CONDITION SPOTLIGHT: Cool the Damp Heat
Solving Yeast Overgrowth with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Learn how Traditional Chinese Medicine interacts with common yeast infections and which ingredients give it the potential to be an alternative to antibiotics.
Most people know that a yeast infection is an overgrowth of yeast fungus, often in the vagina. While many over-thecounter antifungal products are available, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers options to resolve these unpleasant infections in a natural and enormously effective manner.
Natural remedies are highly effective and can often work quicker than conventional medications. These remedies work with the body to reclaim a state of balance, and generally do so without the painful side effects found alongside chemical treatments. Fungal infections can also develop resistance to drugs, whereas these alternatives bypass that problem. By properly choosing effective natural remedies, you avoid contributing to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of yeast and other fungus.
Common symptoms associated with a vaginal yeast infection include itching, burning, and white discharge from the vagina. Just to be safe and thorough, it is good to note that there are other conditions which may give rise to similar symptoms. If you are unsure whether you have a yeast infection, check with your physician.
When dealing with any kind of infection, it is almost always better to use a multi-herb formula as opposed to a single herb. A multi-herb formula will provide a broader range of anti-infection phytochemicals (plant chemicals), and make it highly difficult for the yeast to adapt and survive. This results in much greater success wiping out the yeast.
A variety of Chinese herbs with antifungal properties use a wide range of plant chemicals to combat yeast, including berberine, palmatine, allincin, pseudolaric acid A and B, magnolol, honokiol, and galangin. Many herbs used in TCM exhibit both antifungal AND antibacterial activity. This explains why the same herb formula used for a vaginal yeast infection (fungal infection) may also be used for a bladder infection (bacterial infection).
While a board-certified acupuncturist might create formulas with individual herbs, there are a few readily available options for purchase. Phellostatin is an excellent and balanced remedy for yeast infections, and can be found online or purchased from an acupuncturist familiar with herbs. This product is made by a company called Health Concerns and is based on a classic Chinese herb formula. It has the ability to kill yeast, and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial. It also has herbs that can strengthen the immune system.
Another effective formula for treating yeast infections is known in Chinese as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (LDXGT). In English, it is known as Gentiana Drain Liver, Gentiana Combination, and Gentiana Drain Fire. Unlike Phellostatin, LDXGT strictly kills yeast and has no properties of strengthening the body. It shouldn’t be taken for extended periods of time, but this product is typically less expensive.
Another popular product is Lauricidin, a purified form of lauric acid. This is a type of fatty acid found in both coconut and human breast milk that has antifungal, antiviral, anti-amoebic, and antibacterial properties. It is possible to get monolaurin, the compound found in the product Lauricidin, directly from coconut products. Although this is a healthy regimen to follow, an acute yeast infection will be more effectively treated with the product itself. Other fatty acids such as caprylic acid, or undecylenic acid, also have known antifungal properties, and may be included in a course of therapy to fight yeast.
Various products contain enzymes that will digest yeast cell walls. Since fungi have cell walls made out of specific materials (chitin, glucans, and proteins), enzymes that break these materials down are effective at treating yeast infections. Biofilms are protective layers produced by pathogenic bacteria and yeast that reduce their exposure to antibiotics and our immune systems. It is believed that biofilms protect ongoing persistent infections, and they likely play a role in overgrowth of bacteria in the gut which are problematic for our bodies. One popular product called Interfase is designed to break down biofilm. Candida Factors is another high quality enzyme formula, but this product is only geared for yeast cell walls and does not break down biofilms. For women who tend to have recurrent yeast infections, one of these enzyme products can be highly beneficial.
As you can see, there are a wide range of effective natural remedies for yeast infections. Some of these come from so called traditional or indigenous forms of medicine, such as TCM or Ayurvedic medicine, while others come from modern research, such as the work on fatty acids done by John Kabara, PhD. One thing to keep in mind is that each of us has our own unique bio-individuality. A person may experience a yeast infection against a backdrop of all sorts of other health conditions, or constitutional tendencies. A simple example is a woman who has what is referred to in TCM as yin vacuity heat (think hot flashes, vaginal dryness). It’s like a body running low on coolant. Another woman with a yeast infection may have yang vacuity (think feeling cold, low energy) which is like having a poorly functioning pilot light on a stove.
The best way to take all these factors into account when selecting a natural remedy is to consult a licensed acupuncturist or other qualified healthcare practitioner familiar with natural methods of treatment. If you have a medical condition, are pregnant, nursing, or taking other supplements or medications, it is very important to seek professional guidance.