A quick scroll of Twitter in 2019 could genuinely throw up anything, but the hashtag #vaginaisanogarliczone caught our attention pretty quickly. I’m sorry, what now?
Unsurprisingly, it was a tweet from the heroic OB-GYN and fighter of “vagina snake oil”, Dr Jennifer Gunter, regular debunker of pseudoscientific nonsense and determined educator about women’s lady parts. Surprisingly, it was an entire thread about why you should not put garlic in your vagina.
So. Many. Questions. Starting with, who the hell is doing this?
Dr Gunter jumped straight in with an immediate debunking of where people may have got the idea that garlic makes a good home remedy for treating yeast infections, and why that does not translate in any way to “put garlic up your vagina”.
What is she even talking about? Is this really a thing?
Garlic has long been touted for its potential medicinal properties. Hippocrates, the "father of Western medicine" (c. 460-370 BCE), even prescribed garlic to Olympic athletes as a "performance enhancer". Modern medicine has carried out numerous studies on its potential benefits, finding certain compounds to have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, that it may help protect the heart, lower cholesterol, help prevent osteoarthritis, and even help protect the liver against alcohol consumption. No one is suggesting you wrap up a clove of garlic with some string like a tampon, shove it where the Sun doesn't shine, and hope for the best.
As Gunter has pointed out before, putting foreign bodies in your vagina that were not designed to go in there is going to do a lot more harm than good. Yes, even if it's "natural".
Plus, you know, there's the whole ouch thing. Raw garlic's main chemical compound diallyl disulfide can cause chemical "burns", blisters, and allergic contact dermatitis (eczema) when in contact with skin, or mouth ulcers when eaten raw. Why would you want to put this anywhere near your more sensitive bits?
Responses to this thread read like the five stages of grief, ranging from denial that people may actually be doing this, to outrage that it needs to be spelled out in 2019. It's a wild ride.
It starts with Denial.
Next comes Anger.
The Bargaining portion had people trying to find a better (or less time consuming) way of getting the message across, or at least trying to find some kind of benefit to this madness.
The Depression aspect is actually pretty sobering.
The rise of the pseudoscientific idea that women's vaginas need any kind of maintenance angers Dr Gunter and her aim is to stop and tackle the cycle of misinformation aimed at women, often by women.
As she told Oprah magazine after this thread blew up yesterday, "I try my best not to blame the woman who feels she was driven to it. Medicine drove her to that. Naturopaths drove her to that. My anger is at the things that made a woman feel that desperate that led her to do that. I want to give them the education so they know topical antifungals – which you can get over-the-counter – are very safe."
And for those who insist it has worked for them, she points out:
Luckily, the final stage of this journey is Acceptance. This is the bit where we made it through and can all laugh together.
As always, Dr Jen, we salute you.