Vaginal steaming: This bizarre wellness trend that everyone is talking about
Vaginal steaming is hot right now. That's right, it's not a typo. This unusual wellness practice has started to spread across the world, and we definitely need to talk about it.
Ever since Gwyneth Paltrow opened up about her vaginal health theories in 2016, people have been applying herbally-treated steam to their vaginas, hoping that it will have a cleansing effect on the uterus.
Its popularity took another leap at the end of 2018, when model Chrissy Teigen joined the party, promoting the practice during NBC's New Year coverage (and sparking a social media firestorm from annoyed parents).
But a few celebrity endorsements aren't exactly scientific proof that steaming has any health benefits. We need to look deeper into the murky depths to find out whether there's any substance to the raving reviews - or whether it's literally just a load of hot air.
When people first hear about steaming their vagina, reactions are pretty much universal. Understandably, people need a little convincing that something so outlandish can have significant health benefits. But what exactly does it entail?
Supposedly originating in Korea, vaginal steaming involves sitting on a specially constructed container that heats up a mixture of water and herbs, creating a flow of steam upwards.
The herbal recipe used varies a bit, and the herbal mixtures are generally referred to as yoni steaming herbs. We'll deal with their properties in more detail in just a moment.
In theory, the steam passes into the vagina and further produces a cleansing effect throughout the reproductive tract. So, it's a common natural remedy for conditions like endometriosis, which can cause crippling pain in the abdominal region.
However, the disciples of V-Steaming don't stop there. Apparently, yoni steaming is also an effective solution to depression, hemorrhoids, tiredness, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, stress, and even infertility.
The herbs used in a steaming session are known as "yoni" - another name for the Hindu goddess Shakti. According to Hindu folklore, Shakti is an embodiment of cosmic oneness and a fertility icon.
The precise mixture of Yoni steaming herbs used varies from clinic to clinic. Plants like oregano, mugwort, wormwood, and even basil have been added to steaming baths in the past and may well be on the menu at your local spa.
If you're interested in giving it a try, a typical Yoni steaming herbs recipe goes something like this:
Firstly, a mixture of Yoni herbs is packed into a container that can be lowered into boiling water. Something like a tea ball serves pretty well.
After heating a bath full of water to boiling point, the heat is switched off, and the herbs are left to steep in the water.
Around 10 minutes later, the herbs are removed, and the water is transferred to a special steaming bath.
The bather then sits on top of the bath, usually with a towel over their legs to hold in the precious steam.
This lasts for around 20 minutes, at which point the bather should feel nice and relaxed.
Probably not. But there is a theory behind the practice that's worth getting to know.
Part of the appeal of Yoni steaming stems from the known properties of many of the herbs used in Yoni steaming mixtures. For instance, mugwort is known to be a powerful antioxidant, and we know that antioxidants can promote healing.
Wormwood is another common ingredient with a genuine medical pedigree. One 2007 study found that it is an effective treatment for Crohn's disease, while others highlight its effectiveness against lead poisoning.
V-Steaming advocates argue that these medicinal benefits are detected when herbs are absorbed via the vagina, in the same way, they would via oral ingestion.
That's actually a major claim, and there's very little scientific evidence to back it up.
In fact, most of the available evidence focuses on the risks involved with steaming. Some studies have reported second-degree burns following vaginal steaming.
Medical experts have also been keen to stress that seeking to "cleanse" the vagina is also a mistake. According to them, the bacteria found in the vagina are actually beneficial, helping to ward off more serious pathogens.
And there's the likelihood that V-steaming doesn't actually do many of the things it promises, like balancing hormone levels.
Okay, so I definitely shouldn’t steam my vagina, right?
It looks like V-Steaming isn't the miracle treatment that celebrities would have us believe. But that doesn't mean you can't use herbs and supplements to maintain a healthy vagina or deal with issues like menstrual cramps.
For example, Pre/Probiotics are now being seen as an excellent way to guard against yeast infections. Oral administration of Lactobacillus cultures can complement the body's natural protective systems, instead of blitzing the bacteria contained in the vagina.
Additionally, Omega-3 oils have been linked to a more regular menstrual cycle and as a treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome. And the mineral Magnesium is a proven remedy for menstrual cramps or migraines. So, yoni steaming herbs are all well and good, but there are more scientifically valid ways to keep your vagina clean and healthy. Take our consultation quiz to discover the unique mix of superior-quality vitamins made for you (and your vagina).
Vaginal infections and menstrual pain can be horrendous, there's no doubt about that. And if we can find ways to ease that pain (not to mention our stress or depression), why not give them a try?
V-Steaming is in vogue right now because prominent advocates have made bold claims about its medical properties. And who knows, it might work for you.
But bear in mind that it's still a hypothetical cure, and scientific backing is lacking. You can choose the authority of Gwyneth Paltrow over the world's research institutes, that's your right. But with alternatives on offer that have a much sounder empirical basis, why take the risk?
Hwang, Ko-Eun et al. Enhanced Antioxidant Activity Of Mugwort Herb And Vitamin C In Combination On Shelf-Life Of Chicken Nuggets. 2019.
Omer B, et al. "Steroid-Sparing Effect Of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) In Crohn's Disease: A Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study, NCBI.
"Warding Off Chronic Yeast And Bacterial Infections | Life Extension". Lifeextension.Com, 2019.
Azadeh Nadjarzadeh, Hassan Mozaffari-Khosravi. "The Effect Of Omega-3 Supplementation On Androgen Profile And Menstrual Status In Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial". Pubmed Central (PMC), 2019.