Vaginitis is the inflammation of the vagina.
The vagina is the muscular canal from the cervix to the outside of the body.
Vaginitis is a very common condition and is characterized by discharge, itching, swelling, and pain. It is generally caused by infection.
The most common types of vaginitis include:
- Bacterial vaginosis: caused by the overgrowth of normal bacteria in the vagina
- Yeast infections: usually caused by a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans
- Trichomoniasis : caused by a sexually transmitted single-celled protozoan parasite Trichonomas vaginalis
- Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis): which results from reduced estrogen levels after menopause
Other less common infections are caused by gonorrhea, chlamydia, Mycoplasma, herpes, etc.
Oral/topical antibiotics and antimicrobial creams are prescribed to treat this condition. Change in diet and hygiene habits is also recommended.
In this article, we shall review how turmeric can aid in treating vaginitis.
Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to the relevant section in the article.
Table of Contents
- Turmeric Benefits in Vaginitis
- 1. Turmeric is a potent Anti-Inflammatory agent
- 2. Anti-Bacterial Effect of Turmeric in Vaginitis
- 3. Turmeric exhibits Anti-fungal activity
- 4. Turmeric potentiates the activity of anti-biotic medications
- 5. Turmeric acts as a Phytoestrogen
- 6. Turmeric acts as an anti-microbial contraceptive
- 7. Turmeric has an immunomodulatory effect
- 8. Anti-oxidant properties of Turmeric
- 9. Turmeric might regulate the microbial balance
Turmeric Benefits in Vaginitis
Turmeric is a staple spice used in most Asian households in cooking and as a remedy for several common ailments. Turmeric- especially its active constituent, Curcumin has been studied extensively for its beneficial properties in inflammatory conditions such as vaginitis owing to its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, and immunomodulatory potential.
1. Turmeric is a potent Anti-Inflammatory agent
Vaginitis is one of the most commonly occurring problems regarding the female reproductive system. The primary basis of its development is inflammation lasting for a prolonged period.
The active ingredient found in turmeric- curcumin can block inflammatory pathways in the body.
It does so in different mechanisms – by down regulating the expression of inflammation-causing genes, hampering the production of chemicals mediating the process of inflammation, and by increasing the production of anti-inflammatory molecules such as glutathione found naturally in the human body.
Turmeric, therefore, is a potent blocker of inflammation as it acts in different ways to curb inflammation synergistically.
As evidenced by clinical studies testing the efficacy of V Gel – a herbal formulation with turmeric as one of its main constituent on women with a clinically established diagnosis of vaginitis, turmeric was found to have a beneficial effect with most women reporting symptomatic reduction and relief in one and two weeks respectively.
What it means: Turmeric is beneficial in providing symptomatic betterment and relief in vaginitis by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent when applied topically. 3
2. Anti-Bacterial Effect of Turmeric in Vaginitis
The health of the vaginal area is primarily dependent on the type and diversity of the microbial flora existent therein.
Vaginal health is maintained when the number of good bacteria is more than harmful pathogenic bacteria.
Bacterial vaginitis is one of the most common types of vaginitis.
Studies have shown turmeric to exert an antibacterial effect on a broad spectrum of bacterial strains by compromising the integrity of the bacterial cell membrane rendering it susceptible to destruction by immune cells. 4 5
The other modes through which turmeric acts as an anti-bacterial agent is by blocking cell division of bacteria and by hampering the assembly of bacterial filaments essential for its structural integrity and survival. 6 7 8
Such inhibition of the growth of the bacteria present in the vagina and the surrounding tissues would warrant decreased rates of disease progression and ultimately reduces the duration of the disease condition.
What it means: Turmeric can help slow down the multiplication of bacteria in the vaginal area, thus aiding in the reduction of disease severity and improving prognosis in times to come.
3. Turmeric exhibits Anti-fungal activity
Fungal vaginitis is quite a common occurrence. The candida species is often the causative agent.
These fungi are airborne and usually are part of the healthy microbiome of the vagina in most women.
These end up being the reason for the development of vaginitis when their growth and multiplication is higher than usual.
This phenomenon is more prevalent in pregnant women, women with disease conditions supporting fungal growth such as diabetes, immune-suppressive conditions such as HIV and in cases of excessive antibiotic usage. 9 10
Turmeric has been shown to exert an inhibitory effect on fungal growth by altering fundamental enzymatic reactions of the microorganism, blocking energy generation, and degradation of fungal proteins essential, making it difficult for the fungal organisms to thrive in the body. 11 12
Research studies have shown turmeric to have a desirable effect in this regard but not as a primary agent per se.
The exploration of turmeric in this area has gained immense importance due to the rising incidence of resistance in fungal species to traditional anti-fungal medications. 13
What it means: Turmeric, although not as potent as conventional anti-fungal medications, shows a significant beneficial effect in dealing with fungal vaginitis and could, therefore, be explored as an adjuvant to regular treatment lines to approach the disease from a broader approach.
4. Turmeric potentiates the activity of anti-biotic medications
The primary ways in which turmeric helps in this regard is –
It enhances the efficacy of anti-biotics through several synergistic pathways –
By degradation of the cell wall, leakage of cellular components, protein damage, interference with the enzymatic activities inside the cell, affect the synthesis of DNA and RNA, impairment of the cellular energy production. 16
Turmeric extracts have shown a synergistic effect with antibiotics in showing an antimicrobial effect against bacterial pathogens.
