Yoni (Vaginal) Steaming. A Gynecologist Weighs In

Vaginal (or yoni) steaming is a traditional natural therapy. It claims to offer benefits for fertility and overall reproductive health, such as cleansing the uterus and vagina, controlling menstruation, and relieving period cramps.

Key takeaways:
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    Vagina is a self-cleaning machine that does not require external assistance.
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    There is no evidence to support the effectiveness of vaginal steaming.
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    Vaginal (yoni) steaming is dangerous and shouldn’t be done.

The method has gained enormous popularity because of the praise it received from various celebrities. But is it effective? And how safe is it?

How does it work?

The yoni steaming is done by kneeling or sitting over a herbal steam-filled container that delivers the herb-infused steam to the vagina. The majority of spas include a unique seat with a hole where the steam can enter.

The treatment starts by selecting and preparing herbs. Mugwort, chamomile, wormwood, basil, calendula, and oregano are frequently used either alone or in combination. About a cup of the selected herbs are added to a bowl of hot water and left to simmer for a couple of minutes.

During that time, the person gets ready for vaginal steaming by removing the clothes from the waist down. Once ready, they squat or stand directly over the bowl. To prevent the steam from escaping, the towel is wrapped around the waist and legs. The typical vaginal steam session lasts from 20 to 60 minutes.

Supposed benefits

Vaginal steaming is used as a natural treatment for cleaning the vagina, uterus, and entire reproductive tract. It is believed that it can bring the following benefits:

  • Relieve stress and depression.
  • Stop headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues.
  • Treat hemorrhoids, infections, and infertility.
  • Balance hormones.
  • Tighten the vagina.

However, there’s no scientific research or evidence that vaginal steaming helps with any of these conditions.

The reasons to be skeptical

As previously stated, there is no scientific evidence that yoni steaming is beneficial, and there are several reasons why we should doubt its effectiveness.

"More importantly, it can be dangerous since herbs and essential oils are chemicals, and heat can destroy tissue and make one prone to yeast infections. The vagina is self-cleaning and does not need any extra care."

Dr. Kim Langdon OB/GYN

Firstly, it is unclear how the herb-infused steam is expected to enter the uterus through a tightly closed cervix at the end of the vagina. Only high-pressure (like in ejaculation) air or water can pass through the cervix into the uterus. This would be like douching which is also considered a dangerous practice since it can lead to bacterial vaginosis.

Some people claim that herb-infused steam can be absorbed through the vaginal mucosa. Nevertheless, the proper medicine, dose, and delivery method are necessary for the vaginal absorption of pharmaceuticals. These requirements are not met by steam. While inhaling aerosolized medications benefits the lungs, the vulva, vagina, and uterus cannot inhale substances or allow gas exchange with the bloodstream. However, the chemicals may be absorbed through the mucosal tissue of the vagina since it is similar to the oral mucosa.

Finally, there’s no proof that vaginal steam can balance hormones. Naturally, hormones of the reproductive system are regulated by the reproductive axis which includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries. Using hormonal medication (such as estrogen) can change the activity of the reproductive axis. However, these herbs used for vaginal steaming are not hormones, so they cannot affect the reproductive axis, therefore, cannot balance hormones.

Is vaginal steaming safe?

No, vaginal steaming is unsafe, and no scientific studies support its effectiveness. It is never recommended to push air or gas into the vagina as this could lead to an air embolus. Besides that, there are multiple other risks associated with this treatment.

Risk of infection

It's not recommended to use steam to clean the vagina. A vagina is a self-cleaning machine that does not require external assistance. The natural pH created by the vaginal microbiota may be disrupted by vaginal steaming, which would create perfect conditions for the growth of bacteria that cause vaginal infections.

The lactobacilli maintain the health and pH of the vagina and are extremely sensitive to changes in the surrounding environment. Changes in the temperature caused by steam are potentially dangerous to them. Additionally, herbs used in the yoni steam could contain compounds that are harmful to lactobacilli or other components of the vaginal environment.

Risk of burns or scalding

The skin of the vagina is thin, sensitive, and vulnerable to injury. Warm steam may scald or burn the vagina. In a 2019 study, a patient attempted to minimize vaginal prolapse by using vaginal steaming, which led to second-degree burns.

Risk of allergy or irritation

Although they are organic, herbs are also very potent chemicals. They could induce allergic reactions when applied topically.

Risk of skipping medical evaluation

Due to the many claimed benefits of vaginal steaming, people may ignore significant medical concerns by putting their trust in this treatment and forgoing a medical evaluation and the appropriate course of action. As a result, the situation may deteriorate.

Not enough information

Vaginal steaming is not supported by any established medical guidelines or scientific research. There’s no scientific proof to think that vaginal steaming can help you to cleanse the vagina or uterus, improve infertility, or balance hormones.

Moreover, it might even be harmful, therefore, it should not be done. Heat and herbs can be used in safer ways to promote health. If you still want to attempt vaginal steaming, discuss the benefits and drawbacks with your doctor or a licensed alternative health care provider.

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