What is vaginal steaming?
Let’s face it — between menstruation, sexual intercourse, and childbirth, the vagina withstands a lot. When you add changing hormones and pelvic floor issues to the mix, sometimes the vaginal area is anything but comfortable.
Vaginal steaming is an age-old natural remedy said to cleanse the vagina and uterus, regulate menstruation, and ease period cramps and bloating. After receiving high praise on Gwyneth Paltrow’s website Goop, the practice has surged in popularity.
But other than offering a soothing warmth down below, does it work? And is it even safe? Keep reading to find out.
How is it supposed to work?
Vaginal steaming directs herb-infused steam into your vagina. For a hefty fee, some upscale spas offer the process. You can also do it at home, although most doctors don’t recommend it. The process is pretty simple — you just sit or squat over a container of herbal-infused steam.
Herbs often used alone or in combination include:
Most spas have a special seat (Paltrow called it a “throne”) with a hole for the steam to come through. It’s a little more challenging to do at home.
Following is a suggested method of doing a vaginal steam at home. However, before you try it yourself, you’ll want to consider its supposed benefits and possible safety issues, as discussed below.
Add about a cup of your chosen herbs to a basin of hot water.
Let the herbs steep for at least a minute.
Remove your clothes from the waist down.
Stand or squat directly over the basin. Some people prefer to place the basin in the toilet and then sit on the toilet.
Wrap a towel around your waist and legs to prevent the steam from escaping.
The average steam session lasts between 20 and 60 minutes. Depending on how hot the water is, the steam may cool sooner.
What are the purported benefits?
Vaginal steaming is used as a natural remedy for cleaning the vagina, uterus, and the entire reproductive tract. But the purported claims don’t stop there.
It also allegedly relieves:
Does it really work?
There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that vaginal steaming helps any condition. According to OB-GYN Dr. Jen Gunter’s website, it’s clear as mud how steaming herbs are supposed to gain access to your uterus through a tightly closed cervix at the end of your vagina.
The herb used on Paltrow’s vagina was mugwort. In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is the process of burning mugwort on or over a problematic area of the body or pressure point.
Moxibustion is used as an alternative therapy to treat a range of reproductive system problems. A 2010 look at several systematic reviews found that except for correcting breech presentation in pregnancy, research on mugwort is contradictory and inconclusive. There’s no research vaginal moxibustion is helpful.