Disclaimer: All information on Leiamoon.com is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Vaginal steaming, yoni steaming, womb steaming, or “v-steaming” for short, is a time-honored self-care practice that has been passed down through generations of women in various cultures all over the world, likely for many thousands of years.1, 2, 3 It is now gaining interest in contemporary culture. It is a calming, rejuvenating, and meditative practice that fosters a deeper, more aware relationship between a woman and the most intimate, sensitive, life-giving parts of her body. Individual reports of the positive effects of vaginal steaming on the body, mind, and spirit are myriad.
The process involves sitting or squatting over a pot of steaming water, typically infused with herbs. The moist heat encourages relaxation and brings focus to the womb space, while the steam also carries the constituents and essences of the herbs.
We are now experiencing a v-steam renaissance, as more and more women are discovering and sharing how they use vaginal steaming to improve their lives today.
Vaginal steaming is an extension of the basic concept of paying attention to and loving the vagina and womb space. It is an opportunity to open ourselves up (both physically and emotionally) and allow soothing and comfort into an otherwise tightly guarded space. The feeling of warm, aromatic steam on the vagina can be calming, exciting, cathartic, rejuvenating, or cleansing. We like to think of it as simple yet beautiful way to honor and care for the most vulnerable and sensitive part of our bodies.
Beyond this value as an elemental self-care ritual, there are a few other major reasons why more women are vaginal steaming every day. These include:
- Physical discomfort: Whether it stems from PMS, endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids/polyps, chronic pain, sexual trauma, or a host of other issues related to this part of the body, women are integrating vaginal steaming to soothe physical discomfort in the pelvic region.
- Postpartum care: In addition to being the subject of an innovative research study, this is the most well-documented historical reason for vaginal steaming.
- General cleansing: Many women report that vaginal steaming helps clear out excess matter from the uterus and vaginal canal.
- Fertility: Many women, herbal practitioners, and doctors are using and recommending vaginal steaming as part of an integrative approach to maximizing fertility.
- Menopause/perimenopause relief: V-steaming experts and individual women are reporting on the positive effects of vaginal steaming during this phase of womanhood.
Women across the globe are touting vaginal steaming as a practice that helps with all kinds of specific conditions (see “What are the benefits of vaginal steaming?” below), and we are sharing their stories so that women can take them into account and find their own reasons to steam.
Vaginal steaming has existed in many forms in many different cultures all around the world, passed down through maternal lineages for countless generations. While the exact age of the practice is unknown, experts have reported it could be anywhere from four thousand3 to fourteen thousand1 years old or more. The most well-documented historical accounts come from Eastern (specifically Korean and Indonesian) and traditional Maya medicine. Academic research has shown that steam bathing generally, including vaginal steaming, dates back to at least the late Pleistocene era in Northeast Asia. It then likely came to North America with the migration over the Bering Strait before spreading down through Central and South America.1
The practice is known as “j-wa hoon” in Korea (also commonly referenced as “chai-yok”), “bajos” in Central America,4 “Bakera” in Indonesia,2 and many other names in places like Sweden, Latvia, Turkey, and Ghana, to name a few. It has been reported that vaginal steaming is “as common in Belize and Central America as drinking peppermint tea.”5 There are also many reports of the practice in Africa, where it very likely could have originated, but these are less documented in scientific literature.
Vaginal steaming is a practice for ALL women, as long as you don’t fall into one of the categories outlined in the “Who should NOT vaginal steam?” question below. It is an especially valuable practice if you identify with any of the following:
- You are looking for self-care options to help with some type of difficulty or discomfort in your vaginal/womb space area.
- You want to develop and maintain a positive, conscious relationship with womb space and vagina.
- You’re stressed out, anxious, depressed, or feeling disconnected and disempowered.
- You are approaching or going through menopause.
- You enjoy yoga and meditation.
- You just want to feel pleasurable sensations on your body.
- You are postpartum.
- You are facing any one of the numerous issues covered in the “What are the benefits of vaginal steaming?” section below.
