Almost everyone searching for a natural cure for Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) would have come across a home remedy using Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
Despite that, I have always been skeptical about the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar for BV.
To satisfy my curiosity and inner skeptic, I started researching and experimenting on the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar for BV. I would like to share those interesting findings with you today.
How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Cure BV?
The vaginal environment is mildly acidic (normal vaginal pH is usually between 3.8-4.5), so that nasty bacteria cannot survive there.
When there is an overgrowth of the bad bacteria, it usually indicates that the internal pH environment has shifted to being less acidic. Infections like BV and trichomoniasis often raises the pH level of the vagina to above 4.5.
The rationale using apple cider vinegar for BV is that as ACV is a medium acid by nature, it should help lower the pH level of the vaginal environment, shifting back to its optimal level.
We know that to be true, just add lemon juice (acidic) into water (neutral pH) and the water turns various tones of sour instantly.
Basic chemistry geek alert - acid tastes sour and alkaline tastes bitter.
So theoretically, it does make sense to use apple cider vinegar for BV because it helps to regain the bacteria killing properties of the vaginal environment by making it more acidic.
It is posited to prevent bad bacteria growth, pH levels should remain below 4.5.
So How Do People Use Apple Cider Vinegar To Cure BV?
The primary ingredient of ACV is acetic acid.
Nearly all living organisms produce acetic acid and hence, not foreign to human bodies. Many people think that the acetic acid is the actual health promoting component that matters.
Taste wise, undiluted ACV is extremely sour and difficult to tolerate for most people. On exposed skin, undiluted ACV can irritate or even burn sensitive skin due to its acidic nature.
As a drink, a concentrated version of ACV is to dilute one part ACV with four parts of water. Most people start off by adding 2 teaspoons of ACV to 1 full glass of water.
Apple Cider Vinegar Bath For BV
Some people recommend adding 1 to 2 cups (200 to 250 ml) of ACV to bath water, and to then sit in the bath water for 20 minutes for healing purposes.
Other than combating BV, ACV bath is said to be beneficial to your hair and skin!
After the course, take a bath and pat dry your genital area. Do these daily until your BV condition is cured.
Douching With Apple Cider Vinegar For BV
Others suggested using diluted ACV as a douche to ward off BV.
Firstly, prepare the solution by adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 3 cups of warm water. Put the solution in a douching bag or a vaginal insert.
Secondly, wash your genital area with clean water. Then pump / squeeze the solution into your vagina and flush it.
However, I strongly recommend NOT using ACV in the form of douching for reasons I will discuss later.
Using Apple Cider Vinegar Tampon
There are also recommendation of putting in an apple cider vinegar soaked tampon overnight to kill the bacteria.
Steps as follow:
- Mix 1 teaspoon of ACV with a cup of distilled water (8 oz/240 ml)
- Soak a clean tampon in the solution for at least 5 to 10 minutes.
- Insert the apple cider vinegar tampon into the vagina.
- Remove after 10-15 minutes.
As per douching, I strongly recommend against this method especially on the overnight application.
We are less likely to be aware of any sign of burn or irritation while we are asleep. By the time we wake up, the damage might be too much.
Can I Use Other Vinegar Instead Of ACV?
Since the whole point of using apple cider vinegar for BV is for the acetic acid, it begs another question.
Is ACV the only vinegar we can use for BV, since all vinegars are acidic?
Can I use white vinegar or even rice vinegar instead? Let’s start by understanding a little more about ACV.
More About ACV
ACV is a vinegar (french word for sour wine) made from crushed sweet apples.
A fermentation process changes the fructose in the apples into alcohol. The alcohol is then converted into acetic acid through another fermentation process (aptly named acetic acid fermentation).
High quality ACV should be in the pH range of 2.8 - 3.1. One of the more popular brands used is Bragg’s ACV. On the Bragg’s website, they listed the pH level as 3.075.
Supporters of the anti-candida diet suggest to avoid all vinegar (only with the exception of unfiltered raw ACV) as vinegar are made via yeast fermentation and can result in inflammatory responses in the gut.
ACV is purported to have multiple health promoting benefits such as helping with digestion, allergies, diabetes, cholesterol, and even cancer!
ACV is also thought to be a blood thinner, and had been linked with reducing high blood pressures.
However, if you have a medical condition that requires you to avoid blood thinners or you are already on blood thinning medications, ACV may not be suitable for you.
Other Vinegar Options
On the other hand, other vinegars like white/distilled vinegar, or rice vinegars are made from grains, can be bought cheaply and often used for cooking, pickling and home cleaning projects.
Avoid using artificial vinegars for BV.There are even some vinegar in the market made from derivations of petroleum!
What about balsamic vinegar?
