Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains treatment for thrush.

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Thrush is generally caused by Candida albicans, a yeast that grows within the mucous membranes, causing soreness, inflammation, and itching.

Thrush is a common problem, I mostly speak to women requesting advice for thrush, but it can be a problem for men too. As a brief irritation, it’s no big deal, but for some people it’s a reoccurring problem.

Thrush is generally caused by Candida albicans, a yeast that grows within the mucous membranes, causing soreness, inflammation, itching and discharge. This yeast is opportunistic and will often take hold after a person has been subjected to antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics disrupt the normal flora of the mucous membranes and this leaves us more susceptible to the yeast overgrowth as our own defensive bacteria are depleted.

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One of the best ways to protect yourself from recurrent episodes is to improve the balance of this bacterial flora so that your natural defences are working as they should, helping your body protect itself rather than relying on the antifungal treatments to constantly keep killing off the overgrowth.

Thyme can help with thrushThyme can help with thrush
Thyme can help with thrush

This can be done from the inside and the out and in my experience, the best thing to do is both, fighting the battle from both sides.

Topically I use a spray called Topida. I have found that one of the more successful ways of improving the bacterial balance of the skin and mucous membranes is with essential oils. Essential oils are used in aromatherapy and they sound like gentle remedies, often because they are used in beauty treatments and massage. Actually, essential oils are incredibly powerful, and most are toxic when taken internally, even in small doses. In addition to this, many are unsafe to add directly to the skin. The potent properties that make them potential irritants also make them excellent medicines when used in the right way, especially when fighting yeasts that cause thrush.

Plants that can be particularly helpful for ridding the body of unfriendly yeasts and improving our friendly bacteria include cinnamon, thyme, garlic and manuka – not the easiest or most comfortable things to apply directly to the skin.

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Nevertheless, this doesn’t make them ineffective. I know of some patients who swear by natural yoghurt and some of my senior lecturers at university would recommend inserting a whole unpeeled garlic clove as a pessary.

Medical herbalist Nicola ParkerMedical herbalist Nicola Parker
Medical herbalist Nicola Parker

Perhaps I am just not brave enough, but I generally dislike the idea of either of these treatments. Natural yoghurt sounds sticky and the garlic sounds very uncomfortable. These days there are numerous remedies that can be made by herbalists or bought over the counter containing safe doses of essential oils that can easily be applied. My favourite method is to use a spray. No mess, no fuss and easy to carry around.

Since I like sprays I use a product called Topida in my own clinic because it contains all the herbs that I would usually use topically for thrush without the uncomfortable processes of applying honey, yoghurt or garlic to sensitive awkward areas.

Topida is pleasant smelling and the spray bottle makes it more hygienic than creams. It is made by a British company that specialise in skin problems and irritation and I have yet to be disappointed by the results. Spraying Topida onto the affected area provides a cooling sensation that can ease the burning, itch immediately.

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I usually combine this topical treatment with a low sugar diet, as high sugar diets adjust bacterial balance and can make us prone to thrush. To treat this bacterial imbalance from the inside I use Rhamnosus, my probiotic of choice for problems that occur in the vagina or urinary system. Rhamnosus is a probiotic capsule that puts the right bacteria back into the body, building your defences back up while the oils in the Topida spray actively fight the fungus that causes the thrush.

I have seen great success working this way, using both topical treatment and internal probiotics. It’s not just about treating the problem, but also breaking the cycle of ongoing infection. Restoring proper bacterial balance is essential.

If you’re interested in doing this, talk to your local herbalist or ask in your local pharmacy or health store about Rhamnosus and probiotics that look after our more intimate areas. Luckily for me (and my clients) modern products like these are safe and convenient, so no more need for garlic cloves and yoghurt!

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