Alternative Treatments for Oral Thrush

Many people with HIV/AIDS eventually get oral thrush. Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by a type of yeast called Candida. Candida lives in the mouth, and is present pretty much all the time, but helpful bacteria and the immune system keep the yeast from becoming a problem. If something weakens the immune system, such as HIV or chemotherapy, the Candida can manage to infect the surface of the mouth, tongue or lips, causing oral thrush.

There are several allopathic treatments for oral thrush, medications that are either liquids to be swished around in the mouth or lozenges to be sucked on and swallowed. The most common treatments are fluconazole and nystatin. Fluconazole is the most effective treatment, but some forms of Candida are resistant to it, and require other treatments.

Unfortunately these treatments for thrush are expensive and not available in some parts of the world. They may also have significant side effects. Instead, some people use alternative treatments for oral thrush, some of which have been proven to be just as effective as prescription medications.

Gentian violet – gentian violet is probably the most common alternative medicine for oral thrush. This compound is not an herb, but a residue from coal tar, and it’s name comes for the brilliant violet color it leaves when used (the color is also why this compound is often used as a dye). Gentian violet has been used as a fungicide for over 100 years, and is safe to use as long as it isn’t swallowed. Its one side effect is temporarily dying the area it is applied to a bright purple. When applied to an open sore, the area may end up tattooed, or permanently died. A study in 2005 found gentian violet to be the most effective of the available inexpensive treatments for oral thrush.

Lemon grass extract – Lemon grass is an herb that is commonly used as a medicine and in cooking. It is not related to lemon or any citrus fruit, but does have a strong lemon-like flavor. Few studies have been done on the effect of lemon grass on oral thrush, but is proven to have antifungal effects, and the one study which tested the effect of lemon grass extract on oral thrush found it to be as effective as gentian violet.

Lemon juice – Many people are familiar with the sanitizing effect of lemon juice, as it is a common component in organic and home made household cleaners. Obviously, as a juice and common cooking ingredient it is also safe to swallow or use on the skin. Lemon juice was tested as a possible treatment for oral thrush in the same study that tested lemon grass extract. Lemon juice actually had a slightly better result than the gentian violet.

Oral thrush is a potentially dangerous condition, as untreated the infection can spread to other parts of the body, including the brain. If you have oral thrush, whether or not you chose to use alternative treatments make sure your doctor knows about the infection and that you discuss treatment options with them. If the infection does not clear up with in 2 weeks of treatment you will need to look into other treatment options. Frequent outbreaks of oral thrush in a person with HIV/AIDS is a sign of a weakening immune system and should be discussed with your doctor as soon as possible. As always, let your doctor know if you are taking herbs or other alternative medicines.

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