Trusted for 23+ Years
Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert
What Is Vaginal Steaming?
Many have heard about vaginal douching, but vaginal steaming, known in Central and South America as bajos and in Korea as chai-yok, is less widely known. Vaginal steaming (v-steaming, yoni steaming) is used by those seeking the health benefits that many claim it provides. It has become quite popular in the United States through spas and holistic health clinics, particularly in southern California and New York. The quickest way to describe it is to imagine an herbal steam bath for your vagina.
Many people do them a day or two after their period by sitting over an open bench (vagi-stool) that allows herbal-infused steam from a pot or bowl to rise into their vagina. Some people use sitz bath soaks for yoni steam treatments. In some cases, people are also getting their perineum and anus steamed to help with anal or prostate health (prostate steaming). Vaginal steam baths are used to detox by cleansing and toning your labia, vaginal walls, cervix, and uterus. They have been done for centuries, so it is not a new trend; rather, it is simply a reemerging practice that has been used in ancient medicine.
Holistic practitioners and many western physicians have indicated health benefits in having vaginal steaming done. Below is a list of the health issues that vaginal steam baths have been for, but keep in mind that no scientific studies currently prove these benefits.
- Yeast infections
- Vaginal Cysts
- Irregular and painful periods
- Uterine fibroids
- Perineal tears
- Scarring from C-sections, hysterectomies, and laparoscopies
- Vaginal steaming also reduces stress and anxiety
- Enhances blood flow to the vaginal tissues
Does Vaginal Steaming Work?
Vaginal steaming may improve health by increasing blood circulation to the pelvis and, therefore, providing oxygenation and dilation of blood vessels and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. In Chinese medicine, it is seen as helping to relieve coldness and stagnation in the body. In addition, two herbs are most commonly used during vaginal steaming: mugwort and wormwood, both of which have been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years.
Mugwort (also known as Artemisia Vulgaris) contains natural antibiotic and antifungal properties, which allows it to fight infection. It is used in Chinese medicine, particularly during acupuncture treatments through moxibustion. It used to cause uterine contractions to help speed up the healing processes in the body. The steam is supposed to open the pores and allow it to penetrate the bloodstream. It is used to balance female hormones and stimulate the production of hormones that help maintain uterine health and protect the uterus from things such as ulcers and tumors. In addition, mugwort is used to help to stimulate menstrual discharge and ease headaches, nausea, fatigue, and cramping. Mugwort may also be orally consumed through tea.
Wormwood (also known as artemisia herbal) has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties and has been used throughout history to treat many ailments, from bladder infections to eczema. This herb is thought to relax the blood vessels and promote detox within the body by encouraging the discharge of bile. Some have used it with chronic bacterial and/or viral vaginal infections. The active component of wormwood is artemisinin, which can be neurotoxic, so use caution and only use small amounts of this herb if you use it.
What To Know
How does the steam and herbs penetrate the cervix? Holistic practitioners indicate that the steam thins the mucus (similar to clearing a nasal passage) and allows the herbs to penetrate the vaginal tissue, which is mucosal and epithelial. This means it is very porous and absorbent.
- Whether you pay to have your vagina steamed or you do it yourself, make sure that only organic and safe herbs are used. The last thing you want to do is allow toxins through pesticides to penetrate your bloodstream.
- Vaginal steaming takes about 20-45 minutes.
- If you decide to do it, ensure that the steam is not too hot or close as you do not want to burn your skin.
- Avoid any herbs that you have allergies to.
- You can do vaginal steaming at home or get them at spas and holistic health centers. Many holistic practitioners offer vaginal steaming ranging in price from $20 to $330 and typically provide a pelvic (abdominal) massage when offered in higher price ranges.
- The best time to have vaginal steam is before or after your period. Doing them during menstruation or if you think you may be pregnant is discouraged.
- It is considered normal to have some discharge or slight cramping the day after vaginal steam, particularly after the first time you do it.
Again, no studies have reviewed health claims for vaginal steaming, so many western practitioners find it simply an unknown. However, in some cases, with regard to alternative medicine based on Eastern medicine, many things have been long proven regardless of studies. The problem with studies is that typically someone has to be able to make money off of a product to fund it for a study. Since these are common herbs, there is little incentive to have any studies done to determine if there are measurable health improvements other than personal testimonials. Many of those say that vaginal steaming has helped them, so it is a personal choice.
Douching and showerheads do not allow the pores to open, so vaginal steaming is the most efficient way to allow the herbs to penetrate deep into the body. Also, drugstore douches can disrupt a healthy pH balance, which will not happen if you use the right herbs for vaginal steaming.
How To Do Vaginal Steaming
Before using any time of herbs through vaginal steaming, it may be best to talk with an integrative physician who is familiar with herbs but who is also trained in medicine, as they may be able to make suggestions and help you determine if this is worth your time or safe for your health concerns.
- The first step is to determine what herbs you are going to use. Commonly used herbs are mugwort, wormwood, basil, oregano, calendula, marshmallow root, and rosemary. You may want to consult an herbalist before combining herbs as they can work against one another.
- If you are taking medications, you may also want to check with your pharmacist or physician to see if they will have any adverse side effects. Remember that many herbs that you use to steam will be absorbed by your body and make their way into your bloodstream, so it is good to be careful in making your selections.
- Some people use one or two herbs, while others use blends they purchase from an acupuncturist or other holistic practitioner. Do not use essential oils as they are typically too concentrated, and their quality can be challenging to regulate.
- Depending on the size bowl or pot you have, boil up to 8 cups of filtered water and add fresh or dried herbs. Typically about 1/4 of a cup, let them steep for approximately ten minutes.
- Take only half of the water, pour it into a bowl for the first steam, and sit with a blanket or large towel around your waist, making a tent around the bowl.
- If the water is too hot, allow it to cool as you do not want to burn yourself.
- If your stool is low to the ground, you can put the water in a pan to keep it lower and away from you.
- After ten minutes of steaming, go and get the rest of the water and continue for another ten minutes. Based on personal preferences, you can vary how much water you use, and the time you allow.
- To increase the absorption of the herbs, you can do a self-massage on your abdomen. We also recommend using a vibrator to help continue to stimulate the blood flow for maximum results.
- One, in particular, that is very effective are wand vibrators. You can use attachments internally and the wand externally around the labia and your abdomen.
We do not advocate for or against vaginal steaming; instead, you are encouraged to do what feels right for you. We encourage you to speak with your physician if you have any questions or concerns about it, especially if you have sensitivities to herbs or a health condition, or to learn if it may conflict with any medications you may take. Your health is important to us, and we want to encourage you to protect it.