(Last Updated On: September 8, 2018)
Essential oils are extracted from the flowers, bark, stems, leaves, or roots of a plant. They contain many active compounds which give them antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, among many others, which provide us with plenty of health benefits.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years as natural medicines, perfumes, and in personal care products. They are just as popular today, and they are increasingly being used alongside conventional medicines to enhance well being.
- 1 The History of the Use of Essential Oils
- 2 How to Use Essential Oils
- 3 Add Them to the Bath
- 4 Massage
- 5 Steam Inhalation
- 6 Add Them to Your Favorite Body Lotion
- 7 Apply Them to a Compress
- 8 Essential Oil Safety
- 9 The Vagina
- 10 Common Vaginal Problems
- 11 Bacterial Vaginosis
- 12 When to See Your Doctor
- 13 What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis
- 14 Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis
- 15 Antibiotics
- 16 Side Effects of Antibiotics
- 17 If the Initial Treatment Doesn’t Work
- 18 Vaginal pH Correction Treatments
- 19 Referral to a Specialist
- 20 Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- 21 Bacterial Vaginosis: Is It a Sexually Transmitted Infection?
- 22 Essential Oils for Bacterial Vaginosis
- 23 Tea Tree Essential Oil
- 24 Garlic Essential Oil
- 25 Coconut Essential Oil
- 26 Rosemary Essential Oil
- 27 Cinnamon Essential Oil
The History of the Use of Essential Oils
The ancient Egyptians used essential oils to treat health concerns and even for embalming dead bodies. They valued some oils so much for their health-giving properties that they were more prized than gold. The Greeks and Romans used oils as medicines and in steam baths to cure a lot of health problems and promote general well-being, and the Chinese and Indians used them in medicines and in healing rituals.
In the early 1900’s, a chemist discovered that lavender oil could heal burns after he applied some following an accident in his lab. This encouraged him to look into the ways that essential oils could benefit health. Oils were used as a treatment for wounds suffered by soldiers in the first world war.
Soon after, scientists discovered how to extract active compounds from plants that gave them their health benefits, and thus began the road to the discovery of some of the medicines that exist today.
Oils became more popular and were used in spas, in personal care products, and even in conventional healthcare.
Unfortunately, concrete scientific evidence on their effectiveness for some conditions is lacking, as studies are either very small and limited, or they are carried out on animals. Nevertheless, there is some promising research that suggests that essential oils could be just as effective as antibiotics, or more so, in some cases, and that some oils can even shrink tumors.
Many people are being convinced enough by this to give essential oils a try, as they don’t have the side effects of conventional drugs, or the hefty price tag. What many people need is something that brings their body back into balance, and essential oils can do just that.
How to Use Essential Oils
Here are some of the most popular ways to use essential oils to benefit your wellbeing:
Add Them to the Bath
Add a few drops of oil to your bathwater and mix it well. Lie back and enjoy an aromatherapy treat that will boost your circulation and relax you.
Mix your chosen oil with a carrier oil before you use it on the skin, as neat oil can cause a skin reaction. Massage boosts the blood flow so it can enhance the absorption of the oil into the body. Massage with oils is excellent for muscle aches, reducing stress, PMT, headaches, and much more.
If you are suffering from congestion because of a cold or a sinus infection, add a few drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil to a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel, keep your eyes closed, and inhale the vapor.
Add Them to Your Favorite Body Lotion
Add a few drops of oil to your favorite body lotion to add health benefits and give the skin an extra nourishing treat.
Apply Them to a Compress
Add a few drops of your chosen oil to a bowl of warm water. Soak a washcloth in the water and wring it out. Apply it to areas where you need it, whether it’s to treat a headache, menstrual cramps, or joint pain.
Essential Oil Safety
- Always follow the instructions on dosage and usage, plus any special warnings.
- Keep essential oils away from the eyes, ears, genitals, and any areas of broken skin.
- Keep oils away from children and pets, as they can be toxic if ingested.
- Always dilute an oil before applying it to the skin. Oils are very concentrated and can cause irritation if applied to the skin undiluted, so always mix them with a carrier oil first.
- Avoid ingestion of essential oils unless you are doing so under the supervision of a trained professional.
- Speak to your doctor about using oils if you are taking medication or you have a medical condition, as some oils can interact with medicines.
- Oils should not be used in pregnancy, as there is a lack of evidence on their safety.
The vagina is a muscular organ that connects the neck of the womb (the cervix) to the outside of the body. It’s located in the pelvic region behind the bladder and in front of the rectum. The vagina is around 4 inches long, and has no definite width because it is a potential space that expands during intercourse and childbirth.
