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Natural Approaches to Overcome Vaginal Dryness

Many women find that lack of lubrication associated with menopause complicates sexual enjoyment. How can they overcome vaginal dryness?
Natural Approaches to Overcome Vaginal Dryness
Portrait of a happy romantic couple.

Menopause is widely associated with uncomfortable hot flashes, but many women also suffer from vaginal dryness during and after menopause (Climacteric, March 3, 2016). When tissues of the vulva and vagina atrophy, women may find sexual intercourse painful. Needless to say, this can create difficulties with their partners, undermining important relationships. Doctors frequently prescribe estrogen to overcome vaginal dryness, either as pills or as vaginal creams or Estring (estradiol intravaginal ring). Another option is a softgel vaginal insert containing estradiol (Menopause, Aug. 19, 2019). However, women who have had breast cancer and those who have a family history of breast cancer may be reluctant to use estrogen. They might prefer  natural approaches to manage this problem.

Cocoa Butter for Vaginal Dryness?

Q. My gynecologist recommended cocoa butter wafers to overcome vaginal dryness. I bought some online. He told me to insert one at bedtime (I use half a wafer). It melts quickly and really works.

I have one issue, though. Although I love the smell of chocolate, it is a bit weird having that bag of cocoa butter wafers in the bedroom/bathroom – sure does have a strong smell of chocolate!

A. We could find no research supporting cocoa butter as a vaginal lubricant. That said, the third edition of the book, Diagnostic Gynecologic and Obstetric Pathology (2018) does mention it for the management of atrophic vaginitis.

To quote:

“Some authorities recommend topical application of cocoa butter, beeswax, or mineral oil to aid with sexual activity. These should be used with caution because they may clog the pores.”

We don’t have a solution for the smell of chocolate!

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch (June 19, 2019) mentions olive oil as a natural vaginal lubricant. Like cocoa butter, it may also serve as a moisturizer to be applied daily and not only prior to intercourse. Some women are allergic to topical olive oil, however. A woman who is considering using olive oil (or other natural moisturizer to overcome vaginal dryness) should test it on the skin of her forearm before placing it in any sensitive areas.

Other Natural Approaches:

Many women report that coconut oil is useful as a vaginal moisturizer. Others like to use aloe vera gel as a lubricant. One commercial product, Sylk, contains kiwifruit extract and is water-based. This may be important for couples using condoms, as olive oil, mineral oil, coconut oil or even cocoa butter can damage latex. Lubricants such as Astroglide, Bioglide, Balance Activ or Good Clean Love Lubricant may be more appropriate when latex comes into play. Some of these may cause irritation, however, so it makes sense for a woman to try a few to see which one suits her best. She may also want to inquire about pelvic floor muscle training, as this can help with the symptoms of vaginal dryness and may also be beneficial for urinary problems (Frontiers in Endocrinology, online Aug. 21, 2019).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Edwards D & Panay N, "Treating vulvovaginal atrophy/genitourinary syndrome of menopause: How important is vaginal lubricant and moisturizer composition?" Climacteric, March 3, 2016. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2015.1124259
  • Constantine G et al, "Early onset of action with a 17β-estradiol, softgel, vaginal insert for treating vulvar and vaginal atrophy and moderate to severe dyspareunia." Menopause, Aug. 19, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001394
  • Nappi RE et al, "Addressing Vulvovaginal Atrophy (VVA)/Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) for healthy aging in women." Frontiers in Endocrinology, online Aug. 21, 2019. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2019.00561
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