It’s never fun when things start going south down south. Unfortunately, the vagina is a moist, warm environment that can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Perhaps that’s why so many women suffer from vaginal infections every year. Whether you’re dealing with a singular or recurring yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis, the discomfort of the infection can be enough to send anyone over the edge.
Let’s take a look at the different types of vaginal infections, how they’re traditionally treated and whether cannabis shows any promise managing the symptoms of these sometimes painful infections.
What Are the Most Common Vaginal Infections?
There are many types of vaginal infections, but the good news is that virtually all of them are treatable. Three of the most common vaginal infections are:
- Bacterial vaginosis: A very common infection caused by an imbalance or overgrowth of a bacteria called Gardnerella. Gardnerella is actually a naturally present bacterium in the vagina. But when it grows beyond its normal level, it can cause some serious discomfort like:
- Vaginal discharge
- Yeast infection: Yeast-based infections, also known as candidiasis, are the most common vaginal infections. Having a normal level of candida, the fungus associated with yeast infections, is nothing to worry about. Natural bacteria in your private parts will usually keep the growth of yeast under control. It’s only when the levels of yeast rise to a higher concentration that it can cause issues. These issues can include:
- High levels of milky discharge
- Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis is the only sexually transmitted infection on this list. It also happens to be the most commonly contracted curable sexually transmitted disease, affecting 3.7 million Americans. Trichomoniasis is caused by a microscopic parasite found in the vagina and urethral tissues. While it almost always affects women, it’s possible for men to get the infection as well.
Marijuana’s Antibacterial & Antifungal Properties Can Help Treat Vaginal Infections
All of the vaginal infections we’ve talked about come from the overgrowth or appearance of bacteria or fungus. Interestingly, certain cannabinoids, the natural chemical compounds found in cannabis, have shown antibacterial and antifungal properties. These properties could prove to be effective medicine for vaginal infections and their symptoms.
In one study from 2008, published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers concluded that five major cannabinoids:
These results seem to, in part, back up a 1981 study from the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, in which CBC was tested as an antibacterial and antifungal on rats. The researchers concluded that CBC has strong antibacterial activity and mild to moderate antifungal properties.
The British Journal of Pharmacology went a bit further with a 2011 study, explaining that while CBD, CBG and CBC are all just moderate antifungal agents, these three cannabinoids may increase the power of caryophyllene oxide, a highly effective antifungal. According to the study, CBG and CBC both eradicated a common fungal infection in humans in 15 days. This is a comparable rate to many pharmaceutical antifungal drugs.
Cannabis’s Anti-Itch & Anti-inflammatory Properties Can Ease Vaginal Infection Symptoms
The power of cannabis as an anti-inflammatory is one of the most widely known medical applications of the plant. And while the body of research on cannabis as an anti-inflammatory isn’t directly connected to vaginal infections, much of the uncomfortable symptoms of vaginal infections are directly associated with inflammation.
Inflammation can not only cause pain, but also itching, which is a common symptom of most vaginal infections. A study from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology looked into the role of cannabinoids in dermatology.
The lead researcher, Dr. Robert Dellavalle, noted that of all the applications for cannabinoids in dermatology, perhaps the “most promising role for cannabinoids is the treatment of itch.” Dr. Dellavalle notes that in one study, eight of 21 people who applied cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks saw a complete elimination of severe itching.
The One Way You Shouldn’t Use Cannabis to Treat Vaginal Infections
Research indicates daily smoking of cannabis and/or tobacco can harm the ability of macrophages in the lungs to kill candida albicans, the fungus most commonly associated with yeast infections.
In a 2004 longitudinal cohort study by the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Case Western University, 1,248 women were observed over a 12-month period. The researchers concluded there was an association between vaginal yeast colonization and marijuana use in the previous four months. That said, there was no indication that yeast levels were high enough to cause an infection.
So, while smoking cannabis may cause elevated levels of yeast, it has more to do with the smoking of plant matter than it does the plant matter itself. So, if you’re thinking of including marijuana in your vaginal infection treatment plan, go for a cannabis tincture or topical.
A cannabis topical can be applied to the lower abdomen or back, which can sometimes feel painful and sore during a vaginal infection. Some topical marijuana products are designed specifically to be applied directly to the vagina, but with other cannabis topicals, be careful about applying them down there. The last thing you want to do is to further irritate the area.
If you want to try out a sublingual cannabis tincture, choose one that will target your needs. If you want something to reduce inflammation and itching, go for a high-CBD cannabis tincture. If you need something to dull the pain of the infection, you may want to try a product with a higher-THC content, depending on how well you tolerate the cannabinoid.
Overall, certain cannabinoids show promising antibacterial and antifungal power that could help treat vaginal infections. Or if you’re using traditional treatments like antibiotics or antifungal medication to treat a vaginal infection, cannabis could help manage the symptoms while you heal.
Photo credit: Jorge J Restrepo A.