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
-Irregular menstrual cycles
-Bladder and bacterial/yeast infections
-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!
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