Bacterial Vaginosis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) also known as vagina odor is caused by a mis-balance in the levels of good and bacteria present in the vagina. There is a delicate balance between these microbes and a little upset can cause this infection.

It was formerly called Gardnerella vaginitis when it was regarded as a true infection and thought to be caused by foreign bacteria. It was later renamed to Bacterial Vaginosis when it was discovered that is not a true infection but rather an imbalance of bacteria present in the vagina.

Bacterial vaginosis is different from a candida infection; candida is caused by a fungus while bacteria vaginosis is caused by a bacteria. Many people find these two confusing and in some cases of candidiasis, there is no vaginal odor but an unpleasant odor is the main characteristic or tell-tale sign of bacterial vaginosis.

In most cases, BV does not cause any problem to the body but it raises the risks for sexually transmitted infections and it can lead to other problems in pregnant women and in women who are trying to conceive. It affects fertility. BV makes in vitro fertilization (IVF) less successful and if a pregnant woman has it, it can lead to premature labor.

It raises the risk of premature birth or a giving birth to a baby with low birth weight. It can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility. This is the most common vaginal problem in women of child-bearing age. Though it is not contagious, it can spread among sexual partners especially lesbians. This condition can be easily treated.

Causes of Bacterial Vaginosis

The main cause of BV is when there is a reduction in the level of the bacteria lactobacillus. This bacterium is present in the vagina to fight off harmful bacteria and other microbes that may cause harm. They also make the vagina slightly acidic thereby making it inhabitable for harmful bacteria. The acid also inhibits their growth.

When there is a reduction in the level of lactobacillus, this gives room for the growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria, the vagina becomes less acidic and the environment favors them and becomes habitable. Things or factors that can destroy this balance and increase the risk of BV are:

  • A weak or suppressed immune system
  • Sexual activity
  • Smoking
  • Douching (washing inside the vagina with soaps and antiseptics)
  • Using vaginal deodorants, scented soaps and bubble baths
  • Washing your pants and underwear with strong detergents
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • A new sexual partner
  • Frequent and indiscriminate use of antibiotics
  • Lesbianism
  • Anal and oral sex
  • Some health professionals believe IUD birth control devices cause BV especially in the cases of irregular bleeding but more studies are needed to confirm it.
  • There are reports that it can be gotten from public toilet seats and public swimming pools but it has not yet been verified.

Symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis

Most women who experience BV have no symptoms but in some cases, there are symptoms that can mimic those of candidiasis and sexually transmitted infections, and they include:

  • A fish smell or abnormal odor and it gets stronger after sex
  • Vaginal discharge that can be green, white, cloudy, yellow, bloody or grey
  • Excess vagina discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Cloudy urine
  • Inflammation
  • Vaginal fluid with an abnormal consistency
  • Pains in the vagina
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Itching inside, outside and around the vagina

Natural Remedies for Bacterial Vaginosis

Before you think of natural remedies and treatments, the first thing that should come to mind is how to boost your immune system because if your immune system were not compromised or weakened in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened.

Take lots of foods rich in vitamins A, D, and C. the following minerals iron, zinc, selenium also boost the immune system. Oranges and other citrus fruits, carrots, ginger, strawberry, garlic, apple, cayenne pepper, sweet potatoes, and broccoli are all good for the immune system.

Also, spend quality time in sunlight by sunbathing. Do these every morning and evening to increase the levels of vitamin D in your body and also to boost the populations of the white blood cells in your body. While boosting your immune system, the home remedies below can help you get rid of this condition.

Coconut Oil

This powerful oil is dense in antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. This oil can kill germs, including those responsible for BV and it also prevents re-occurrence.

Apply pure unrefined coconut oil on the affected part three times daily until the condition improves. You can dip a tampon in virgin coconut oil and insert it into your vagina. You can leave it for a couple of hours and wash the vagina after removing it.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Chamomile has a soothing effect on the body, it alleviates most of the symptoms especially the swellings, burning sensation, pains, and itchiness. Chamomile is an effective home therapy for BV.

