Dealing with a chronic vaginal health issue, like a seemingly endless stream of yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis (BV), can be an emotional and physical burden. You’re in pain, you’re stressed, you just want it to go away. We get it!
When conventional treatments don’t seem to be working—or, worse, you feel like your doctor is downplaying your symptoms—it’s understandable if you’re tempted to do a little digging, just in case there’s a potential remedy out there you haven’t tried yet. So you search and scroll, and inevitably stumble across mentions of boric acid suppositories online, because plenty of people with vaginas swear by them.
For decades, boric acid has been touted as an alternative treatment for various vaginal health issues, but the messaging around it is a little confusing.1 Is boric acid really a more “natural” approach to getting rid of BV? Is it worth trying when standard yeast infection treatments have failed? Can it really nuke that strong fishy smell? Is it even safe to put this stuff in your vagina?
There’s plenty of debate, even among doctors, about whether boric acid suppositories can cure certain vaginal infections. So we reached out to various experts and read through the limited research; unsurprisingly, the answers to these questions aren’t totally cut and dry. Here’s what you should know if your vagina is struggling, you’ve gone down one-too-many AskReddit rabbit holes, and you’re desperate for relief.
Boric acid is a compound that has mild antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
Boric acid is partially derived from borax, “Which you may be familiar with as a very strong and effective home-cleaning product,” Brittany Merrifield, MD, an ob-gyn at Corewell Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, tells SELF.2
It’s a “compound that has been used for hundreds of years for various purposes,” including as an antiseptic and insecticide, often in the form of a powder, Jonathan Schaffir, MD, an ob-gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.2 Yep, boric acid is even used as a roach poison.
Why would anyone want to put boric acid in their vagina?
People didn’t just try this for fun—there’s a history of using boric acid to treat certain vaginal health issues. “In the old days, we used to have to go to a compounding pharmacy and ask them to make it up in little capsules to place in the vagina,” Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, tells SELF.1 Now, she says there are many boric acid care products readily available over the counter at local drugstores.
But there’s a reason these vaginal suppositories are no longer viewed as a go-to remedy. “In the ’50s and ’60s, boric acid was a very common way to treat chronic vaginitis [inflammation or infection of the vagina] because they didn’t have a lot of options,” Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Now, we have all these things in the toolbox that work much, much better.” If you’ve ever had a run-of-the-mill yeast infection, you know one little pill, Diflucan (fluconazole), often does the trick. For BV, a week of antibiotics (usually metronidazole) is effective for most people.