Vaginal steaming is a simple process of exposing and hence treating your vagina and pubic area to steam. The steam is often infused with volatile oils and other active compounds found in different kinds of herbs. In a way, it is an herbal remedy that uses steam for the diffusion of the desired nutrients. Vaginal steaming is considered a natural remedy and this is indeed true. However, there are different reasons why you may consider vaginal steaming and the impacts would obviously vary. Let us explore everything you would want to know about vaginal steaming.
What is Vaginal Steaming?
Take a few useful herbs, put them in a container filled with steam or use a special device that can produce steam and diffuse the volatile organic compounds in the herbs, then carry the nutrients infused vapors to your vagina, penetrate the skin or the soft tissues and eventually enter the bloodstream. You may choose to squat over the device or container. You may sit on a chair or a special throne that has a hole in it so you are not in an uncomfortable posture. It is quite difficult to squat for several minutes to get treated this way. There are upscale spas that offer vaginal steaming. You would sit on a special chair that is as comfortable as a reclining couch. The spas would charge a substantial sum of money for a session. You can choose the herbs that would be used in the process. You may also choose to simply use steam without any herbs but it is better if you enrich the vapors with some essential oils and other volatile organic compounds that would offer more benefits.
Ingredients of Vaginal Steaming
You need water, as the source of the steam. You need a device or container that can heat the water to produce steam. There are state of the art steam or vapor generators that you may use. The herbs that are usually chosen for vaginal steaming are wormwood, calendula, mugwort, chamomile, oregano and basil. You can use just one herb or you may combine a few of these. All these are commonly used for a myriad of purposes so they can be deemed to be safe. If there are any risks, then that would be specifically about vaginal steaming itself or the process and not necessarily the herbs.
Vaginal Steaming at Home
You can take a basin or a bucket, fill it up with hot water or you can use water at room temperature if you have a portable heater to warm it and generate steam in due course of time, add around a cup of the herb you choose or a combination of different herbs, let the natural wonders get soaked and steeped in for a minute. You can let the herbs soften and warm up for longer than a minute. As you notice some steam, remove your bathrobe and squat or stand over the container, use a towel to wrap your legs and waist so you do not let any steam out and enjoy the steaming for anywhere between half an hour and an hour. Steady heat may be necessary in some cases or the steam will cool down and there would be no vapors at all. Do not overheat the water as extremely hot steam can cause burns.
Benefits of Vaginal Steaming
Vaginal steaming has been hailed by some celebrities. There are some doctors who have endorsed the natural remedy for many reasons. Vaginas tend to endure a lot of changes, including pain and sheer physiological challenges in due course of time.
Menstruation has its long and sustained impact on the shape, structure and even health of the vagina. Sexual intercourse has its merits and demerits. Childbirth is one major challenge. When you consider vaginal relaxation and the weakening of pelvic muscles, you may be staring at a crisis. Your vagina may feel much more relaxed than it should be. The vaginal muscles may not be as controllable as they must be. You may not feel sufficiently aroused or stimulated enough during sex. Like other parts of the body and especially muscles and skin, vagina can get bruised, wounded and inflamed. The skin does suffer wear and tear. There is pigmentation. The muscles can become weaker. There can be substantial pain too, not just menstrual cramps or bloating but also during sex if there is limited lubrication and if the sensory nerves are pinched.
Apparently, vaginal steaming can reduce different kinds of discomfort. It can reduce bloating and avert the feeling of exhaustion. Menstruation can become much more bearable if you have a vaginal steaming routine, not exactly when you have periods but before and after. Irregular menstrual cycles can be better regulated. Women have also reported a reduction in their menstrual flow and the brown or dark purple blood that are common at the start of menstruation and towards the end.
Vaginal steaming may possibly have an impact on fertility as the steam infused with the organic active compounds in the herbs get to the bloodstream and can enrich the uterus. Vaginal steaming can heal the uterus and also attend to the health of the reproductive system, even after childbirth. The natural remedy may be able to treat ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, uterine prolapsed and weakness. Hemorrhoids can be effectively treated with a recommended cure with some assistance from vaginal steaming. The vapor infused with herbal nutrients can treat yeast infections in the vagina and also eliminate bad odor. Menopause becomes more manageable and you may get relief from the symptoms.
Many women who go for routine vaginal steaming have reported experiencing less stress and depression, reduced infections and cured hemorrhoids, enhanced fertility and hormonal balance, reduced fatigue and headaches, better digestion and less pain that usually has varying causes at different times.
Does Vaginal Steaming Really Work?
It is a little unclear if vaginal steaming actually works. There is extremely limited scientific evidence arguing either way. There is historical evidence substantiating the traditional use of mugwort to cure certain pressure points in the body to remedy obvious problems. The process of burning the herb mugwort is known as moxibustion. This is a well established practice in traditional Chinese medicine. However, there is no scientific evidence yet that shows vaginal steaming with mugwort to have any impact on the vagina, the skin or the muscles, the uterus or the pelvic floor, reproductive health or anything else, such as fertility or hormonal secretions. Most researches and studies conducted on the benefits or moxibustion are inconclusive and many are actually contradictory.
There is some scientific evidence proving a relaxed sensation when a woman goes for vagina steaming. Anyone in a cold or relatively cooler climate will feel relaxed when exposed to steam. There is no irrefutable evidence proving anything beyond this sensation. The skin on and around the vagina is extremely sensitive and it is also highly porous. It is quite likely that the steam would penetrate the skin through the pores that become wider due to exposure to warmth and the diffused nutrients from the herbs will be absorbed by the skin and the soft tissues underneath. However, to what extent these nutrients are able to penetrate our muscles and if at all they get to our bloodstream is rather unfounded at this stage.
Many gynecologists argue that sitting in a hot tub or soaking in a tub of warm or steaming water may have the same effect as vaginal steaming. The same medical experts point out to the cultural relevance of vaginal steaming rather than its purported benefits, none of which are scientifically proven. The vagina is fully capable of healing itself, much like other parts of the human body. It is hence a little farfetched to imagine that the vagina needs to be cleaned with steam or herbs for that matter. To the flipside, there could be some side effects of vaginal steaming.
Vaginal steaming involves exposing the area to hot vapor. It goes without saying that the vagina, including the insides, will get exposed to a certain degree of heat that is not usual. The vapor would have a much higher temperature than the natural body temperature inside the vagina. The increase in temperature can make the vagina an ideal environment for various types of bacteria. It is quite possible to have a bacterial infection or some yeast, fungal or viral infections simply because the increase in temperature leads to a contraction or the incubation of already existent microbes in and around the vagina, thereby causing an outbreak.
Inflamed tissues in and around the vagina may get further irritated and there can be a flare-up. There can be other side effects depending on the exact temperature of the steam. Not everyone can regulate the heat used to generate the steam. The vapors may not have consistent temperature and it is quite demanding to be impeccably precise with everything during the entire process. To conclude, science does not say if vaginal steaming is safe and it does not back the perceived benefits of the remedy.
Dr. Lorene Garcia is a Gynecologist (OB-GYN) based in Miami, Florida who has more than 10 years experience gynaecology. I’m a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and love to help women with gynecological problems.