probiotics, garlic supplements, or vaginal suppositories containing boric acid are ways a person may be able to treat bacterial vaginosis at home.

However, more research is needed on the effectiveness of these remedies.

What stops BV for good?

Bacterial vaginosis is usually curable with prescription antibiotics that can help readjust the balance of bacteria in the vagina.

Prevention is also key to stopping BV from returning. Practicing safe sex by using condoms, urinating immediately after intercourse, avoiding scented vaginal products, and abstaining from douching are ways a person can prevent BV.

The primary treatment course for BV is antibiotics. However, some people may wish to treat the condition at home.

Options for home treatments include practicing safe hygiene, using barrier protection during intercourse, and taking probiotic supplements.

BV is a common condition and typically is not cause for concern. However, anyone experiencing symptoms of BV should always contact a medical professional as the first course of action.

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