Over the last several years, vaginal steaming has almost become a right-of-passage ritual for Hollywood celebrities and lifestyle gurus. In recent years, with big-name celebrities from Gwenyth Paltrow to Chrissy Teigan to Jada Pincket Smith have given this ancient homeopathic practice a try, it’s hard not to wonder whether this highly-debated alternative treatment actually produces any results.
What is vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming, also known as “V-steaming” or “yoni steaming,” is a practice that involves squatting or sitting over steaming water in order to cleanse the vagina and enhance its health. Sometimes, the water will contain herbs such as mugwort, rosemary, wormwood and basil. Essentially, the goal is to soften and open the pores of the vaginal and vulvar skin so that the herbs can be absorbed into the skin and uterus. The treatment can be done at home, or through a spa, and typically lasts between 20 and 45 minutes.
This practice supposedly has many purposes, but the most common are to alleviate menstrual symptoms, increase fertility, help alleviate menopause symptoms, and promote healing after childbirth. Vaginal steaming has also been reported to be used to treat stress, depression, hemorrhoids, fatigue and headaches.
Does it work?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that vaginal steaming works. No research studies have tested vaginal steaming or its benefits. Experts agree that there is little chance that the herbal steam would penetrate vaginal tissues, let alone reach the uterus or regulate hormones and improve fertility. One supposed benefit may be that the moist heat from the steam increases blood flow to the vaginal area, but there is no scientific evidence to back this claim.
Is it safe?
One of the biggest concerns regarding vaginal steaming is the risk of burning delicate vaginal tissue. In a 2018 article published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, experts shared a case where a 62-year-old woman sustained second-degree burns following vaginal steaming in an attempt to reduce vaginal prolapse.
Additionally, because the vagina is a self-cleaning organ, vaginal steaming runs the risk of disrupting its natural pH balance. Changing the pH balance of the vagina puts the area at risk for bacterial or yeast infection.
“The vagina is inside and we don’t want to disrupt that delicate area because of all the good bacteria that are keeping the environment clean, just like tears in our eyes,” Dr. Sherry Ross explained to Yahoo! News.