What Is Vaginal Steaming?

Herbal Steam Remedy for the Female Reproductive Organs

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You may have heard about the seemingly unconventional practice known as vaginal steaming, but might not know what it entails or whether or not it’s really beneficial. Vaginal steaming is a natural remedy for cleansing the female reproductive organs, including the vagina, cervix, and the uterus, that has been around since ancient times.

Vaginal steaming involves sitting on a hot pot of steaming water that contains a myriad of different herbal remedies, including rosemary, chamomile, wormwood, mugwort, and basil. It goes by several different names based upon the culture in which it is practiced, including V-Steams, Chai-yok, Bajos, Yoni Steaming, etc. 

According to a 2011 study by the World Health Organization, vaginal steaming is still practiced by women in Southeast Asia as a preventative technique to maintain wellness and heal in the months after having a baby. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular in the Western world thanks to celebrities including Chrissy Teigan and Gwyneth Paltrow touting its benefits.

spa steam
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Conditions Addressed

The purpose of vaginal steaming is to cleanse the female reproductive organs to encourage fertility and hormonal imbalances and to reduce menstrual cramps, infection, headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, and more.

While it is intended for use by people of reproductive age (20-40) who have a vagina, it can be used by those who are older, especially during menopause.

Vaginal Steaming Process

While there is more than one way to conduct the process of vaginal steaming, and this alters based upon the cultural practice, the best-known way is to sit over a pot, a hole in the ground, or a toilet-like structure that contains a mix of steaming water and herbs. The intention that the airy blend makes its way up the vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus to yield an array of benefits.

Modern Techniques

Many spas are infusing the age-old technique of vaginal steaming with more modern treatments, such as V-Steam, which incorporates many of the same processes in a more comfortable fashion.

Instead of sitting on top of a hot pot of sorts, with V-Steam you relax in a dimly lit room, just like you would during a massage, and then a therapeutic herbal blend mixed with stem is targeted towards your pelvic region. This treatment is often completed with an LED light placed over the same area for the purpose of further cleansing.

Research and Evidence

There is no evidence to date to support the benefits of vaginal steaming in any capacity and most practicing physicians, especially OB/GYNs, recommend against it.

One study published in the journal BMJ Open analyzed the effects of vaginal steaming for the purpose of reducing Chlamydia trachomatis infection, however there was no sufficient connection found between the practice and the desired outcome. 

Another study published in the journal BMC Research Notes looked at the benefits of using the herb mugwort during moxibustion, an East Asian therapeutic practice that is similar to vaginal steaming in that it uses generated heat in combination with herbs.

While the research did find some purported benefits of correcting breech presentation in pregnancy, no other benefits of using mugwort for female health purposes were discovered. 

Risks

Most health care professionals agree that the risks of vaginal steaming far outweigh any potential benefits.

One of the biggest and most obvious risks is that vaginal steaming can result in burns in and around the vaginal area. This is of particular concern especially due to the fact that the skin surrounding the vagina is more thin and sensitive to heat than other parts of the body.

Vaginal steam may also raise temperatures inside the vagina, which can alter the pH of the reproductive organ, thus increasing a person’s risk of infection. People who have chronic and inflammatory conditions, including vestibulodynia or vulvodynia, can also be at increased risk of infection and irritation if they partake in vaginal steaming.

In people suffering from open lesions in the vaginal area, whether due to childbirth or an active infection, the heat and steam that results from the vaginal steaming process may further irritate the region and lead to infection.

While it might be tempting to try a new method of cleansing the vagina, it is worth pointing out that the vagina as an organ is self-cleansing. In fact, research has found that other methods of cleansing the vagina, including douching, lead to an increased risk of bacterial vaginosis.

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  1. Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization. A multi-country study on gender, sexuality and vaginal practices: Implications for sexual health. 2012.

  2. Van der Helm JJ, Schim van der Loeff MF, de Vries E, et al. Vaginal herb use and Chlamydia trachomatis infection: cross-sectional study among women of various ethnic groups in SurinameBMJ Open. 2019;9(5):e025417. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025417

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