Take chamomile tea many times daily and you can also use the tea to wash the affected part as many times as you want during the day.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider VinegarThe acidic nature of ACV increases the acidity of the vagina and helps in killing the harmful microbes behind this condition. It makes the place uncomfortable for harmful bacteria and boosts the population and growth of the friendly bacteria.

Add one or two cups of ACV to your bath water and soak in it for twenty minutes. Pat dry and keep the vagina dry, do these at least once daily until you see the desired result.

Lemongrass Essential Oil

Lemongrass Essential OilThis essential oil inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and microbes, it has a strong antimicrobial property and it also relieves the symptoms of BV like irritations and pains.
Mix this oil with coconut oil and apply it directly to the affected part. Wash it off after some minutes and do this two times daily.

Turmeric

This powerful root herb is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. It relieves the symptoms of BV and reduces swellings. It stops the infection and hastens healing. Add some tablespoons of turmeric into a glass of warm milk and take this drink three times every day.

Neem

NeemThis herb is powerful in treating BV because the leaves contain antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties. They kill the microbes causing BV and treat inflammation. They also reduce itching and other symptoms.

Get a handful of fresh Neem leaves and heat them in a pan without adding water or any type of liquid. Remove them from heat and allow to cool. Grind them into a fine powder.

Create a paste by mixing some drops of water with two tablespoons of this powder and apply this paste to the vagina. Wash it away with lukewarm water after thirty minutes. Do these two times daily until you recover.

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry JuiceCranberries and cranberries juice have a healthy content of acids that helps to raise the pH of the vagina and hastens healing. It eliminates harmful bacteria and effectively treats BV. Drink many cups of fresh homemade and unsweetened cranberry juice. You can also eat lots of cranberries daily.

Cedar Oil

This is an effective remedy that gets rid of the itching, irritations, redness, and swellings. It gives instant relief from itching. Add some drops of this oil in a bowl of cold water, add a pinch of salt and use it to wash your vagina.

Yogurt

This is a very popular home remedy for vaginosis and other microbial infections; it contains healthy bacteria like lactobacillus that help fight off harmful bacteria and it also produces hydrogen peroxide that makes the vagina acidic for harmful microbes.

Pour some yogurt on a cotton ball and rub it on your vagina. Wash it off after thirty minutes, do these three times daily until the condition is reversed. You can also dip a tampon in plain yogurt and put it in your vagina for one or two hours.

Do these two times daily, you should also take a bowl of yogurt daily. This will restore the pH of the vagina and fight the growth of bad bacteria.

Echinacea

EchinaceaThis is an age-long home remedy for BV, it kills harmful microbes, treats infections and boosts the immune system. Five hundred milligrams of Echinacea capsules four times daily helps treats severe cases of BV. You need to consult with a doctor before taking this strong herb and make sure you take it according to prescriptions.

Green Tea

Green tea fights microbes and microbial infections, they have tannins which act as natural antibiotics, they also have astringent properties that help in soothing irritation, swellings, and a burning sensation.

Drink many cups of green tea daily and put the used teabags in the refrigerator. Put this against the vagina and leave it for few minutes, this will relieve itching and other symptoms. Do these four times every day.

White Vinegar

White VinegarThis is a good alternative for Apple cider vinegar. It also has antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, it eliminates impurities and harmful microbes from the vagina. It prevents vaginal odor by preventing the breakdown of the proteins which cause it.

Add a cup or two of vinegar to your bath water and soak in it for thirty minutes or add a little quantity to a bowl of water and add a little salt. Use this to wash your vagina.

Tracheal

This herb is an effective home remedy for BV, it eliminates harmful microbes and toxins from the body and it treats a lot of bacterial infections. Add few teaspoons of tracheal leaves to a cup of hot water and leave it for 10 minutes, strain it and drink when warm.

Tea Tree Oil

There are antifungal and antibacterial compounds in this essential oil. When applied on the vagina, it kills harmful micro-organisms and eliminates the foul odor caused by this condition. Combine three drops of tea tree oil with three cups of ACV or white vinegar.

Add this solution to your bath water and soak in it for thirty minutes. Do these once daily till you recover. You can also dilute some drops of tea tree oil in a bowl of warm water and wash your vagina with this solution. Do these once daily for four weeks.

