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I Tried It: Vaginal Steaming (and Why You Should Too)

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In January, Gwyneth Paltrow was dead center of a health controversy when she recommended vaginal steaming as an essential wellness treatment for women. Paltrow described the experience as “an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels” in her goop newsletter. Western medicine was wary of the activity — discrediting the supposed benefits — but wellness devotees and ancient medicine have encouraged the practice for ages as a sacred ritual that helps women better connect to themselves and maintain their reproductive health. As someone always willing to try new things, I decided to venture into pampering my down under and tested out the controversial vaginal steam.

In my experiment with vaginal steaming, I didn’t notice too many significant physical changes (I don’t have too many issues with my lady bits that need major resolving), but during my period I did feel energized, happier, and experienced less pain. Why I truly endorse this practice, though, is the momentary reflection the process brought that gave me a deeper sense of connection to my womanhood and a peaceful start to my menstruation. Personally, I have trouble viewing my period as a time of reflection and grateful solitude rather than absolute misery; and vaginal steaming helped guide me towards a more soothing, meditative moon time.

Vaginal steaming is known to reduce menstrual cramps, maintain a healthy odor, increase fertility, and treat a wide variety of ailments such as:

-Bloating during periods

-Fatigue

-Irregular menstrual cycles

-Vaginal cysts

-Bladder and bacterial/yeast infections

-Hemorrhoids

-Uterine fibroids

-Scarring from childbirth

The tissues inside our vagina are extremely porous and absorbent so the warm steam easily works to soften them. The steam carries the essence of the herbs inside the vagina to your bloodstream and eventually to the uterus. A vaginal steam works to increase blood circulation and detox the reproductive system, shedding unnecessary membranes and buildup and thereby reducing the work the uterus has to do which subsequently minimizes the discomfort women experience.

Typically, you can do a vaginal steam each month – three to five days before your period – unless you have a chronic condition, then a vaginal steam once a week is suggested. Do not do a vaginal steam during menstruation or if you are pregnant.To begin you’ll need: a large pot, yoni herbs, a towel, and a small stool with an open slot (I actually just squatted over the pot which I don’t recommend unless you want a killer quad workout).

So you’ve got the tools, now on to choosing your herbs. The kind you choose is dependent on what you’ve got going on below the waist.

The most commonly used herbs are mugwort, oregano, rosemary, basil, calendula, and marshmallow root.

Herbs associated with reproductive health are red raspberry leaf, motherwort, peony, and dong quai.

Herbs best in treating infectious conditions are lavender, rosemary, oregano, marigold, garden sage, peppermint, ginger, mugwort, wormwood, and lemon balm.

Herbs helpful in cleansing are motherwort, witch hazel, yarrow flowers, chaparral wort, and St. John’s wort.

*It’s always recommended that you consult an herbalist before mixing herbs.

Directions for DIY Vaginal Steam

1. In a large pot boil 8 cups of water. When the water is done boiling, add about 1/4 to 2/3 cup of your herbs to the water and let it steep for ten minutes. Place the pot under a slotted chair, remove your clothes from the waist down, and sit with a blanket wrapped around your waist so as to create a tent to capture the steam for 20 to 45 minutes.

2. During your steam read a book, write in your journal, or simply meditate. Do whatever allows you to relax and be with yourself in the present.

3. When you’re done give the herbs back to the earth and rest for a while.

The next few days you might experience some discomfort or change in discharge, which is normal especially for your first time. This is your body releasing the waste and toxins from your system.

While none of the reported health claims are supported by studies given that there is no financial incentive to test out the common herbs used in vaginal steaming, many women have had a positive experience from steaming as long as it is done safely (i.e. be careful of the water’s temperature so as not to burn yourself!). Personally I plan to add monthly vaginal steams to my wellness regimen for a more relaxing, healthier period.

More in women’s health: I Tried It: Menstrual Cup + Benefits of Going Tampon Free!

Therapeutic Yoga for Menstruation

What You Didn’t Know about PMS

Yoga for Invoking Your Inner Goddess (Shakti)

 
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Photo: Tumblr user dziewczyna28 via weheartit.com

Jessica Renae

Jessica Renae

Jessica Renae is a freelance journalist based out of Northern California. As an eight-year-long vegetarian, Jessica is obsessed with everything veg. Some of her favorite things include endless hikes through her backyard forest, challenging yoga poses and lazy days spent with her cats. Follow her on Instagram @jessbuxbaum.
Jessica Renae
  • Juhea Kim

    I must say, this sounds very calming. I can definitely see how it would be calming and bloat-reducing right before your period. I may try it with yoga blocks since I don’t have a stool with a hole in it handy. 😀

  • Char

    I have a chair that is rattan and/or wicker which is open slits, which might work really well it the pot is tall enough..

  • The City Rental

    I heard about this through Buzzfeed videos and after just spending three days with intense menstrual cramps, I’m ready to try anything before my next cycle!

  • MourningAngel

    Thank you, Jessica, for this fascinating post. This is my first visit to Peaceful Dumpling, although I do have my G+ settings to follow you. I rarely find my way to G+, however. Now, in reference to this wonderful post, I would simply add that the quality of the water and herbs is crucial. I recommend water purified from any and all contaminants, not using city water that has fluoride, chlorine, etc. It is equally important to use organic herbs, since non-organic herbs may be covered with pesticides and such. You are cleansing, and certainly do not want to add toxins to your tender lady inner region. I have never heard of this practice, and it is new news to me; however, being post-menopausal due to total abdominal hysterectomy as a very young woman in the 90s, and having issues with adequate moisture and overall health of my vaginal tissue, doctors have recommended hormone replacement. I have no desire to add toxic chemicals to my tender tissue, so I intend to research this further to learn what herbs may be beneficial for restoring proper health to a post-menopausal woman’s tender vaginal tissue.

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