Boric Acid Suppositories: Why Doctors Advise Against Use for Vaginal Odor or Discomfort

As you may have seen on TikTok, boric acid suppositories placed in the vagina can help treat certain types of vaginal infections, but using them beyond that can throw off the vagina’s healthy bacteria balance.

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You don’t need personal care products to balance or freshen up your vagina.Getty Images

Boric acid suppositories have long been recommended by ob-gyns and health practitioners to help treat persistent or recurring vaginal issues like?yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis (BV). Recently, some TikTok influencers have been?promoting the idea that these capsules are a must-try miracle fix that can do everything from managing vaginal odor and discomfort, to curing vaginal dryness, to?keeping you feeling fresh down there?all day.

Is this a novel idea or a medical emergency waiting to happen? Here's what experts think about this social media fad.

Should You Follow This Boric-Acid-As-Cure-All Advice?

The answer is a definitive no. Medical experts say there isn’t any evidence that using boric acid suppositories will help with many of the symptoms or conditions the TikTok videos claim to improve. Beyond that, they could worsen the health of your vagina. “The bacterial flora of the vagina is a delicate balance that naturally protects the vagina,” says Jen Villavicencio, MD, lead for equity transformation at the?American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “Cleansing the vagina by any means threatens that balance and potentially increases the risk for vaginal infections, vaginitis, and vaginal injury. If you are struggling with a vaginal issue, consult a healthcare provider with experience in vaginal healthcare.”

What’s more, most of the personal products promoted as a way to “balance out yeast,” and “eliminate odor” are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Villavicencio adds that the broad availability of other products that claim to balance vaginal pH and provide all-day freshness are also unnecessary, since the vagina is primarily self-cleansing.

Vaginal Symptoms That Call for Medical Care

“If someone is experiencing unusual vaginal symptoms, such as itching, increased discharge, or a new odor, seek the counsel of a healthcare professional that can appropriately diagnose the issue and recommend proper treatment. For routine vulvar hygiene, we recommend only the use of water or unscented soaps, and only for external use,” she says.

Diagnosis and treatment is key. Untreated, some vaginal infections with symptoms of odor or itching can lead to serious problems, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or infertility.

What Are Boric Acid Suppositories?

The popular TikTok videos and claims may be new, but boric acid suppositories have been around for decades.?Boric acid is a white powder derived from the element boron. It has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties and can be found in household cleaners, insecticides, and laundry stain removers. It is safe in the vagina as a bacterial or antifungal treatment but can be toxic when taken orally, so it should never be taken by mouth. (Do not ingest!)

The appeal of these suppositories? It is simple: Boric acid is inexpensive, well tolerated, and allows the user to treat themselves without a doctor’s visit or prescription.

What Can Boric Acid Suppositories Treat Safely?

Boric acid suppositories aren’t unhealthy for the vagina if they are used as directed for an appropriate diagnosed condition.

Many different types of vaginal infections can occur; the suppositories can help relieve symptoms of itching and burning for infections caused by less common fungal strains.

Perhaps most importantly, boric acid suppositories may not help relieve symptoms as well or as quickly as a prescribed treatment or better targeted OTC inserts.

Vaginal Yeast Infections (Candidiasis)

Boric acid is a solid therapy for recurring vaginal yeast infections or infections with atypical yeast species, such as Candida glabrata or Candida tropicalis, according to the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington. However, most yeast infections are caused by a different species, Candida albans.

To treat a recurrent yeast infection, place one boric acid capsule in your vagina nightly before bed for two weeks, or as recommended by your healthcare provider. While the capsules are not harmful to the vagina as a yeast infection treatment, they should never be taken orally. An animal?study published in Frontiers In Immunology suggested that 5 percent boric acid gels can also be an effective treatment.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

While not as well studied as in yeast infections, boric acid may also provide relief for recurrent bacterial vaginosis, particularly when taken in conjunction with other therapies. According to?research published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases boric acid — used along with 500 milligrams of nitroimidazole, an antibiotic used to treat infections — improved symptoms in 92 out of 93 patients included in the study.

Recommendations for the Use of Boric Acid Suppositories

Pregnant people should not use boric acid suppositories. Talk to your doctor before you use boric acid if you have any of the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Frequent infections
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Immune system problems
  • An unusual or allergic reaction to boric acid, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives

Concerned About Vaginal Symptoms or Your Vaginal Health?

Make an in-person or telehealth appointment with your ob-gyn or other healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms of itching or burning that may be a sign of a yeast infection or BV. If you don’t have easy access to an ob-gyn, Planned Parenthood offers free or affordable telemedicine options for women both on their website and their app.

The Risks of Medical Misinformation vs. the Benefits of Reliable Sources

TikTok may be addictive, but their videos are no substitute for proper medical advice — and can even prove outright dangerous. “The spread of medical misinformation, myths, and fallacies is harmful for patients,” says Christopher M. Zahn, MD, chief for clinical practice at ACOG. “People seeking information about their health online should refer only to?reliable, reputable sources.

"Just because information is online or on social media doesn’t mean that it is true, or based on any reliable medical evidence. It is a sad reality that some people intentionally disseminate false information or simply decide to share unproven medical allegations without confirming the truth."

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