(image, Lady Ledwidge “A huge pinky-beige sharkskin bed…to swim in every night,” says Flora of the bed designed by her father Andre Groult in the 1920’s. From show me the way.)
My first brush with the clash between natural female home remedies and thier opponents, drugstore and corporate pharmaceuticals, came early on, before I was a teen. My father is a family doctor, with a special interest in homeopathy and herbal medicine, and I remember even as young as 10 years old being astonished when a little playmate's mother poured me out a capful of gooey, candy-apple liquid in her attempts to quell the coughing of a lingering cold while over at her house. I had never taken such an elixir; I dutifully imbibed it and remember the pleasantly hazy, muffled hours following in my friend's playhouse. I've rarely dabbled in cough syrups since that day, but the first impression has lasted me my lifetime.
You see, at my house, when we were sick, we drank vitamin C powders, strong and acidic, barely dissolved in a glass of unpasteurized orange juice. Belly aches were treated with hot chamomile teas, picked in the summers in the rocky northern Spanish countryside that surrounded the little village my mother is from, along with 'tila', the catch-all for the herb that makes tea tinctures in that part of the world. With muccus infections, we were instructed to avoid dairy, except for natural unflavored yoghurt, which was prescribed for soothing the stomach as well. A particulalry terrible week in June when I was 14 in Spain was spent sweating and suffering from a bad intenstinal poisoning, which happened to me frequently when drinking foreign water and under-cooked eggs, taking 10 large oregano herb pills and fresh ginger to fight the sick. Hot compresses and fizzy bicarbonate was a common technique I learned from both sides of women in my family for stomach upset as well. Later on in high school, I took elderberry for my immune system and homeopathics for flus and viruses. My mother and I both used St. John's Wort for the winters, when grayness clouded our psyches.
My first menstruations were accompanied by my mother's fervent opposition to my use of tampons and Midol, which, from the locker room commiserations and bathroom docterings, I gleaned, where the preferred methods of 'dealing' with the particular monthly ordeal. My use of tampons were forestalled until college, 18 years old, where I experienced them as another sort of independence, similar in nature to the tongue stud (large, glinting, sapphirate) I had punched through my cartilage in a Richmond, VA tattoo parlor with my best friend. My mother's thinking was that it was simply not natural to put bleached and scented cotton inside yourself, and while I mostly agree with her on this, many years later, I still use them, albeit unbleached and organic, when I can.
Last fall, I had another one of those moments where the natural teachings of my mother and father ran up against the manner in which women treat their bodies when things go awry. I had my first yeast infection, and it hurt. Not having my family network to treat my admittedly banal and secret condition, I turned to the 'ladies' aisle of my local Chicago CVS pharmacy. Vaginitis, the medical term for a yeast infection, is actually an overgrowth of bacteria in the vaginia. Usually the vadge has a natural balance of yeast and good bacteria in it, and self-regulates through your life. Contraceptive pills, douching, soaps and perfumes, baths, menopause, sex, STDs and the use of antibiotics(which indiscriminately wipe out all bacteria, good and bad), can cause the overgrowth of Candida yeast in the vagina, where it will overwhelm the good yeast and wreak havoc in the happy pink environment.
All I found in that aisle were commercial chemical nuclear-grade products, which made me intensely uncomfortable. The remedies were smelly, greasy, and terribly unrecognizable. A typical dose of Monasil, I learned, will kill everything in the vicinity of where it is applied, like low-grade chemo. Regardless, I bought a pack containing 10 ampules, which I was to put in my vagina twice a day for 5 days.
Before I did anything that night, I returned to my roots: I found internet home-remedies and I called my dad. He agreed with my assessment of the pharmacy solution as over-aggressive and harmful, and suggested I find my own way in treating myself. Yoghurt, something I'd been using for years, was the first course of action, being gentle and inexpensive, and highly therapuetic in yeast infection cases.
These remedies helped my clear my infection, and better yet, they were self-directed, passed on through women's at-home, DIY traditions, inexpensive, natural, and unreliant on large, corporate dictates governing over women's health. My first yeast infection taught me that I'm fiercely opposed to others telling me what to buy and do, trusting my body's functions; I'm all for Planned Parenthood, especially if, like in Illinois, you can receive treatment for free through state-health initiatives for women, but uninstitutionalizing day-to-day health care for women has become a real practice for me, and I'd rather trust on age-old natural remedies over sticking the equivalent of cough syrup inside of me, without knowing anything about my condition. I would rather know I have an arsenal of time-honored women's knowledge on treating ourselves; why would I instantly trust a product marketed to 'disinfect' myself, to pathologize my body and its imbalances?
Here are 4 highly effective natural home remedies for helping yourself when you have a Yeast Infection: ie, The natural answer to Monasil:
Use plain, unflavored, ideally unpasteurized organic yoghurt. Some women prefer to soak and coat tampons with room-temp'd yoghurt, and insert it overnight. You can also simply scoop some up with a small spoon or your fingers and gently insert it. Keep inside for 4-8 hours, using a pad if you are afraid of leaking(which is not smelly . . . it's only yoghurt!).
My first impression learning that yoghurt was helpful in clearing infections was that it was intuitively comfortable, having used yoghurt before on stomach cases, and sometimes even on my face. It is highly effective, as it replaces the natural flora of your vagina in a gentle manner.
Garlic is known for its antiseptic properties, and is used for colds and general uses. This sounds totally freaky, I'll grant you, and I've never tried it, but many women swear by it: unpeel a clove of garlic, making sure to not nick it. Wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth, though some people don't. Put it in your vagina, making sure not to push it up as far as you would a tampon. Helpful before sleep, make sure to remove it after 6-8 hours.
3. Cranberry juice
A lot of women I know drink cran juice to eliminate YIs. The only problem is that they drink super-sugary, 'cranberry cocktail' drinks. This remedy does absolutely nothing; in fact, the sugar content that they drink all day is only worsening the condition, as a lot of sugar only feeds Candida. For this remedy, only pure, unfiltered cran juice can be used, the sour, dark kind. It can be found in many groceries, as long as it is labeled 100% and free of sugar. Trader Joe's carries a great cranberry juice product. If you don't like the acidity of the jice, cut it with water, and sip all day.
Gentian Violet is excellent for YIs. Make sure, if you go this route, to buy distilled genetian extract and dilute it 1:2 with water. In general, using extracts should be done carefully and with research, as direct undiluted contact can be harmful. Whole Foods carries this product, but make sure it doesn't contain alcohol. With gentian violet, you need to 'paint' the vulva, including the labia. It does stain a bit, so wear black undies or a pad! This is a highly effective treatment, usually clearing up infections within one treatment.
If you have any questions, do please email me! Home-remedies can be scary at first, I realize, and the point in them is sharing with others who have experience in them.
Keep tuned for home-remedies for cramps and headaches, as well as natural female contraceptive methods.