Vaginal herbal steaming is a tried and true remedy that women use to maintain health of their reproductive parts. Just because it’s not mainstream in the United States (yet), doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.
The use of vaginal herbal steam has been documented in Mexico to Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. In Latin America, it’s called bajo, in Indonesia, a bakero, in Korea, a chai-yok. In the U.S., it’s referred to as a v-steam, pelvic steam, yoni steam, vulva steam or vaginal steam.
Vaginal herbal steaming is so simple! Herbs are gently simmered with water, removed from the heat source, and placed below a woman sitting on a chair that has a hole in the seat. The herbal steam rises and permeates the vuvla and pernium, also indirectly reaching the vagina and womb. The steam contains healing herbal constituents which are quickly absorbed by the genital tissue and into the bloodstream (read the FAQs below to learn more).
Yoni Steaming has been used for:
- Postpartum recovery (healing/toning of the genitals, lochia elimination, vaginal prolapse, hemorrhoids)
- Chronic infection
- Ovarian cysts
- Amenorrhea (irregular or absent periods)
- Dysmenorrhea (painful periods, menstrual cramps)
- Stress reduction
V-Steams are not mainstream. Why?
Female reproductive care had traditionally been provided by midwives, medicine women and shamans with the use of plants as their primary form of care. Knowledge of plant medicine was passed from one generation to the next. However, with the rise of western civilization, western medicine and globalization, many forms of lay healing that were not recognized by medical institutions became irrelevant.
Elsewhere in the world, women in tune with themselves and nature, knew instinctively what plants to use to aid women with menstrual discomforts, postpartum care, and other general ailments.
Q - HOW DOES VAGINAL HERBAL STEAM WORK?
A - Some plants contain high amounts of volatile oils. Volatile oils are healing and are carried by the herbal steam to the vulva, the vagina, and the uterus. The warmth of the steam opens the pores of the genital tissues. This allows the healing properties of the herbal steam to be carried by tiny capillaries under the skin surface, directly into the bloodstream, and then around the body. All skin is highly absorbent and what you put on it--lotions, steam, cosmetics, etc.-- goes directly into the bloodstream. This is especially true for body parts that are rich in mucous membranes, like the inner labia, and vaginal canal, which makes the vagina one of the most highly absorbent parts of the human body. Vaginal herbal steaming allows for both direct treatment of the lady parts that are requiring attention as well as body-wide therapeutic benefits. Herbal steam is gentle and noninvasive, yet powerfully effective.
The ancient practice of vaginal herbal steaming done by women all over the world has been passed down anecdotally, and from mother to daughter.
Q - WHY STEAM INSTEAD OF TAKING A PILL?
A - Vaginal steaming bypasses the digestive tract, going directly to the area we want to treat. Pills, whether western pharmaceutical drugs or herbal supplements, are taken orally which means they have to go through the digestive tract first, before being absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually making its way to the female reproductive system. With vaginal herbal steaming, the herbal benefits go directly to the female reproductive tissues and are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Q - WHAT IS A VOLATILE OIL?
A - Aromatic plants contain volatile oils, some more than others, which have medicinal and healing properties. Volatile oils, or essential oils as they’re more commonly referred to, are made up of numerous different chemical compounds which cause variation in fragrance and medicinal actions. Volatile oils are highly aromatic (smelly) substances found in specialized cells or glands in the seeds, flowers, fruit, leaves, stems, roots, bark, wood, needles and resins of plants. All volatile oils have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, enhancing the body's ability to fight off a range of infections. Some volatile oils have:
Q - WHAT’S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HERBAL STEAM AND VOLATILE OILS?
A - Volatile oils, or essential oils, are extracted through plant steam distillation. In the case of vaginal herbal steaming, the volatile oils are carried on the steam to the genital tissue. The amount of volatile oil that the skin comes in contact with through herbal steaming is powerful and effective, yet harmless because it is a small amount and has been diluted by water that has become steam. Herbal steams have long been used in steam rooms, sweat lodges, facial beauty steam treatments, herbal steams for colds and coughs, and herbal steams for female reproductive health.
In contrast, volatile, or essential oil, which is often sold in amber glass essential oil bottles at health stores, is extremely concentrated and is 100% pure essential oil with no dilution. It takes 40 roses to produce one drop of rose essential oil. This is very different from the volatile oils produced from small batch herbal steaming used during vaginal steaming.
Q - WHY HERBS?
A - Herbs are compatible with the chemistry of the human body which has adapted over thousands of years to assimilate them. They have less side effects in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs. As of 2012, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 4 billion people, 80 percent of the world population, used herbal medicine for primary health care.
Q - WHAT SHOULD I DO WHILE I STEAM?
A - Relax. Listen to a 10-15 minute guided meditation, meditate on your own, drink tea, read a book, or watch something.
Q - WHAT’S THE BEST TIME OF DAY TO STEAM?
A - It’s recommended to steam at night just before bed. You’ll likely find vaginal steaming extremely relaxing and soothing and it can make you feel very tired. But, feel free to do it anytime that’s most convenient for you! Make it easy on yourself.
Q - WHEN AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I STEAM THROUGHOUT THE MONTH?
A - In general, it is recommended to steam 1-2 times before your period and 1-2 times after your period ends. Or, you can choose to steam once weekly instead, except for when you’re menstruating. Each steam session can be 15 minutes long.
Q - WHAT ARE THE CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR VAGINAL HERBAL STEAMING?
A - Do not steam if: you are pregnant, think you could be pregnant, are currently menstruating, have intermittent bleeding between periods, if you do not handle heat well (i.e. saunas make you feel sick).
Q - SHOULD I TALK TO MY DOCTOR ABOUT VAGINAL HERBAL STEAMING?
Of course! It's always important to educate yourself and make your own informed decisions about anything you put into or on your body-- be it pharmaceuticals or herbs. Please feel free to talk to your doctor about vaginal herbal steaming to hear his/her thoughts and medical explanations of why you may or may not want to try vaginal herbal steaming.
Be aware though that members of the western medical community have never been taught about vaginal herbal steaming in medical textbooks. They may dismiss it as being unnecessary, as the vagina is a self-cleansing mechanism. Although the vagina is a self-cleansing mechanism, so is the colon, and doctors sometimes prescribe laxatives to help the colon function efficiently. Eyes are self-cleansing and produce tears to help clean out dirt, etc., but sometimes tear ducts get clogged or stop functioning properly for whatever reason. Doctors prescribe medication or even perform surgeries to help with that.
Vaginal steaming is a simple, non-invasive, and an ancient form of reproductive self-care. It is not used to take-over or manipulate the self-cleansing aspect of the vagina and the uterus. It is available to us to try as an alternative of using pharmaceuticals to treat infections and support other reproductive ailments of all sorts.
The bottom line, ask your doctor. Do your own research. Listen to your intuition and do what feel best to you.
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
McIntyre, Anne. The Complete Woman's Herbal: a Manual of Healing Herbs and Nutrition for Personal Well-Being and Family Care. H. Holt, 1995.
Pathare, Yogayata s, and Vijay D Wagh. “Herbal Medicines and Nutritional Supplements Used in the Treatment of Glaucoma: A Review.” Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences, vol. 3, no. 1, Jan. 2012, pp. 331–333.
Sarah Bearden, Aromatherapist. An Introduction to Therapeutic Aromatherapy. 3/29/2017