The inner tissue of the vagina secretes fluid to lubricate the vagina and to give it an acidic pH to prevent the overgrowth of bacteria or yeast. The deep tissue of the vagina is smooth connective tissue that allows the vagina to stretch.
During childbirth, the vagina acts as a birth canal for the baby to move down and out of the body. It also provides an outlet for menstrual flow to leave the body.
Common Vaginal Problems
Many women suffer from vaginal problems throughout their lives, related to menstruation, aging, or pregnancy, among other things.
A change in vaginal secretions or discharge is often the first sign of a vaginal problem, and this is often accompanied by a burning feeling with urination or needing to urinate more frequently. You might also experience pelvic pain and irregular bleeding, depending on the cause. Conditions that can cause these symptoms include:
- Vaginal infections, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, human papillomavirus (HPV), or herpes.
- Infection of the cervix.
- An object left in the vagina for too long, as a tampon.
- Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia or gonorrhea.
- Vaginal douching or using perfumed products in the vagina.
- Vaginal infections
- Vaginal infections can be caused by an overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, or viruses, or an imbalance in the vaginal flora, or good bacteria.
The most common types of vaginal infection are:
- Candida: a yeast infection, also known as thrush
- Bacterial infections: such as bacterial vaginosis
- Parasitic infections: like the sexually transmitted disease trichomoniasis
Symptoms of vaginal infection
- Increase or change in vaginal discharge: it can appear grey or green, or the consistency can change
- Vaginal redness, swelling, itching, or pain
- An unpleasant vaginal odor: the odor can smell fishy with some infections
- Burning sensation upon urination
- Pain or bleeding after intercourse
If you are pregnant, always see your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection, as some infections can affect your baby. Infections need to be treated properly, and home treatment might not be appropriate.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection of the vagina which occurs when the balance of bacteria in the vagina is disrupted. There’s usually no soreness with this infection, but you will develop an unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge, which can appear clear, white or grey in color. It isn’t a serious problem unless you are pregnant.
When to See Your Doctor
If you notice that you are getting discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you, see your doctor or go to a sexual health clinic, to rule out anything more serious. Untreated infections can cause complications and even infertility. Your doctor will likely examine your vagina and take a swab, so it can be sent away to determine the cause of the abnormal discharge.
What Causes Bacterial Vaginosis
There are many different bacteria living in the vagina that work to keep it healthy, but when something happens to upset the natural balance, that’s when infections can occur.
The vagina should contain plenty of a bacteria called lactobacilli, which produce lactic acid. The lactic acid creates an acidic environment where other bacteria generally can’t grow.
Where there is a lack of lactobacilli, the vagina is not acidic enough to stop other bacteria from growing, which can lead to infection, and yeast infections.
What upsets the natural balance is not always known, but what is known is that you are more at risk of infection if you are sexually active. Antibiotics for other infections can cause the pH to elevate because antibiotics kill off the good bacteria, lactobacillus. Bacterial vaginosis is not sexually transmitted, however.
Some things can increase your risk of bacterial vaginosis, including:
- Using perfumed soaps or bubble baths
- Using vaginal deodorant, wipes, or similar
- Vaginal douching
- Using strong detergents to wash your underwear
Treatment for Bacterial Vaginosis
The infection can be treated with a course of antibiotic tablets or a topical antibiotic gel that is applied inside of the vagina. The antibiotic tablets are usually taken twice per day for up to 7 days to clear the infection. It is common for bacterial vaginosis to return, despite treatment. If you get repeated bouts of the infection, you may be sent to a specialist for investigation. Some people advocate applying live yogurt, that contains probiotics to the vagina, however, there is no conclusive evidence that this can get rid of bacterial vaginosis.
Metronidazole is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic for the infection. It’s usually taken as a tablet you take twice per day for up to 7 days, a single higher dose tablet, or a gel you apply inside of the vagina for 5 days. You can take metronidazole if you’re pregnant too. If you are breastfeeding, you won’t generally be prescribed the tablets as the drug can pass to your baby via breast milk. You will be prescribed the gel in this case.
If you have ever had a reaction to metronidazole, you may be prescribed an antibiotic cream such as clindamycin, which you have to apply inside of the vagina for 7 days.
You must always finish your course of treatment, even if the symptoms have cleared up to prevent the infection from returning.
Side Effects of Antibiotics
Metronidazole can cause nausea, vomiting and a strange metallic taste in the mouth. To minimize the risk of side effects, take it with food. If the drug makes you vomit, an alternative might need to be prescribed. Alcohol is absolutely contraindicated when taking this medicine. It can interact with alcohol and cause very unpleasant side effects such as palpitations, vomiting, and flushing. Alcohol should be avoided for 48 hours after stopping treatment too.
