If you’ve never had a yeast infection, count yourself among the lucky ones. Yeast infections are a surprisingly common condition, affecting somewhere around 70-75 percent of women at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, 40-45 percent of women will go on to experience a recurrence, as well. If you’ve had a yeast infection, there’s a solid chance you were willing to try nearly anything to alleviate the itching, burning, and other uncomfortable sensations that came along with it.
So if someone told you (i.e., TikTok) that coconut oil could be used to treat a yeast infection, would you try it? There are some rumors out there that coconut oil can do just that. So to get to the bottom of this mystery, we reached out to two OB/GYNs, Dr. Felice Gersh and Dr. Kecia Gaither. Keep reading for more on using coconut oil to treat or even prevent a yeast infection.
Meet the Expert
Why Do People Use Coconut Oil to Treat a Yeast Infection?
Even though there are a number of over-the-counter yeast infection treatments available, yeast infections can still be tricky to get rid of. And for some women who have a particularly delicate vaginal microbiome, some of the more conventional yeast infection medications can even promote bacterial vaginosis and other conditions, leading to a tricky cycle of illness and infection.
Within a healthy vaginal ecosystem, there’s a balanced mix of bacteria and yeast, though this balance can be thrown off from things like the overgrowth of certain types of fungus, or when the fungus moves deeper into the vaginal cell layers. This can happen for all sorts of reasons, ranging from taking antibiotics, to pregnancy, increased estrogen levels, or even a weakened immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The reason coconut oil has been suggested as a yeast infection treatment is that coconut oil is known to have antifungal properties. This is promising given that most vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. There isn’t a ton of research available that looks into the effectiveness of coconut oil in treating yeast infections, but in one study, coconut oil was shown to be as effective as an antifungal agent against Candida albicans. Further research is needed before we can definitively say coconut oil can be effective in treating yeast infections.
Does Coconut Oil Actually Work as a Yeast Infection Treatment?
Gynecologists have differing thoughts as to whether coconut oil can be used to treat a yeast infection. According to Dr. Gersh, coconut oil can kill yeast and can be used to treat vaginal yeast infections.
“Coconut oil is a fatty acid that has powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-parasite, and antifungal properties,” she says. “In other words, it can kill various bacteria, viruses, parasites, and certain species of yeast.”
But Dr. Gaither isn’t so sure coconut oil is effective in this way. “There is no known confirmatory research indicating coconut oil as an effective methodology for treating vaginal yeast infections,” she says.
She explains that while yes, coconut oil does have antifungal properties, the strength of its antifungal properties may not be enough to eradicate a vaginal yeast infection. She adds that coconut oil could also alter the vaginal microbiome in a way that increases someone’s risk for other vaginal infections.
“It’s best to consult your health provider to verify that a yeast infection is the correct etiology, and prescribe effective antifungal treatment to eradicate the monilial infection,” she says.
Gersh also cautions that coconut oil shouldn’t be used to treat a yeast infection among women who are pregnant, as there isn’t sufficient safety data available on this. Additionally, she says coconut oil shouldn’t be used for recurring yeast infections, and that you should always confirm that you have a yeast infection before using this treatment.
How to Use Coconut Oil for Yeast Infections
If you you have a yeast infection and want to give coconut oil a try as a treatment, you have a couple of different options for going about this. Gersh recommends applying coconut oil to a clean tampon and then inserting it into your vagina. Alternatively, “it can also be rubbed into the tissues with fingers.” She suggests using coconut oil this way at bedtime until your symptoms resolve.
Other (More-Proven) Ways You Can Treat a Yeast Infection
There are many different ways to treat or prevent a yeast infection. For prevention, Gaither suggests methods like increasing your intake of yogurt, taking probiotics, and taking acidophilus tablets. These "may be effective in reducing the chance of acquiring a yeast infection, by increasing the concentration of Lactobacilli in the vagina" she explains. "Lactobacilli help to prevent Candida from growing out of control." Other recommended treatments including showering and changing after exercise rather than remaining in the same clothing, not using scented products (including scented soap) in your vaginal area, keeping your vaginal area dry and clean, and avoiding douching.
Here are a few ways yeast infections can be treated, according to our experts. Keep in mind that you should always speak to your health care practitioner before using any of these methods:
- Anti-fungal medications, such as creams, suppositories, ointments, or tablets. Some anti-fungal medications are available over-the-counter, whereas others are only available by prescription.
- Tea tree oil suppositories
- Boric acid suppositories (taken 600 mg twice each day for two weeks)
- Lactic acid/lactulose suppositories
- Apple cider vinegar baths
- Oil of oregano
- Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet
Coconut oil is known to have antifungal properties. It may be effective at treating some yeast infections, though there isn’t much research available right now to prove its efficacy in this way. If you decide to try using coconut oil to treat a yeast infection, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional first. And don’t forget to confirm you definitely have a yeast infection before trying this, too.