Under normal circumstances, vaginal flora contains good bacteria that defend against invasive microbes, bad bacteria, and fungi. But when the vaginal pH balance is disrupted, the good bacteria decline, and with it, the vagina’s defenses. Harmful bacteria begin to reproduce rapidly, causing bacterial vaginosis (BV).
Bacterial vaginosis can put you at higher risk for other reproductive health conditions if left untreated. So it’s essential to get medical advice from a gynecologist.
Most healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics to restore vaginal health, but some people use alternative treatments or homeopathic remedies such as boric acid to treat BV. Before you try this or any natural remedy, it’s important to learn what is safe and effective.
In this article, I will discuss the ins and outs of using boric acid and explore other over-the-counter methods that may treat BV and promote vaginal wellness.
What Is Boric Acid?
Boric acid (hydrogen borate) is an odorless, natural chemical compound derived from boron. As the name depicts, this natural solution is acidic. Some people use it as a traditional treatment for health conditions like BV infections.
Because it has mild antibacterial and antifungal properties, generations have used it as a household cleaner, laundry detergent, and insecticide.
Many also rely on boric acid as a homeopathic remedy for everyday ailments like canker sores, pink eye, minor burns, small cuts, acne, and athlete’s foot because it is relatively safe for adults to use on their bodies.
Does Boric Acid Work In Treating Bacterial Vaginosis?
People with vaginas have used boric acid as an intravaginal home remedy for ailments like yeast infections for at least 100 years. It is inexpensive and available over the counter in small, clear gelatin capsules (called boric acid vaginal suppositories) that are inserted intravaginally, often with the help of plastic applicators.
Boric acid may help people with recurrent BV restore their vaginal pH. In one study, the use of 600 mg of boric acid suppositories along with antibiotics helped resolve bacterial infections after two months of treatment in 88% of participants.
However, one study is not enough evidence to suggest that the use of boric acid vaginal insertion can treat BV. Instead, doctors recommend that people diagnosed with bacterial vaginosis use an FDA-approved antibiotic prescription before using any natural homeopathic remedies.
If you wish to try boric acid for vaginal use, talk to your doctor before doing so. Also, you should know that pregnant people should not use boric acid, as it can be toxic to fetal development.
Is Boric Acid Safe to Use for BV?
Boric acid can be harmful if taken by mouth. However, it is considered safe when inserted into the vagina. The results of an older 2011 study suggest that boric acid is a safe and affordable option for treating recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis.
Also, a more recent study review on the safety of intravaginal boric acid use indicated that it is safe, especially when used in the doses prescribed by physicians. There is also limited information on whether it can cause any harmful effects on pregnant people. However, to be safer, it would be best not to use it during pregnancy.
In all, talk to your doctor first about dosage and your safety before you use boric acid for treating BV, whether for the first time or recurrent BV.
Risks and Complications
Bacterial vaginosis increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV, as well as pelvic inflammatory diseases. PID can lead to infertility. Pregnant people with BV are at risk of going into early labor and giving birth to infants with low birth weight.
Talk to your doctor before using boric acid for any reason. Certain drugs, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter medications can interact with boric acid and cause health complications.
People who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant should not take boric acid, as it can be toxic to fetuses and small children.
How to Use Boric Acid for BV
Clinicians strongly advise against the oral consumption of boric acid. This is because it can be toxic if ingested orally. Vaginal boric acid is available over-the-counter in its natural form and comes in a gelatin capsule package or a suppository.
To treat BV, the boric acid capsules can be inserted into the vagina at night for about 1-2 weeks. If you have a recurrent BV infection, your doctor may recommend you use it 1-2 times a week for about 3 months.
To use boric acid suppositories, here is what to do:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them with clean clothes
- Lie on your back and bend your knees
- Gently insert one 600 mg capsule inside your vagina; you can use an applicator if preferred
- Dispose of the applicator and wash your hands thoroughly
Other Treatment Options
If you suspect you may have bacterial vaginosis, speak with your doctor about your concerns so you can get proper treatment.
Once you have a diagnosis, they will prescribe an antibiotic such as:
- Metronidazole, taken orally as a pill or inserted intravaginally as a vaginal gel.
- Clindamycin, inserted intravaginally as a cream.
Antibiotics are a major bacterial killer. Most people who take antibiotics to treat their BV report that their symptoms subside within 2-3 days. Continue to take your medication for as long as directed, even if you begin to feel better. If you stop your antibiotics early, your BV may come back and be more challenging to treat.
Other natural remedies beyond boric acid are touted to help treat BV and promote vaginal wellness when used in tandem with conventional medications. It’s important to remember that these homeopathic remedies are not FDA-approved and are not safe for everyone to use. Be sure to speak with your doctor before using any natural treatment to relieve your BV symptoms. This includes:
Very limited research suggests using hydrogen peroxide as a vaginal wash may help clear up odor, improve discharge, and restore balance to the vagina.
Probiotic supplements or foods like yogurt containing lactobacillus may help prevent or treat bacterial vaginosis. The idea is that the use of probiotics may enhance vaginal homeostasis, suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria.
While some previous studies provide insufficient evidence that probiotics can help treat BV, few other clinical studies suggest that probiotic regimens may have a beneficial effect on BV treatment. Research probiotic brands before purchasing any, though, as the FDA does not regulate supplements, and some do not contain the ingredients they advertise.
Other remedies some people claim they use to treat BV include apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil. These are mostly anecdotal claims with little to no scientific evidence to back them up. They should be used cautiously to avoid side effects like allergies and irritated skin.
When to See a Medical Provider
If you notice abnormal vaginal discharge, a foul-smelling vaginal odor, or anything else that causes discomfort, make an appointment with your doctor. They can determine whether you have bacterial vaginosis or another ailment by examining you and running tests.
After that, they will prescribe the appropriate medication to treat your symptoms and relieve your discomfort.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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BASIC Study: Is Intravaginal Boric Acid Non-Inferior to Metronidazole in Symptomatic Bacterial Vaginosis? Study Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial. (2015).
Boric Acid Addition to Suppressive Antimicrobial Therapy for Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis. (2009).
Compound Summary: Boric Acid. (2021).
Effects of Probiotics on the Recurrence of Bacterial Vaginosis: A Review. (2014).
The Prevalence of Bacterial Vaginosis in the United States, 2001–2004; Associations with Symptoms, Sexual Behaviors, and Reproductive Health. (2007).
Probiotics for the Treatment of Bacterial Vaginosis: A Meta-Analysis. (2019).
Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis--An Old Approach to a New Problem. (1996).