Well, real balsamic vinegar can sell up to $200 per ounce. The cheap ones found in supermarkets are usually just vinegar with flavoring and coloring. The cost of getting real balsamic vinegar can be a deterrent, and frankly, a waste of good vinegar if you are using it as a bath.
There is also another rare form of vinegar made from honey, which also purports to provide similar health benefits like ACV. They are sold commercially, but are not widely available. Vinegar flavored with honey does not equal to vinegar made from honey.
In view of the above, it would appear that choosing ACV over other vinegar for BV makes more sense as it contains health promoting benefits, and is easily available, as compared to other more costly and/or less widely available vinegar.
Apple Cider Vinegar Douching And Tampons
As for the douching advice, IMHO, I highly discourage douching with ACV. Douching is disruptive to the inner vaginal environment regardless of what you put in there.
Firstly, a dilution guideline that works for Miss A may not work for Miss B due to differences in sensitivity.
Then, by introducing a foreign liquid/object into vaginas, you may increase your risk of infections, rather than reduce it.
There are studies which stated that douching is harmful and has no proven benefits regardless of what product advertisement said.
Ditto to soaking tampons in ACV and leaving it inside your body for days.
Please, don’t do it.
They may also cause irritation and burning to the inner sensitive walls of the vagina due to ACV's acidic nature. There are studies which shown vinegar burns due to topical application of apple cider vinegar.
Our body is extremely intelligent and seeks to re-calibrate itself to optimal state. You must also remember vaginas are designed to self clean.
Vaginal discharge is designed to bring bacteria and toxins out of the vagina. Which is why vaginal discharge can stink when there is an infection going down there.
Best Way To Use Apple Cider Vinegar For BV
In choosing apple cider vinegar for BV, you may want to use good quality ACV.
Look for words on the label like organic, unfiltered, and unprocessed.
When you hold the bottle against light, you should notice a grainy, strain like substance floating in liquid.
That is liquid gold known as “mother”. It tells you that the ACV is minimally processed, and hence is more nutritious.
The ACV I will highly recommend is Bragg Gluten Free Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. This vinegar is unfiltered, unheated, unpasteurized with 5% acidity, and contains the amazing Mother of Vinegar.
Please note that there are different types of Bragg apple cider vinegar, some contain additional ingredients such as honey which is not advisable especially if you have yeast infection.
To use apple cider vinegar for BV, I recommend the following:
1.Consider taking diluted ACV (2 teaspoons of ACV to 1 glass of water, without sweetener) to boost your body’s immunity.
2. If you find the idea of chugging down unsweetened diluted ACV improbable, dilute ACV with water (1 tablespoon of ACV to 1 litre of water) to create a wash to lightly wash around the vulva, not into the vagina. Tap dry after washing. Continue daily until your symptoms are gone.
I strongly recommend doing a patch test first by blotting some of the liquid on your inner arm or side of neck and waiting for 10 to 15 minutes. You may want to adjust the dilution ratio, or not use ACV at all if your skin turns blotchy or red or itchy.
Make a fresh batch every time you want to wash, instead of making it in huge batches. Reason being, a diluted wash in huge batches can encourage possible leaching of chemical components from the container that it is being held in, and can also result in contamination.
3. If you have time to spare and a clean tub, consider a sit bath by adding 2 cups of ACV to your bath water. Do the patch test too. If you are good to go, soak your lower body in the liquid for 10 to 15 minutes so that the ACV solution can get some killer action.
4. Forget about ACV pills. Laboratory analysis showed various ACV pill products with wide variation in the ingredients. Besides, there is no legal definition of what makes apple cider vinegar, so manufacturers can technically create ACV pills without the ACV. Save your money and buy some apples instead.
Things To Note
While ACV have health promoting benefits, it may not be wise to drink in high concentrations for prolonged periods because it is, after all, an acid. It may damage your tooth enamel in the long run.
Do remember to try the patch test to check the suitability of the diluted ACV solution with your skin sensitivity, and adjust accordingly.
You may be one of those that ACV does absolutely nothing for you. It does not mean you are a failure. It just means your situation may be different. No fret, check out this exhaustive list for more options for help.
- Christopher GB, Jason PL, Christine BW, Anjela G,Jean B, Brett AK, Chemical Burn From Topical Apple Cider Vinegar, JAAD, October 2012, Vol 67, Issue 4, Pages e143–e144
- Jenny LM and Sten HV, Vaginal Douching: Evidence for Risks or Benefits to Women's Health, Epidemiol Rev. 2002; 24(2): 109–124.
- Mota AC, de Castro RD, de Araújo Oliveira J, de Oliveira Lima E, Antifungal Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar on Candida Species Involved in Denture Stomatitis, J Prosthodont, 2015 Jun; 24(4):296-302