Honey… I have something to tell you…
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections passed from one person to another person through sexual contact. An infection is when a bacteria, virus, or parasite enters and grows in or on the body. More than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. It is estimated that more than one million sexually transmitted infections are acquired every day worldwide1. That's a lot!
How are STIs transmitted?
Do you mean apart from the obvious? Many STIs are spread through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. They can also be spread through contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth.
Some common sexually transmitted infections include chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital warts, herpes, gonorrhoea, syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV.
What are the symptoms of sexually transmitted infections?
Some STIs have only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Symptoms vary for each infection, but they can include sores or blisters on or around the genital area or in the mouth, pain or burning during urination, unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, itching, swelling, pain in or around the vagina or penis, pain in the pelvic area or abdomen or bleeding.
Women often have more serious health problems from STIs than men. For example, chlamydia and gonorrhoea, if left untreated, can cause infertility.
Do STI home remedies work?
Natural medicine can be an effective treatment for some sexually transmitted infections and can help to reduce the symptoms experienced by the individual. In some cases, natural remedies can provide safe and effective treatment. In others, medical treatments, such as antibiotics, may be necessary, although we would always recommend using complementary medicine alongside any conventional treatment to ensure the best results.
Nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, zinc, and probiotics are important for proper immune functioning.
Vitamin A is necessary for the normal growth and integrity of epithelial tissues, such as the vaginal mucosa. Vitamin A also provides resistance to infection. A deficiency of vitamin A can increase susceptibility to genital tract infections, including syphilis2.
Vitamin C improves connective tissue integrity and can help reduce the spread of infection. It is useful in diminishing the frequency and severity of outbreaks of herpes.
Vitamin E increases the immune response and is useful in treating infections. It can be taken orally or applied topically to inflamed areas.
Low levels of zinc are associated with lowered immunity. Zinc is also essential for the proper utilisation of vitamin A. Treatment with topical and oral zinc can help reduce symptoms of herpes. High levels of zinc can also benefit symptoms of chlamydia and trichomoniasis that haven't responded to antibiotic therapy.
Probiotics can help support the immune system, and they are also beneficial in restoring gut microflora after antibiotic use.
Medical plants have a long history of being used for treating infectious diseases due to their antiviral and antibacterial activity. Some have general immune system boosting effects, and some have specific effects on bacteria and viruses. Research demonstrates activity against organisms that cause some STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and herpes.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal and has shown to be effective against a multitude of infections, including gonorrhoea3.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has been used successfully in treating herpes due to its antiviral activity 4.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Oregon grape (Berberis vulgaris) contain the chemical compound berberine, which has a significant effect against many bacteria, including the microorganisms that cause gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. Berberine enhances immune function when taken internally and can provide symptomatic relief when used in douching solutions because it is soothing to inflamed mucous membranes.
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) has strong antibacterial and antifungal actions and can be effective against candida and trichomoniasis.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp)has a long history of use as an anti-infective agent, indicated for bacterial infections, such as syphilis.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), a member of the mint family, is an antiviral agent. It can be taken internally or applied topically in the form of creams. Studies have shown that Melissa extracts effectively reduce the frequency and severity of genital herpes lesions 5.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)– is an antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral agent, as well as being anti-inflammatory, immune-stimulating, and wound healing. Aloe has been found to improve the inflammation, pain, redness, and itching associated with herpes lesions6.
Homeopathic treatment can also be utilised for sexually transmitted infections. The homeopathic remedy Medorrhinum is useful for gonorrhoea, andCantharis can benefit chlamydia symptoms.
Some other natural treatments that can be useful in the treatment of sexually transmitted infections include Colloidal silver and honey! Colloidal silver can help reduce inflammation and promote healing of syphilitic lesions, and honey contains an enzyme (glucose oxidase) that helps kill bacteria.
A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet is recommended in all cases to ensure optimal health and strong immunity. A diet low in trans and saturated fats, sugar, and refined foods are important.
And, of course, prevention is key – practice safe sex, such as using condoms or diaphragms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex, and get regular sexual health checks.
To make the most of these natural therapies and more, we recommend you consult your local Nutritionist/Herbalist/Naturopath/Homeopath. While this article aims to be informative, these practitioners have years of training in their field. They will be able to advise on the best uses of these natural remedies to help you get the best results and return back to a happier and healthier life!
Want to learn more?
If you want to learn more about natural health, Switch on Health has several short courses and accredited qualifications that you will love, including Advanced Diplomas in Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Naturopathy, and Homeopathy.
Christine Sinclair, ND, MHSc(Usyd), BHSc(UNE), DBM, DRM, DNut, DipHom, DipPub.
Christine is a qualified naturopath and has a Master's degree in Sexual Health from the University of Sydney. For the past twenty years, she has worked in the natural health industry as a consultant, researcher, writer, educator, and clinician, with a key interest in treating sexual health disorders with complementary medicine.
Linked In profile - https://www.linkedin.com/in/christine-sinclair-87717450/
- World Health Organisation (WHO) 2021, Sexually transmitted infections, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis)#:~:text=More%20than%201%20million%20sexually,%2C%20gonorrhoea%2C%20syphilis%20and%20trichomoniasis.
- Belec et al. 2002, 'Vitamin A Deficiency and Genital Tract Infections in Women Living in Central Africa', JAIDS, https://journals.lww.com/jaids/Citation/2002/02010/Vitamin_A_Deficiency_and_Genital_Tract_Infections.16.aspx
- Ruddock et al. 2005, 'Garlic Natural Health Products Exhibit Variable Constituent Levels and Anti-microbial Activity Against Neisseria gonorrhoea, Staphylococcus aureus and Enterococcus faecalis', Phytotherapy Research, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 327-334, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.1667
- Huan et al. 2021, 'Research Progress on the Antiviral Activity of Glycyrrhizin and its Derivatives in Liquorice', Frontiers in pharmacology, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.680674/full
- Garber et al. 2021, 'Review of Whole Plant Extracts With Activity Against Herpes Simplex Virus In Vitro and In Vivo', Journal of Evidence Based Integrative Medicine, vol. 26, pp. 1-57, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2515690X20978394
- Hekmatpou et al. 2019, 'The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review', Iran J Med Sci, Vol.44, No.1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6330525/
References for Images:
2. Chlamydia - https://unsplash.com/s/photos/chlamydia
3. Safe sex - https://unsplash.com/s/photos/hiv