Vaginal yeast infections are common, in fact it is normal to have up to 3 a year. They are irritating and inconvenient so I totally understand why people would look for ways to A) prevent them B) soothe the irritation of an infection while you are waiting for medication to kick in. It is also easy to see how, given the number of infections experienced annually, big business wants in on that action.
Prevention and soothing yeast infections is exactly what AZO Yeast ® promises. In fact, it says so right on the website: Use three times a day to relieve symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection. Use once daily to help prevent recurrence of vaginal yeast infection symptoms.
First of all, there are no studies in PubMed looking at the efficacy of AZO Yeast® for either of these claims. So let’s look at the product a little further.
It claims to be a homeopathic medicine, which is the very definition of oxymoron as homeopathy is not consistent with any known scientific principles and medicine is a science. This should be a red flag to anyone. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has nothing good to say about homeopathy and there are no studies that have shown homeopathy to be effective for anything.
But I’m always open to learn, so let’s break down the ingredients of AZO Yeast®:
- Mistletoe leaf (Viscum album) 5X: There are no published studies looking at mistletoe leaf for vaginal yeast infections. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) does not list vaginal yeast as one of the reported uses of this plant.
- Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) 5X: There are no published studies looking at boneset for vaginal yeast infections. NCCAM doesn’t even have a listing for Boneset or Eupatorium perfoliatum.
So the active ingredients are not proven to be fungicidal or fungistatic (i.e. effective against yeast). Can they prevent yeast by keeping the delicate vaginal ecosystem in balance? No. The probiotic base is bacillus coagulans, which is not a player in vaginal health. While there are some weak studies that suggest certain probiotics (lactobacillus rhamnosus and reuteri) might be helpful, these species are not in AZO Yeast®.
Might you feel better if you use AZO Yeast® while you have an infection? Not unless you put it in your vagina ,although that is not how it is intended! The inactive ingredients include carnauba wax and fractionated coconut and palm kernel oils and products with waxes and oils can be soothing on irritated skin and inflamed vaginal mucosa, but again it’s an oral medication. As an aside, fractionating an oil is a process that increases the saturated fat to make it easier to use commercially and likely reduces the health benefits. Maybe it’s in a lot of medications, but we have learned from trans fats that altering/processing fats can promote inflammation so in general it is best to stay away from processed foods of all varieties.
If you want to feel better as fast as possible with a yeast infection there are much better options:
- Take an antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Calritin, or Allegra. It will reduce the inflammation and definitely helps you feel better faster. A week is usually all that you need, but even one or two days might do it. Don’t use Benadryl (diphenhydramine), it’s not a great antihistamine.
- Use a topical over the counter product for yeast, such as something with miconazole or clotrimazole. These are very soothing and so you get the immediate calming effect as well as the treatment. As an OB/GYN with a fellowship in infectious diseases this is my personal go to for the one-two punch of efficacy and immediate relief (hope that’s not TMI).
- Apply some topical steroid at the vaginal opening and on the vulva twice a day for several days if these areas are inflamed.
- Apply some zinc oxide externally to the vulva if it feels really inflamed and raw and you don’t have a steroid or don’t want to use that. You can also use A&D or Desitin. This is just to soothe external (vulvar) inflamed skin.
- Never use anything with benzocaine. It is a potent allergen.
If you think this product worked for you before it was likely either placebo effect or simply the tincture of time (of you were using it to reduce symptoms of a current infection).
AZO Yeast® is an expensive way to take nothing of value. There are far better options for immediate relief. It also has no hope of preventing yeast. Really. If you want to try and prevent yeast, spend your money on products with lactobacillus rhamnosus and reuteri, the studies aren’t incredibly robust but at least we know those are the two important strains for vaginal health.
When it comes to AZO Yeast® just don’t waste your money.