Using potassium sorbate for vaginal yeast infections/thrush

Potassium sorbate can be used as a liquid solution soaked into a tampon to treat vaginal yeast infections/thrush.

What is potassium sorbate?

Potassium sorbate is a white, water-soluble salt primarily used as a food preservative (E202) because it inhibits the growth of mould and yeast.

Potassium sorbate is thus useful for treating vaginal yeast infections and thrush since it is safe to be ingested into the human body as food and has low irritant potential.

Potassium sorbate prevents the formation of mould and bacteria by preventing yeast from reproducing.

How to use potassium sorbate to relieve a vaginal yeast infection/thrush

Potassium sorbate can be used in a three per cent (3%) solution with water, soaked into a tampon, for relief of vaginal yeast infections and thrush.

If you experience any irritation, stop use and rinse the vagina with warm water to remove any excess potassium sorbate.

Where to buy potassium sorbate powder

You can buy food-grade potassium sorbate online very cheaply in granules or powder, which will last in a sealed container in your pantry indefinitely.

To make up roughly a three per cent liquid mixture of potassium sorbate and water:

  • 1 metric teaspoon potassium sorbate (about 3 grams)
  • 400ml warm water (about two light metric cups, one metric cup = 235 ml/8 fl. oz)

Stir until all the potassium sorbate is dissolved. Soak a tampon in the mixture, then insert.

Use as often as needed to relieve symptoms of thrush, but if symptoms persist or are not relieved by this solution, stop using it – you may have a different problem.

How does potassium sorbate prevent yeast?

Because potassium sorbate is used so much in wine-making, there is plenty of research and information on how it works to prevent yeasts. We then transfer this information directly to vaginal yeast infections.

Potassium sorbate stops yeasts from multiplying, so once the surviving yeasts die off as part of their normal lifecycle, there are no new yeasts to replace them, and the bloom is dead.

Vaginal use of potassium sorbate

Potassium sorbate is not the first thing you might think of when treating a vaginal yeast infection, but it is being used for this purpose in some places.

There are a few vaginal products that contain potassium sorbate, primarily as a preservative, including:

  • Gynecure
  • Moist Again
  • Brands of feminine wipes

Research into potassium sorbate vaginally

A 1975 case study report (McKinnon and Rodgerson) discussed the use of 122 vaginal fungal infections treated with potassium sorbate. The women used vaginal tampons to deliver the drug, with the relief of symptoms occurring very quickly using a three per cent solution. Men were also able to use this treatment successfully.

Where potassium sorbate is used

This preservative and yeast inhibitor is used in a vast array of food and drinks, from wine, cheese, yoghurt, meat, baked goods, and other foods, while also being used extensively in personal care products. Potassium sorbate was originally derived from sorbic acid in berries, but is now manufactured synthetically.

Potassium sorbate can be a skin, eye and lung irritant when used in high doses/strengths. When we use it in small percentages, it is not believed to cause irritation.

To give an overall idea of what concentrations are used to what effect:

  • Vaginal yeast infections via tampon – 3 per cent
  • Cosmetics – 0.5-1.0 per cent strength
  • Food – 0.025-0.1 per cent strength (sorbic acid)
  • Food – 100 grams of food contains 25+mg
  • Fruit butter, jelly, preserves, etc. – maximum of 0.1 per cent
  • Naturally fermented pickles – 0.4 per cent
  • Cold pack cheese food – 0.3 per cent

Safety of potassium sorbate

No adverse health effects have been observed eating food or using make-up that contains potassium sorbate. Potassium sorbate can be used instead of parabens in some manufacturing processes, while also being frequently used in people who are being tube-fed to reduce pathogenic infections.

  • Human consumption is capped at 25 mg/kg or around 1,750 mg for a normal-sized adult
  • Three studies in the 1970s did not find any carcinogenic activity in rats
  • Allergic reactions have been reported, but are rare
  • Considered a ‘green’ chemical
  • Approved for use in organic skincare
  • Same toxicity as table salt

References

McKinnon DA, Rodgerson EB. Use of potassium sorbate for treatment of fungal infections. Obstet Gynecol. 1975 Jan;45(1):108-10.

(MLA 8th Edition)Marshall, Danielle D., and Cheryl Iglesia. “A guide to lotions and potions for treating vaginal atrophy: options for relieving the related itching, dryness, burning, and dyspareunia include a variety of hormonal formulations and nonhormonal alternatives.” OBG Management, Dec. 2009, p. 29+. Gale Academic Onefile

(MLA 8th Edition) Garg, Sanjay, et al. “Compendium of Pharmaceutical Excipients for Vaginal Formulations.” Pharmaceutical Technology, Sept. 2001, p. S14. Gale Academic Onefile



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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
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