This article is a systematic review of the literature regarding the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis. A search was conducted of all published literature on conventional search engines (PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Registry, CINAHL, LILACS) and alternative medicine databases (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, Longwood Herbal Taskforce, and Alternative Medicine Alert), for all studies of the five most commonly used CAM treatments of vaginitis. Inconsistencies in definition of vaginitis, type of intervention, control groups, and outcomes prevented performance of a meta-analysis, and paucity of high-quality studies made ranking by evidence-based scales unsuitable. Lactobacillus recolonization (via yogurt or capsules) shows promise for the treatment of both yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis with little potential for harm. Boric acid can be recommended to women with recurrent vulvovaginal Candidal infections who are resistant to conventional therapies, but can occasionally cause vaginal burning. Because of associated risks in the absence of well-documented clinical benefits, douching remains a practice that should not be recommended for the treatment of vaginitis. Finally, tea tree oil and garlic show some in vitro potential for the treatment of vaginitis, but the lack of in vivo studies preclude their recommendation to patients for the time-being. The available evidence for CAM treatments of vaginitis is of poor quality despite the prevalent use of these therapies. Well-designed randomized, controlled trials investigating the efficacy and safety of these therapies for vaginitis are needed before any reliable clinical recommendations can be made.
Target audience: Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians.
Learning objectives: After completion of this article, the reader will be able to list the most common complementary and alternative medicine therapies for vaginitis, summarize the data surrounding the efficacy of each therapy, describe the adverse affects of each therapy, and outline which therapies are recommended and not recommended for vaginitis.