Editors note: You probably shouldn't try this at home.
Vulvovaginal candidiasis, commonly known as a “yeast infection,” is experienced by at least 75 percent of women in their adult lives. Most people treat their yeast infections with over-the-counter creams like Vagisil that use an applicator to insert into your vagina overnight. As many women know, this usually leads to the cream leaking out into a massive, irritating mess.
Alternatively, there's the oral medication Diflucan, which is supposed to cure a yeast infection in 24 hours, but requires a prescription. These treatments are effective for a lot of women. However, none of these medications work for all women, and for a large minority of women, none of them work at all. Women with chronic yeast infections are forced to take the same medications over and over as they continue to suffer from this uncomfortable condition, while most doctors tell them there's no other choice.
I have had chronic yeast infections since the age of 12, when I spent almost a year feeling too ashamed and scared to even tell my mom. I tried everything. The over-the-counter and prescription medications available would only help temporarily, if at all. I've found ways to deal with it over the years, but sometimes a bad one still comes along and I'm flung right back where I started, with no idea how to proceed.
Last year, during a particularly disabling infection, I went to see a new gynocologist, an old Indian woman in the East Village. She had a curt and strange bedside manner and stuck things in me without warning, barely talking to me. Feeling somewhat violated, I left with a few prescriptions, vowing to never go back. Then I went to an alternative pharmacy the next day to pick up the boric acid suppositories she'd prescribed me.
I used them for a few days and WHAM: no more yeast infection. I was floored. Nothing I'd ever used had worked as well as that.
A few weeks ago, like clockwork, I had yet another infection. I don't have health insurance, so the idea of paying hundreds of dollars to go back to this doctor and have her tell me what I already know seemed aimless. So, I began researching boric acid.
Boric acid suppositories used to be commonly sold as an over-the-counter treatment for yeast and bacterial infections. But in 1990, boric acid was banned by the FDA for lack of sufficient evidence of its effectiveness. Because boric acid is naturally occurring, you can't patent it, and major drug companies have no reason to invest in testing to meet the FDA's requirements. It's unlikely to ever be reinstated as an over-the-counter drug if these rules remain the same.
The average vagina falls at the acidic end of the pH scale. Your skin is a neutral 7, whereas the vagina has a pH of 3.8 to 4.5—your vagina is more acidic than black coffee and just a little less than a can of soda. Boric acid, however, has a pH of 3.8 to 4.8. So when you stick it in there, it restores your vagina to its natural pH, making it an unfriendly place for yeast and bacteria, which both require a more alkaline setting to flourish. Aside from killing your yeast infection it can also cure any bacterial infections (also known as bacterial vaginosis or BV) you might have. To be honest, you don't even need to know which—boric acid will just make it go away.
There are many online guides to making your own boric acid suppositories. Boric acid, which comes as a powder, is readily available online, but I was desperate and wanted to get rid of this infection ASAP, so I needed to find it locally. Since I didn't have a prescription, I resorted to desperate measures.
Ostensibly, your local pharmacy does not carry boric acid. But actually, they do—it's in the pesticide section, marketed as roach killer.
The first store I went to was a bigger chain store so they only had name-brand products, like Raid, which all contained actual poison. Since I didn't feel like having my drive shaft fall out of my uterus, I decided to look elsewhere. In my case, a local hardware store. It was one of those mom and pop places that looked like it'd been frozen in time—a time when our pesticides weren't stepped on with loads of other shit that you couldn't stick in your vagina.
Among their wares which looked like they hadn't been touched in ages was an enormous bottle that read ROACH KILLER 100 PERCENT BORIC ACID. Perfect. I handed the guy behind the counter a couple bucks, he offered me a few words of roach-killing wisdom, and I got the fuck out of there.
Next, I needed something to house my vaginal enema, so I went to the nearest vitamin store and bought a bag of size 0 gel caps. With all the necessary ingredients and my dignity still somewhat-intact, I went home and got to work.
Using the top of an old (but clean) take-out container as a surface, I poured out a small mound of the white powder. I read online that the acid could burn my skin, so I was careful to avoid getting it on me (gloves are recommended). The instructions also said to use size 00 gel caps and fill them all the way, so I researched and discovered, as observant drug dealers will know, that size 0 are twice as big, so I filled them up halfway. That night, I popped one in before I went to sleep. In the morning, I felt substantially better and experienced the same minor side effects (watery discharge) that I had when previously using the prescribed suppositories. After three nights of using them, my infection was gone. The whole thing had cost me about $11, didn't require a doctors visit and left me with enough supplies to last a few years.
Overall, the experience was liberating. With my roach poison in hand, I'll never, ever need to purchase some irritating, overpriced brand name cream again.
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