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Candida is a type of yeast that lives naturally inside the human body and on the skin. Most of the time, it does not cause any problems. However, an overgrowth of Candida can lead to infections in warm, moist areas of the body.
Several laboratory studies have shown that apple cider vinegar (ACV) has antifungal properties. This has led to speculation that the vinegar may be useful in treating Candida infections.
This article outlines research on the antifungal effects of ACV. We also provide tips on how to use the vinegar to treat Candida infections, and the possible risks involved.
There are hundreds of species of Candida yeast. Some of these species live naturally inside the body and on the skin. Most of the time, other organisms keep Candida numbers in check. However, in certain circumstances, Candida can grow out of control.
An overgrowth of Candida can lead to yeast infections in mucous membranes such as the vagina and mouth. Although rare, a chronic overgrowth of Candida can lead to a systemic Candida infection with symptoms in multiple areas.
Research has shown that ACV possesses antifungal properties. This has led to speculation that it may be effective against Candida infections.
A 2018 laboratory study investigated the antimicrobial properties of ACV. The researchers tested the vinegar against several types of microbe, including the Candida strain “Candida albicans” (C. albicans).
They found that ACV was effective against C. albicans, but only in a neat, undiluted concentration.
It is worth noting that researchers conducted this study on microbe cultures grown in the lab. As such, it does not investigate the safety of applying neat ACV to the skin and mucous membranes. Importantly, a 2012 review outlines several cases of chemical burn resulting from topical application of ACV.
A separate 2015 laboratory study also found ACV to be effective against C. albicans cultures. Since this study also did not involve human participants, scientists do not know whether ACV has the same effect inside the body.
One 2018 case study reports of a male with type 2 diabetes who received ACV to treat a fungal infection in his mouth. The individual applied ACV to the area twice a day for one week. This resulted in a 94% reduction in infectious fungi.
However, the above example does not carry the same scientific rigor as a placebo-controlled trial. Researchers must carry out clinical trials in humans to support the use of ACV in treating fungal infections.
In summary, there is not enough evidence to claim that ACV will treat or prevent Candida infections in humans. Nonetheless, consuming ACV or using ACV topically could make the body a less friendly environment for Candida to survive.
Most proponents of ACV recommend using raw, unfiltered, preferably organic ACV that contains the “mother.” This refers to strands of natural proteins, yeasts, and bacteria that remain in the vinegar, giving it a cloudy appearance. By contrast, filtered ACV does not contain the mother and is not cloudy.
There are several ways to use ACV. These include:
- Drinking diluted ACV: Add 1tablespoon of ACV to a glass of warm water and drink twice a day.
- Adding ACV to foods: A simple way to consume ACV is to add the vinegar to homemade salad dressings.
- Applying ACV to the skin: Some people mix ACV with a carrier oil, such as sesame or coconut oil, and apply it to the skin.
- Adding ACV to bathwater: Add 1–2 cups of ACV to bathwater and soak for 15–20 minutes. This may help to stave off fungal infections.
Experts generally consider ACV to be safe. However, the acid in ACV may pose certain health risks.
Drinking ACV may wear down tooth enamel, leading to tooth pain and sensitivity.
Applying undiluted ACV to the skin or leaving ACV on the skin for long periods can cause burns. Anyone experiencing skin irritation after using ACV should dilute the vinegar further, or stop using ACV altogether.
ACV can also be harsh if a person uses it internally, such as a douche inside the vagina to treat a yeast infection. In general, it is not a good idea to put ACV directly into the vagina.
Apple cider vinegar is available in grocery stores and online.
The following home remedies can also help to treat Candida infections.
Over-the-counter medicated ointments
There are several over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams and ointments available. These contain effective antifungal agents called azoles.
Medications are available for both internal and external use.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal. Many cosmetics companies add it to their products to help promote skin health.
A 2015 study found that adding tea tree oil to the antifungal medicine fluconazole helped reduce numbers of fluconazole resistant Candida. This was due to the antimicrobial effects of tea tree’s active ingredient terpinen-4-ol.
The researchers suggested that combining tea tree oil with conventional antifungal medications could help to treat difficult yeast infections.
Tea tree oil is available in grocery stores and online.
Herbs and spices
A 2017 review article notes that the following herbs and spices have shown antifungal effects in lab tests:
As with the studies on ACV, these results come from lab tests using isolated fungal cultures. As such, it is not clear whether the herbs and spices will have the same antifungal effects on humans.
ACV has shown effective antifungal properties in lab tests. However, its effects on people are still not clear. While there are case studies and anecdotes about ACV’s ability to treat or prevent fungal infections, scientific evidence is lacking.
There is a range of OTC antifungal medications available, and these are usually very effective. Some research suggests that taking ACV alongside antifungal medications may enhance their antifungal effects.
People should see a doctor if their symptoms last more than 2 days or do not respond to home treatments. These persistent symptoms could indicate a more resistant strain of Candida. Alternatively, a person might have a bacterial or viral infection, both of which can appear similar to yeast infections.