Probiotics

Probiotics or healthy bacteria help fight off harmful bacteria and keep their growth and activities under control. When the level of these helpful bacteria is reduced, it can lead to BV, a vaginal yeast infection and other infections caused by microbes.

When you ingest probiotics, you are raising the levels of these beneficial bacteria and also re-introducing them back into your body. This also prevents future re-occurrence.

Fermented foods, vegetables, grains, and fruits are rich sources of probiotics. Examples are yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods. take lots of these on a daily basis and you will recover.

Mango leaves

Mango leavesThis is an effective remedy for BV though many women don’t know this. It has many phytochemicals and nutrients that inhibit the growth of harmful microbes and kill them.
Boil mango leaves in water and use this solution to wash the affected area.

Oregano Oil

This essential oil tops the list of natural antibiotics, it is rich in antifungal and antibacterial properties. It is helpful in treating BV and it also prevents re-occurrence. Use pure Oregano oil, it must not contain alcohol so that it would not worsen the symptom.

This essential oil is very concentrated so it has to be diluted to prevent skin irritation and burning. Dilute three drops of oregano oil with a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil.

Apply it on the vagina and wash it off after two hours. You can take it orally, add three drops of this essential oil to a glass of water or fruit juice. Drink these two times every day till you see improvement.

Calendula

CalendulaThis herb is loaded with antiviral and antibacterial properties. It is one of the most efficacious home therapies for BV, it relieves all symptoms and relieves irritations and inflammation. Drink lots of calendula tea daily.

You can also wash your vagina with this tea or soak a clean cloth in this tea and use it to pat the vagina. This will cure the infection and give relief from the redness and irritation. Make this tea or decoction by boiling a handful of calendula leaves in water. You can make use of either the fresh herb or the dried one.

Garlic

This is a natural antibiotic, it kills a plethora of harmful microbes and it is effective against bacterial vaginosis. Crush some cloves of garlic and apply the paste on your vagina. Wash it off after twenty minutes using lukewarm water.

You can also wrap a clove of garlic in gauze and put it in your vagina. Leave it for at most thirty minutes, let it not exceed that so that it won’t cause soreness there. Do these once every day till you recover.

Aloe vera

Aloe Vera PlantThe compound anthraquinone present in aloe vera is a strong antibacterial compound. It stops the growth of unhealthy and harmful bacteria, and hastens healing and relieves all symptoms of BV.

Get fresh aloe vera gel from a large leaf and apply this fresh gel directly to the affected place, leave it on for thirty minutes before you wash it away with lukewarm water. Do this three times every day till you see improvement. You should see results one or two weeks.

Guava Leaves

Guava LeavesThese leaves are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, antimicrobial and antiseptic compounds which make them effective in fighting a host of microbial infections. Boil fresh guava leaves in water and let it cool before using it to wash your vagina.

Boric Acid

This substance has strong antibacterial properties, it eliminates harmful bacteria and the capsule is used to treat recurring bacterial vaginosis. Pregnant women should avoid this remedy.

You can insert a capsule of boric acid into your vagina at night before going to bed and take it out when you wake up in the morning. Do these three times a week till you recover.

Black Walnut

Black WalnutThese nuts are store houses of juglone and tannins, these compounds are natural antibiotics; they also possess anti-parasitic and antiseptic properties.

This makes this nuts effective treatment for BV and other microbial infections because of their ability to kill harmful microbes. Apply few drops of black walnut tincture to the affected place, do these twice daily until this condition clears away.

Fenugreek

This is a great remedy for BV, it raises the pH of the vagina and boosts the immune system and help the body overcome this condition quickly. Soak some tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a glass of water overnight and drink this solution on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

You can also mix fenugreek seeds with yogurt and take it daily till you see improvement. Please avoid sweetened yogurt, sugar, and sugary foods because it feeds the harmful microbes that you are trying to kill.

You should also include fenugreek tea in your diet daily, take at least two cups of fenugreek tea daily. Steep one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a cup of hot water and leave it for 10 minutes. Strain it and drink.

