Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis
©Laura Cory/Flickr

They’re all classic signs of a bacterial vaginosis (BV) flareup: intense itching, a thin discharge (as opposed to the “cottage cheese” discharge of yeast infections) and that dreaded “fishy” smell. Bacterial vaginosis, or BV, is a common vaginal infection caused by an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina. While uncomfortable, it rarely leads to anything more serious than a host of irritating symptoms. While it’s always smart to check with your doctor if any of those symptoms become severe, in many cases using a natural remedy or a combination of natural remedies can help treat bacterial vaginosis naturally and safely and. For women who suffer from chronic bacterial vaginosis, using natural home remedies at the first sign of infection can help eliminate the need for antibiotics (and all of the health issues that come with them).

Fermented Foods: A Key Natural Remedy for Bacterial Vaginosis

The Mayo Clinic’s chief recommended prevention tip and natural remedy for BV is to eat more fermented foods containing the natural bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus.1 Many yogurts contain lactobacilli among other common beneficial bacteria. Look for cultured dairy products like yogurt that state the bacterial strains that can be found in the product – the more the better. We also recommend looking for one that has little to no added sugar. Other fermented foods to look for include the fermented drink kefir, tempeh, (a soy-based meat alternative), and miso (a soybean paste used for flavoring).

If you’re just not into fermented foods, that’s okay. Their unique taste can take some getting used to. If you prefer a probiotic supplement, choose one that contains a variety of bacterial strains and at least 1 billion or more active cells. We like this one (they are small, once daily capsules with an extremely high number of colony-forming units and a diverse combination of 34 raw probiotic strains!).

Baths with Therapeutic Properties

Essential oil in either regular baths or a sitz bath (in which you emerge only your pelvic region) is often recommended for bacterial vaginosis. If you’re in a full tub, the potent essential oils will be safely diluted. If you are just using a basin, we recommend first diluting the oils in a spoonful of vodka.

Useful oils for fighting bacterial issues include about 5 drops of lavender oil or 2 drops tea tree oil. Despite their strength and antiseptic aromas, both of these common essential oils are relatively gentle on the skin.2 Of course, it’s always a good idea to dab a bit of the diluted blend on your forearm first to ensure you’re not allergic before using them around your more sensitive vaginal area.

Along with diluted essential oils or salt water for a sitz bath, herbal teas can also be naturally healing for bacterial vaginosis. Steep chamomile, goldenseal or thyme tea in hot water for at least 10 minutes, then remove the bag and add the tea to your sitz bath. 3

And don’t forget the classic sitz bath! About ¼ cup coarse sea salt or Epsom salt added to your basin of warm water makes for a strongly antibacterial home treatment. Use it by itself, or with the addition of herbal tea to the water.4

Healing Insertions for BV

Topical applications often provide immediate relief and healing benefits, and vaginal issues are no exception. Topicals are an especially useful application or substances that are too thick to use in a bathtub, or too messy to apply externally, to your skin.

Because tampons usually come in capsules for easy insertions, and strings for convenient removal, they are a popular delivery method. Just make sure that you’re using tampons that are free of harmful chemicals and fragrances (you’d be surprised at what’s in some of the most popular tampon brands!). You can also use gauze wrapped in looped dental floss for many of these formulas.

  • Peeled clove of garlic. Garlic is intensely antiseptic. Both ingesting it and using it in suppository for is effective for vaginal issues. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you can remove it after about 12 hours, so it’s helpful to loop some dental floss around it, similar to a tampon string.5
  • Plain yogurt. Dipping a tampon or some gauze in plain yogurt (no flavor or sugar added) is also powerful topical treatment for use as a home remedy for bacterial vaginosis. If the itching is intense, you may dab some on your labial region, as well. For obvious practical reasons, external applications of yogurt are easier at night for most women, but a sanitary napkin does help contain any minor discharge.6
  • Herbal teas. As with sitz baths, herbal teas can be helpful when used with  tampon or gauze soak inserted into your vagina. Use healing, soothing chamomile, thyme or lavender tea.7
  • Diluted essential oils. Use the same oils you might use in a bath soak for a concentrated form of relief. Dilute a drop or two of tea tree or lavender oil in water, then use a tampon with a cardboard applicator for the soaking. The cardboard will absorb the formula, but prevent the tampon itself from expanding too soon. Gauze with string will also work for this method.8

Botanical Teas

Of course, many of the same substances that are helpful for exterior applications or internal insertions are also helpful when taken orally. Garlic and yogurt can be eaten with meals. But even more frequently, try drinking healing herbal teas to combat your BV. Herbal teas or tisane do not contain any caffeine and as a result can be drunk throughout the day with the fear of sleeplessness. Herbal teas will also help keep your body hydrated, which is always a must for overall health, wellness and healing.

Among those herbal teas you can try are goldenseal, lavender or chamomile tea. Brew them by the cupful for a hot, soothing treat, or brew up a triple batch and chill it to drink as ice tea.

Common Sense Caution

Keep in mind that bacterial infections of any sort have the potential to become serious, and it’s always wise to consult your doctor if you’re not sure what your symptoms mean. In many cases, however, you doctor may diagnosis your BV as a mild bacterial infection that doesn’t require antibiotics. In that case, the home remedies you choose may not only relieve your symptoms, but can help your body naturally combat the infection itself.9


  1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Self-management – Bacterial vaginosis. Mayo Clinic. Published April 27, 2016.
  2. Essential Oil Skin Patch Testing.
  3. Griggs, Barbara. The Green Witch Herbal. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 1994.
  4. Sitz Bath for Vaginal Itching. Granny Med.
  5. Cohain, Judy Slome, CNM. How to Treat a Vaginal Infection with a Clove of Garlic. Midwifery Today. Published 2003.
  6. Griggs, Barbara. The Green Witch Herbal. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 1994.
  7. Griggs, Barbara. The Green Witch Herbal. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 1994.
  8. Griggs, Barbara. The Green Witch Herbal. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 1994.
  9. Mayo Clinic Staff. Bacterial vaginosis. Mayo Clinic. Published April 27, 2016.