Is It Safe To Treat Yeast Infections With Coconut Oil?

Vaginal yeast infections are a common nuisance, causing all sorts of symptoms, including vaginal itch, painful sex, uncomfortable urination, and vaginal discharge. 

Also known as candidiasis, a yeast infection is caused by an imbalance of the vaginal flora, but other factors, such as a weak immune system, may play a role in its onset, too. Candida, the fungus responsible for its symptoms, is part of the vaginal flora. About 20% of women carry this yeast at any given time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hormone fluctuations, antibiotics, diabetes, and other factors can cause it to grow out of control, leading to infection.

This condition is treated with antifungal creams, pills, or other medicines designed to kill the yeast, explains the Office on Women's Health. Unfortunately, some of these medications only work in the short term or carry serious side effects. For example, fluconazole — a common antifungal drug — may cause stomach pain, diarrhea, extreme tiredness, seizures, and liver problems, warns MedlinePlus. Additionally, some women get recurrent yeast infections or experience more severe symptoms.

However, candidiasis isn't a medical emergency and may go away on its own, according to One Medical. For this reason, some women choose to treat it with natural remedies like coconut oil, yogurt, or apple cider vinegar baths. Coconut oil has some pretty amazing properties, but does it work against yeast infections?

Should you use coconut oil for yeast infections?

Coconut oil is known for its antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects, according to clinical research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biology. Over the centuries, it has been used as a natural cure for burns, gingivitis, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other ailments, but its efficacy is subject to debate. For example, a recent study found that lauric acid and caprylic acid, two fatty acids in coconut oil, may suppress candida overgrowth due to their antifungal activity, reports the Biomedical and Biotechnology Research Journal. However, the study was conducted in vitro (a lab-controlled environment), so more research is needed in this area. 

Another study suggests that coconut oil can be just as effective as fluconazole at treating fungal infections, according to the Journal of Medicinal Food. But again, the tests were conducted in vitro. 

What's more, the experts at River Place OB/GYN say that coconut oil might actually affect the vaginal flora, leading to bacterial and fungal infections. The same goes for garlic, yogurt, and other home yeast infection remedies, explains ob-gyn Kathryn Goebel (via the Cleveland Clinic).

All in all, there's not enough evidence to support the use of coconut oil for yeast infections. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up with a new infection. Also, note that candidiasis can cause similar symptoms as some STDs or skin allergies, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Your doctor is the only one who can make an accurate diagnosis and recommend the best course of action.