If it’s good enough for Gwyneth, it’s good enough for us, right? Hmm… perhaps not. Before jumping on the bandwagon of this health trend that affects one of our most sensitive areas, it’s important to consider the facts.
What is vaginal steaming?
A vaginal steam, also referred to as a yoni steam or V-steam, is essentially a process similar to what you would experience during a steam facial - only it is performed on your vagina. It is an age-old remedy that came back into the spotlight after being featured on Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website, GOOP.
During a yoni steam, it is said that you should place a selection of herbs into a bowl of steaming hot water, then squat over the bowl and let the herbal infused steam work its magic. Some of the herbs used in this practice include mugwort, chamomile, wormword, calendula, basil and oregano. It is said that the vaginal tissues absorb the medicinal properties of these herbs into the bloodstream to benefit the reproductive organs.
What are the supposed benefits of vaginal steaming?
We say “supposed” benefits here because it is important to note that although these benefits may have been reported anecdotally, there is no scientific evidence to back them up. Benefits of yoni steaming are said to be:
- Balancing hormones to regulate the menstrual cycle
- Improved fertility
- Reduce period pain and other PMS symptoms
- Relieving menopause symptoms
- Faster healing after birth
- Detoxifying the womb
Does it actually work?
There is no scientific evidence to support the supposed benefits of vaginal steaming. In fact, following the feature on GOOP, numerous medical professionals spoke out against it and highlighted the dangers of vaginal steaming. It is also highly questionable whether the steam is even physically able to reach the uterus!
Why is vaginal steaming problematic and even dangerous?
This constant desire to ‘cleanse’ our bodies simply isn’t healthy - especially when it comes to ‘cleansing’ and ‘detoxifying’ the vagina and uterus. The vagina is a self-cleaning structure and is extremely sensitive to attempts to cleanse it through methods like douching, steaming or even using soaps. Over-cleansing the vagina in these ways throws off its natural PH balance and wipes out the natural flora or ‘good bacteria’ that keeps the vagina healthy. When this balance is off, we become more susceptible to vaginal infections such as thrush and bacterial vaginosis. Scientifically speaking, the uterus also does not have any reason to require detoxification.
On her website, OB/GYN Dr Jen Gunter states the following facts about the delicate ecosystem that is the vagina:
“The lactobacilli strains that keep vaginas healthy are very finicky about their environment and raising the temperature with steam and whatever infrared nonsense Paltrow means is likely not beneficial and is potentially harmful. Some strains of lactobacilli are so hard to cultivate outside of this the very specific vaginal environment that growing them in a lab is next to impossible. There is also the possibility that the “steam” from these plants could contain volatile substances that are harmful to lactobacilli or other aspects of the vaginal ecosystem.”
Further to this, yoni steaming also comes with the very real danger of burns - steam is hot, and the last place you want to burn is your vulva or vagina!
What can I do instead?
If you have heard about some of the supposed benefits of vaginal steaming mentioned above and are thinking of giving V-steaming a try, we urge you to approach with a lot of caution. It is always best to speak to your doctor (or even a reputable naturopath if you prefer to explore herbal remedies) about hormonal issues or with a gynaecologist to address any concerns you may have with your vaginal or reproductive health.
Remember, one of the best ways we can keep our vaginas healthy is to keep it clean, dry and free from any synthetic chemicals or perfumes! Vaginal steaming is definitely not a requirement and can end up doing more harm than good.