Can You Use Boric Acid to Treat Bacterial Vaginosis?

If you get frequent infections, your healthcare provider may recommend boric acid suppositories.

Your vagina naturally houses "good" bacteria that keep it healthy. But any change in that environment can upset the balance, leading to infections like bacterial vaginosis (BV). Antibiotics usually treat BV and rid you of symptoms like itching, burning, unusual discharge, and strong fishy odor.² But if you're dealing with recurrent infections, you might consider using home remedies like boric acid.

Boric acid comes in a suppository form for vaginal use, but research on boric acid for BV is pretty limited. Boric acid suppositories are considered safe. Sometimes they're used to treat recurrent BV when combined with antibiotics. But that doesn't mean you should use an over-the-counter (OTC) boric acid product without talking to your doctor first.

What Is Boric Acid?

Boric acid is a white powder derived from the element boron. It has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. You can find boric acid as an ingredient in household cleaners and insecticides—or on its own as a pest killer or laundry stain-remover.

Boric acid is also available as an OTC suppository for balancing vaginal pH, bacteria, and yeasts when inserted into the vagina. Some boric acid suppositories also claim to control vaginal odor and contain additional ingredients like aloe and tea tree oil. However, these products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). OTC boric acid suppositories are sold as homeopathic products, meaning the FDA has not evaluated their safety and effectiveness.

OBGYN shows patient an illustration of the vagina
peakSTOCK/Getty Images

How Boric Acid Treats Bacterial Vaginosis

BV can be frustrating if you have recurrent infections after antibiotic treatment. Studies show using boric acid suppositories with antibiotics as a complementary treatment—or as a preventive measure—can help treat some recurrent BV infections. But research on how effective boric acid is in treating BV is still limited. And using boric acid suppositories alone probably won't cure your infection.

A 2020 review in the Journal of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association found that combining antibiotic treatment and 300- to 600-milligram boric acid suppositories twice a week helped treat recurrent BV and yeast infections. But using boric acid suppositories alone was ineffective. An older study from 2009 had similar findings, with a cure rate of 92% when women with BV took 600-milligram boric acid suppositories and antibiotics for 12 weeks.

The exact way boric acid works to help treat BV also isn't fully understood. One theory is that it can help eliminate bacteria that cause the infection.

Just make sure you always consult your doctor before using a boric acid suppository if you think you have BV. Antibiotics in cream, gel, or pill form are still the most effective BV treatment since they kill the infection.

Is It Safe To Use Boric Acid For BV?

For most people, inserting boric acid suppositories into the vagina is considered safe. But you should not use boric acid suppositories if you're treating BV while pregnant or trying to get pregnant.

Boric acid is harmful if taken orally. Ingesting 30 grams of boric acid is considered toxic—less than the typical 600 milligrams used in boric acid suppositories.

There is no evidence that boric acid suppositories can poison you when used vaginally. Possible side effects from boric acid vaginal suppositories include mild vaginal irritation or watery discharge.

Still, always chat with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to use a boric acid suppository to help treat your BV.

How to Use Boric Acid for BV

If your healthcare provider gives you the OK, you can find OTC boric acid suppositories at your local pharmacy or drugstore. Most boric acid suppositories come in 600-milligram doses that you insert once a day for 1-2 weeks. For BV prevention, your doctor may suggest continuing treatment 2-3 times a week.⁶ Your healthcare provider may also suggest an entirely different treatment plan based on your individual BV situation.

Before inserting a boric acid vaginal suppository, wash and dry your hands. Then with clean, dry fingers (or a disposable applicator if provided), insert one capsule into your vagina as far up as comfortable. It can be helpful to lie down with your knees bent or slightly squatting. Then, throw out your applicator if you used one and rewash your hands.

Some folks also like to wear a pad or panty liner to help collect any discharge from the suppository. You will also want to avoid having sex while using boric acid suppositories and treating BV.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If BV keeps returning after antibiotic treatment, adding a boric acid suppository with antibiotics may help treat recurrent infections. Just make sure it's OK with your doctor.

Not treating BV can increase your risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and having BV while pregnant can cause premature birth and low-birth weight. So, it's important to see your doctor if you have BV and start treatment right away. BV symptoms to look for may include unusual white or gray discharge, a strong fishy odor, burning, and itching. And while BV is not considered an STI, if your partner has a vagina, they may be at risk of BV as well. They should also visit a doctor to get tested for BV and receive treatment if they have it.

Even though BV is the most common vaginal infection, the exact cause isn't understood beyond bacteria overgrowth. Douching or having new or multiple partners may increase your risk of BV since these activities can disrupt vaginal bacteria. If you're prone to BV, avoiding douches and scented vaginal products, wearing cotton underwear, and using condoms and dental dams may help prevent infections.

Recap

Bacterial vaginosis is a common infection that causes symptoms such as itching, burning, vaginal discharge, and fishy odor. Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment. However, there may be a role for boric acid suppositories, a homeopathic product intended for vaginal use.

While the research on boric acid for BV is limited, doctors sometimes recommend boric acid suppositories to treat people who get repeated infections. While considered generally safe, these capsules can cause mild skin irritation. Pregnant people and those trying to get pregnant should not use boric acid suppositories. It's also important to stow suppositories out of the reach of children because boric acid can be fatal if consumed orally. Talk to your healthcare provider before using boric acid suppositories for BV.

Was this page helpful?
Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chen X, Lu Y, Chen T, Li R. The Female Vaginal Microbiome in Health and Bacterial VaginosisFront Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021;11:631972. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2021.631972

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial Vaginosis – CDC Basic Fact Sheet.

  3. National Library of Medicine. Boric acid.

  4. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Homeopathic Products.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bacterial vaginosis.

  6. UpToDate from Wolters Kluwer. Bacterial vaginosis: Treatment.

  7. Powell A, Ghanem KG, Rogers L, et al. Clinicians’ use of intravaginal boric acid maintenance therapy for recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis and bacterial vaginosis. Sex Transm Dis. 2019;46(12):810-812. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001063

  8. Reichman O, Akins R, Sobel JD. Boric acid addition to suppressive antimicrobial therapy for recurrent bacterial vaginosis. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2009;36(11):732–734. doi:10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181b08456

  9. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. ToxFAQs for Boron.

  10. National Library of Medicine, DailyMed. Hylafem Boricum Acidum 2X- boricum acidum suppository.

  11. Office on Women's Health. Bacterial vaginosis.

Related Articles