Where Did Vaginal Steaming Even Come From?
Back when Goop – Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle website – was still a thing, the site released a review praising the health benefits of an LA spa’s “V-steam” treatment. The review explained that “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release – not just a steam douche – that balances female hormone levels”.
Since then, vaginal steaming (also known as yoni steaming) became the talk of the town. Goop fans wanted to get their hands on it, and doctors everywhere had their eyebrows raised. But before we get into the nitty gritty of whether all of this is actually scientifically accurate (spoiler: it’s not), let’s rewind a bit. Where did the concept of steaming one’s vagina even come from?
So, the V-steam treatment is actually an appropriation of a South Korean practice called chai-yok. Apparently, Korean women would squat over steaming cauldrons filled with wormwood and mugwort – two types of herbs that purportedly have medicinal properties.
It’s also said to have been practiced in other parts of Asia, and in African countries as well.
The Supposed Health “Benefits”
Yoni steam is supposed to help cleanse the uterus and promote circulation. According to Healthline, it’s also allegedly able to help relieve stress, fight off infections, lessen postpartum-depression, stop hemorrhoids, balance hormones, alleviate fatigue, cure stomach problems, and even minimise aches and pains in the body. Some women also believe that yoni steam can allegedly aid in fertility.
The keyword here is “allegedly”.
The Truth About Vaginal Steaming
Okay, so does V-steam/yoni steam actually do any of these?
Dr Jen Gunter, OB-GYN and long-time Goop debunker, says that most of these supposed “benefits” are false. For one, plants like wormwood and mugwort don’t have any hormone balancing powers because, in her words, “these plants are not hormones”.
Second, dangling your vag over a pot of soup will not get the steam to travel up your uterus (and all the other body parts it’s supposed to help) anyway, nor will it allow your vag to absorb any of the plants’ medicinal properties. At most you’ll just be steaming your pubic area, and this isn’t even a good idea.
It Could Even Be Dangerous!
See, raising your vagina’s temperature could make it susceptible to the growth of bacteria and yeast. Additionally, raising the blood flow in your lady parts could cause itchiness and discomfort!
And let’s not forget this very important case: In June, the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada published a case study about a 62-year-old woman who sustained second-degree burns from trying to DIY a V-Steam at home! According to BBC, she “sat over the boiling water for 20 minutes on two consecutive days”.
So Why Has It Got So Many Women Hooked?
The good thing about this whole goopery is that it opens up a much-needed conversation about how women have been conditioned to view their bodies and how the beauty industry continues to exploit this self-hate.
Girls are often led to believe that their vaginas are dirty and must be douched (this is actually bad for you) and washed regularly with feminine hygiene washes. But the truth is that traditional cleansing products and techniques are unnecessary because the vagina is self-cleaning.
The myth of the dirty, smelly vagina prevails for the same reason that myths like “a hairy vagina is disgusting” or an “untidy labia is abnormal” or a “promiscuous girl will have a loose vagina” exist. They’re products of unrealistic expectations set for women.
So before you start Google-ing “vaginal steaming near me” consider how and why you’ll be spending your hard-earned cash.
How Can You Keep Your Vagina Healthy?
If vaginal steaming isn’t the best way to clean one’s vag, what is? The Sydney Morning Herald offers a few simple alternatives:
Stay Clean With Mild Methods
If you’re going to clean your privates, just wash it with water. You don’t even have to use soap or feminine washes! Additionally, be sure to change pads and tampons regularly.
Even if you’re on the pill or some other type of birth control, still always use a condom. Using a condom is the surest way you can protect yourself against STDs. Visit your gynecologist regularly to rule out any STIs as well.