A combination of the agent with an anti-biotic was found to be more potent than the singular agent in either case.
The other way it helps is by regulating the resistance exhibited by pathogens towards anti-biotic medications, ultimately improving their efficiency.
Thus it can be concluded that a combination of antibiotics alongside turmeric can be used effectively to target the treatment of various infections.
What it means: Turmeric has been shown to boost the activity and efficacy of anti-biotic medications by various pathways. It can desirably aid disease management, reduce symptom intensity, and disease progression.
5. Turmeric acts as a Phytoestrogen
A reduction in estrogen levels in the body is a prominent risk factor for the development of vaginitis.
A decrease in estrogen levels results in thinning of the endometrial layer and alteration of the vaginal pH predisposing the person to infections of the vagina as well as the urinary system and to a mechanical weakness that usually progresses to inflammatory conditions such as vaginitis. 17 18
Turmeric is an established phytoestrogen – that is a plant source of estrogen that functionally mimic human estrogen.
Supplementation with turmeric could, therefore, be a potential addition to therapy pending further extensive research. 21
What it means: Turmeric could potentially benefit in vaginitis by mimicking estrogen found in the body, thereby reducing the chances of infection, mechanical damage, and inflammation driving vaginitis. It could, therefore, help in the symptomatic reduction and prevent relapse of the condition.
6. Turmeric acts as an anti-microbial contraceptive
As evidenced by research carried out fundamentally at the University of West Virginia, turmeric exhibits a spermicidal – contraceptive effect alongside a significant anti-biotic impact. 22
With conventionally used steroid type oral contraceptives being linked with an increased risk of developing vaginitis, turmeric could be a revolutionary option for contraception without the harmful side effects of traditional agents. 22 23 24
This is especially important in the case of the population of women at a higher risk of infection or inflammatory diseases and those with a previous history of such conditions.
Turmeric could potentially be a safer contraceptive option for women at risk for bacterial, yeast, and microbial infections of the reproductive systems.
What it means: Turmeric could be useful as a novel contraceptive agent, especially in high-risk populations, and its anti-microbial profile could further add to the benefit in such conditions.
7. Turmeric has an immunomodulatory effect
Several studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of curcumin – the most widely student active constituent of turmeric in strengthening and modulating the immune system response when the body is faced with an infection or even an inflammatory condition. 25
Inflammation, as also seen in the case of vaginitis, could be a result of excessive stimulation of the immune system and its constituent cells and genes.
Curcumin has also been known to mount an effective enough immune response involving phagocytosis to help ward off bacterial and yeast infections alike.
What it means: As turmeric can effectively modulate the activity of the immune system in fighting infections and inflammation, it could be beneficial for use in vaginitis for both symptomatic relief and cure.
8. Anti-oxidant properties of Turmeric
Vaginitis is characterized by inflammation. The main driver of inflammatory response such as this is free radicals released as regular by-products of metabolic and enzymatic reactions in the vaginal region. 28
The most commonly found free radicals are Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Reactive Nitrogen Species generated by neutrophils and macrophage cells involved in the immune response process. 29
Curcumin – the active constituent in turmeric has been evidenced to have the ability to neutralize these harmful, inflammation-causing free radicals and hamper their production at a genetic level.
The second pathway through which curcumin exerts its anti-oxidant effect is by upregulating the production of a molecule called glutathione, which is a naturally occurring antioxidant compound in the body. 30
In this way, curcumin effectively protects the cells and tissues from oxidative stress and thereby prevents the development of inflammation in the area.
What it means: Curcumin in turmeric exhibits a protective antioxidant effect on cells and tissues. It can, therefore, be instrumental in preventing disease recurrence and also alleviate symptoms and promote healing of the inflamed tissues.
9. Turmeric might regulate the microbial balance
A study conducted at the University of California has examined the effect of turmeric on the quality and diversity of the gut microbiome. 31
Since vaginal health is driven by the balance of the microbiome in the region, it is a promising development to witness the effect of turmeric in this case.
The studies on the subject have suggested that turmeric is associated with a better composition of the gut microbiome via its prebiotic effect.
Although, it has been reported that there exists a significant proportion of inter-person variability in the results, which might be due to the highly variable absorption profile of turmeric through the intestines. 32 33
Ultimately, there is inconclusive evidence to support the use of turmeric as a first-line agent for the regulation of balance in the microbiome and vaginitis. Further research is required on the subject to make causal associations.
What it means: Turmeric might aid in establishing balance in the microbiome and thereby help in the betterment of the vaginal infections and associated symptoms.
The best way of using turmeric for treating vaginitis is to include it in your diet. You can make the Golden Paste and add a dollop of it to your salad, soup, or rice preparation. Turmeric Milk on a daily basis should help.
However, I would still suggest good quality turmeric powder or even raw turmeric over curcumin supplements for vaginitis.
No adverse effects have been reported on the consumption of turmeric in a regular diet.
- Turmeric supplements should be avoided in case of pregnancy and lactation.
- If consuming blood-thinning medications for diabetes then turmeric supplements should be avoided.
- Due to its blood-thinning property, turmeric supplements should be discontinued 15 days prior to the treatment.
- Turmeric supplements should be taken with caution in case of gallbladder disorders, bile passage obstructions, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties are of therapeutic purpose in vaginitis. This inexpensive herbal remedy can serve as a cure for vaginitis and also act in synergy with conventional treatment.