Folate

This vital nutrient plays an important role in battling harmful bacteria and this makes it an effective treatment for BV. It empowers the immune system to overcome this condition and several studies have proven that women who regularly consume folate have less risk of BV and other types of infections.

Foods rich in folate are avocados, dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, spinach, nuts and seeds, asparagus, peas, and broccoli. Regularly consume these foods and you can meet a doctor to prescribe folic acid supplement for you.

This should only be taken in severe cases of BV and take it according to prescription to prevent toxicity which can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health problems.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is a powerful home remedy for BV, it makes the environment acidic for microbes causing infections. Dilute three percent hydrogen peroxide with water and use this solution to wash your vagina, this will eliminate all symptoms and restore the normal levels of the lactobacillus bacteria.

Sage

This is a popular herbal remedy for a lot of diseases including those caused by micro-organisms. It contains lots of compounds which help fight inflammation, harmful microbes, sage has been used to fight a host of harmful bacteria.

You can make use of fresh or dried sage leaves, boil some pieces of sage leaves in a cup of water for 10 minutes and leave it to get warm. Strain it and drink. Take this herbal tea three times daily, this will relieve the burning sensation, the redness, and irritation and it will also reduce the discharge and foul odor.

You can also use this tea to rinse your vagina many times daily.

Milk

MilkOrganic and raw milk is rich in lactobacillus and this is why it is used to cure BV. Dip a tampon in milk and insert it in your vagina.

Leave it for one or two hours and do these once every day till you see improvement. Put a teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of milk and drink this once daily to boost your immune system and hasten healing.

Thyme

ThymeThyme has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties and that is why it a popular home remedy used to treat candidiasis and BV. It contains phenols, these compounds kill harmful microbes and give relief from the symptoms of BV like itching, discharge, and other discomforting symptoms. You can take thyme tea and also apply thyme essential oil to the affected part.

Goldenseal

This is a traditional remedy for BV, the dried root and rhizomes are used to treat BV and other microbial infections. It contains an active compound called berberine, this alkaloid has a strong antibacterial property.

Baking Soda

This substance is a natural alkali that helps to correct the pH of the vagina, it is a natural disinfectant that helps get rid of harmful bacteria and it also eliminates the foul odor. This is an effective, popular and highly recommended natural remedy for BV.

Add some tablespoons of baking soda to a bowl of cold water and use this solution to wash the affected region once daily. Do these for two weeks. You may also make a thick paste by mixing baking soda with water and apply this paste on the vagina. Wash it off after some minutes. Do this two times daily.

Cold compress

This helps in relieving inflammation, pain, swellings, itching and other discomforts from the vagina by numbing the area.  This remedy is effective when you want immediate relief for the symptoms. Wrap few ice cubes in a piece of cloth and place it on your vagina for few minutes.

Take a break for two minutes and re-apply it, do these a couple of times and you can do it anytime you need relief. You can also wash that region with cold water. Do these many times during the day to give you relief from the symptoms.

Clove Essential Oil

This essential oil has great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, it has been used to preserve food for ages and it is one of the earliest medicines of man. Apply this oil directly on the vagina (mix it with coconut oil) and take few teaspoons in orally.

If you can’t stand the strong scent and taste, then mix it with fruit juices or herbal teas. You can also wash your vagina with clove tea or add some drops of this oil in a bowl of cold water and use it to wash the affected place.

Practice Good Hygiene

A good vaginal hygiene can hasten healing and prevent re-occurrence. It also keeps the vagina safe from harmful bacteria and yeast cells and prevents other types of infections like candidiasis.

  • Wash your underwear on a daily basis.
  • Wash your underwear using hot water and dry them under sunlight
  • Don’t wear wet underwear and remove wet clothes like swimsuit immediately.
  • Don’t wear tight-fitting underwear for long or regularly
  • Wear loose underwear so that air can reach your vagina and keep it dry thereby preventing the overgrowth of unfavorable microbes
  • After stooling, wash from front to back and not vice-versa to prevent the movement of microbes.
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Don’t douche or use scented soaps, antiseptics, and deodorants around your vagina.
  • Clean sex toys before and after each use
Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.