Although vaginal dryness is most common among women after menopause, when estrogen levels decline, the condition can affect women of any age. Often accompanied by itching and/or a burning sensation, vaginal dryness can contribute to pain during sex or an increase in urinary frequency.
So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can help with vaginal dryness is limited. Here’s a look at several substances often touted as natural remedies for this condition:
Wild Yam Cream
Applied topically to the skin, creams made with wild yam are often marketed as a natural source of estrogen. However, there’s no evidence that wild yam can increase estrogen levels or have any effect on vaginal dryness.
Similarly, there’s no scientific support for the claim that dietary supplements containing the herb black cohosh can help relieve vaginal dryness.
In a study of 71 healthy postmenopausal women, researchers found taking the herb kudzu in capsule form daily for 24 weeks helped alleviate vaginal dryness and restore the health of the participants’ vaginal tissue.
Containing estrogen-like substances called “isoflavones,” soy is thought to help improve symptoms of vaginal dryness. Although researchers are looking into the vaginal-health effects of a diet rich in soy foods (such as tofu), the ideal source and dose of soy are currently unknown.
Causes of Vaginal Dryness
In most cases, vaginal dryness is the result of a decrease in estrogen levels. As you age, a fall in estrogen levels can reduce the amount of moisture lining your vaginal walls. Age-related hormonal changes can also alter the consistency of this moisture.
For some women, hormonal changes resulting from pregnancy or while breastfeeding can also lead to a decrease in vaginal lubrication. Estrogen levels may also drop due to:
- Use of chemotherapy, and/or hormone therapy in the treatment of cancer
- Radiation therapy to the pelvic area
- Immune disorders
- Surgical removal of the ovaries/hysterectomy
In other cases, vaginal dryness may result from the use of medications that reduce moisture levels throughout the body (such as allergy and cold medicines). The vagina can also become irritated from douching, laundry detergents, and soaps. Cigarette smoking, tampons, and condoms may also cause vaginal dryness.
Using Natural Remedies
Since vaginal dryness can sometimes signal an underlying health problem (such as infection), it’s important to consult your physician if you experience any symptoms of this condition. Standard treatments include the use of vaginal estrogen-based creams, as well as water-based lubricants. It’s important to consult your physician before attempting to self-treat this condition with alternative medicine.