Is Vaginal Steaming Ever a \'Do\'??>
Ask the Experts

Is Vaginal Steaming Ever a 'Do'?

by Wellness Letter  

Q: Is there any good reason to do vaginal steaming?

A: Absolutely none. This alternative health “treatment” isn’t supported by scientific research and could potentially cause signifi­cant problems, such as burns, rashes, or infections.

It typically involves sitting or squatting over steaming water infused with herbs, often on a special stool with a hole through which the steam passes. It can also be done while a woman lies on her back with a steam tube positioned near the vulva. Among the popular herbs used are rose­mary, basil, wormwood, mugwort, oregano, chamomile, and calendula. These herbs, especially mugwort, have been used in tradi­tional medicine as remedies for “female com­plaints,” including menstrual cramps.

Vaginal steaming is sometimes referred to as V-steaming or yoni steaming. Yoni is a Sanskrit word meaning any of the female sex organs or all of them collectively. It can also denote a stylized representation of a vulva that symbolizes the feminine aspect of the divine in Hinduism.

The practice became trendy after Gwyn­eth Paltrow touted its alleged benefits on her website Goop and other celebrities like model Chrissy Teigen reported trying it. Pro­ponents claim it “revitalizes” the uterus, cleans the vagina, eases menstrual cramp­ing and heavy bleeding, boosts libido, and balances sex hormones. It has also been promoted as a treatment for hemorrhoids, headaches, fatigue, depression, stress, and digestive ills.

But there’s no published evi­dence to back up any of these claims. Physi­ologically they don’t even make sense. Steam can’t make its way up the vagina and into the uterus. The vagina itself is self-cleaning, so there’s no need for steaming, washing, rins­ing, sanitizing, or any other kind of externally administered housekeeping.

What’s more, exposure to hot steam, espe­cially if it’s prolonged, could dry out the vulva and vagina by breaking down the skin’s lipid barriers. It may also cause worse problems, as detailed in a 2019 case study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada. A 62-year-old woman engaged in vaginal steaming in an attempt to help correct her vaginal prolapse, in which the cervix protrudes through the vaginal opening. She ended up with second-degree burns to her vagina and cervix.

Women who are pregnant have an espe­cially elevated risk of serious problems from V-steaming. Exposure to high temperatures (such as those also experienced in saunas or hot tubs) raises a pregnant woman’s core body temperature, which can put added strain on her heart and possibly pose a risk to the fetus. It can also lead to dehydration and fainting.

This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Also see What Is Vaginal Rejuvenation?