If the Initial Treatment Doesn’t Work
Just one course of antibiotics doesn’t work for some people. You might be offered an alternative, or if it’s your contraception that is causing it, you may be offered an alternative method.
Vaginal pH Correction Treatments
These are a brand-new way of treating the infection. You apply a gel to your vagina to change the pH, making it more acidic, so that bacteria can’t thrive. You can get this treatment from some pharmacies. Studies on their effectiveness are mixed, however, and there is no clear indication that they are any better or less effective than antibiotics.
Referral to a Specialist
If you get repeated bouts of infection, you may be referred to a specialist clinic for investigation and treatment. If you are pregnant, your consultant or healthcare team will discuss your options.
When you are getting treatment for bacterial vaginosis, avoid douching your vagina, using perfumed bubble baths and soaps, and harsh detergents. Douching is dangerous and can make you predisposed to infections in your fallopian tubes.
Complications of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
If you get this infection during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of a miscarriage or premature labor.
Increased vaginal discharge is normal in pregnancy, but unpleasant smelling discharge which appears to be an unusual color is not. Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
Bacterial Vaginosis: Is It a Sexually Transmitted Infection?
Experts says it’s not. Evidence is limited to indicate that there is a direct connection between BV and sexual transmission.
Evidence to suggest that it might be sexually transmitted:
- Rates of infection are higher in women who have a lot of sexual partners
- Rates of infection are lower in women who use a condom during intercourse
- There’s also evidence that infected women can pass the infection on to women they have sexual contact with, though experts are not sure exactly why this happens
Evidence to suggest that it’s not sexually transmitted:
- There’s no comparable infection in men
- Treating the partners of infected women doesn’t prevent the infection from returning
- Rates of infection can vary according to factors like ethnicity, which has little to do with sexual activity
- The infection can occur in women who are not sexually active
- Experts think that while it’s likely that sexual activity plays some role in the cause of infection, there are most likely other factors coming into play too.
Essential Oils for Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina, namely that one type of bacteria overgrows. This can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory conditions, which can lead to infertility. Essential oils are one suggested treatment you might have come across if you have been doing your research.
There are some oils with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which will help to reduce the symptoms and stop the infection getting any worse. What’s even better is that these treatments are easy to do, cheap, and don’t cause side effects.
To be clear though, don’t use oils instead of conventional treatment, as you might risk serious problems. Always consult your doctor for advice.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree oil is a potent antibacterial agent. It can help to get rid of any overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, without the side effects of treatments like antibiotics. You should never use tea tree oil directly on such a sensitive area, however, adding up to 10 drops of oil to your bath water should be effective enough.
Garlic Essential Oil
Garlic is a potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, and it has been used for these reasons for thousands of years to treat health problems. You can apply garlic oil topically, but mix it with other oils if you find the smell too pungent. Garlic will help to reduce the symptoms of vaginal odor and discharge. It’s also a great immune booster so it will help your body to fight the infection. Remember oils applied to the vagina can cause more problems than they solve. It’s generally recommended that only water-soluble gels be placed in the vagina. It would be better to ingest garlic capsules.
Coconut Essential Oil
This oil contains a compound called lauric acid, which has been shown in studies to have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. Rub coconut oil onto the vagina 3 times each day. You can also include coconut oil in your diet to boost your immunity and bacteria balance from the inside out. Coconut oil can contribute to BV, however. Put coconut extract in glycerin for best results.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary is best known for its use in cuisine, but It’s also known for its potent antibacterial properties. You can apply rosemary oil topically, but always dilute it with a carrier oil to avoid sensitivity. Best to use water-soluble, not oil solutions.
Cinnamon Essential Oil
Cinnamon oil—put cinnamon in glycerin– stimulates the immune system and it’s been used for many years to cure all different kinds of health concerns. Its potent antibacterial action is effective for eliminating bacteria from the vaginal area and restoring balance.
BV is the most common form of vaginitis even though there is a limited inflammatory response. Changes in pH due to the destruction of lactobacillus can lead to both BV and yeast vaginitis. Itching is the most common symptom of yeast while fishy odor is most common with BV. Probiotics may play a role in eradicating BV naturally. Since biofilms are linked to BV and yeast vaginitis, do not put oils in the vagina. Herbs can be placed in glycerin if a holistic approach is desired.
Updated: September 8, 2018 by Dr. Kimberly Langdon M.D. All medical facts and points stated on this page are correct as of this date. Please be aware that new content and additional references were added in this last update. All the content and media has been uploaded by Lily Greene our webmaster, who is also in charge of page design.