You should NOT vaginal steam if:
- You are pregnant or think you are pregnant
- You are wearing an I.U.D. (intrauterine device)
- You are having your period (i.e. menstruating/bleeding)
- You are trying to get pregnant and have already ovulated but not yet had your period this month
- You have an open wound in your pelvic area
- You have genital piercings in (always remove any genital accoutrements before steaming)
Since it is a relatively new practice in the West, there is still very little scientific literature documenting the benefits of vaginal steaming. Scientists and western medical researchers simply have not thoroughly studied it yet! While it appears to be somewhat widely recognized in Eastern—particularly Korean—medicine, and throughout central America (especially as a traditional Mayan practice), 2, 3 the degree to which that recognition has transferred over to Western medical/scientific institutions is still scant.
Thus, virtually all the reported benefits we know about come from 1) traditional medicinal practices, notably from the Maya in central America and a few southeast Asian cultures; 2) Eastern medicine practitioners and studies; 3) information passed down from generation to generation of women who have carried the practice in their respective lineages; 4) real life case studies from vaginal steam practitioners who have facilitated steams for women around the world; and 5) a fast-growing base of individual accounts of women who have reported on their own personal experiences (see our Steam Stories page; a basic YouTube search for “vaginal steaming” or “yoni steaming” yields even more extensive results). The combined sources above have produced voluminous reports that cover a very broad spectrum of ostensible benefits. Some of these include the following:
- Cleanse the uterus after menstrual bleeding3, 6
- Increase fertility3, 4, 7, 8, 9
- Help with irregular or painful periods10, 11, 12
- Spiritual practice4
- Help with “spotting” in the menstrual cycle12
- Postpartum care/revitalize the womb after childbirth2, 13
- Bond with other women2
- Ease anxiety, reduce stress, increase confidence4, 62, 65
- Menopause and perimenopause assistance3
- General cleansing3, 5, 6
- Meditation and increased mind-body connection4, 65
- Emotional Healing65
- Healing sexual trauma4, 87
- Bacterial vaginosis14
- Easing pelvic floor pain3, 15
- Help with endometriosis-related discomforts3, 16, 17
- Help dealing with complications related to polyps and fibroids3, 4, 64, 98
- Menopause/perimenopause relief3
- PCOS relief4, 18, 26
- More enjoyable/less painful sex19
- Increase circulation to pelvic region12, 3
- Vaginal odor improvement20
- Dysmenorrhea (period pain) help5, 12, 21
- Hormone rebalancing22
- Minimizing headaches/fatigue/depression23, 24
- Soothing of hemorrhoids and other digestive issues4, 25, 103
If you are an adult, no. You can vaginal steam in your own home, on your own terms. However, the guidance of an experienced friend, vaginal steam facilitator, or guided audio meditation can be helpful, and is often recommended, especially for your first time. Additionally, more and more in metropolitan areas are offering vaginal steaming as a spa treatment.
There is no “official” age range for vaginal steaming. As a rule and safety precaution, anyone under the age of 18 should only steam with adult supervision and always consult a physician before doing so.
In some traditions, as a rite of passage, mothers or other elder female caretakers will offer a vaginal steam to young women after completing their first menstruation. There is no maximum age range, and many women continue to steam well into post-menopausal years.5 In the Indonesian bakera tradition, vaginal steams are also specifically prepared for elderly women.2
“Detox” is a controversial term, and many doctors agree that “the premise that the body needs treatments to remove toxins has no clear basis in human biology.”6 It is also common lingo among OBGYNs that the vagina is like a “self-cleaning oven” that does not generally need any special intervention to keep it clean. We completely agree! Vaginal steaming is not a practice meant to clean or detox a “dirty vagina.” Rather, as vaginal steaming expert Dr. Rosita Arvigo explains, the increased circulation from steaming simply promotes homeostasis in the region, which is the body’s natural ability to cleanse and heal itself.3
Consequently, one of the most commonly reported effects of vaginal steaming is the expulsion of some kind of matter, either soon after steaming or during the ensuing menstrual cycle, that had not previously come out of the uterus or vaginal canal. Often times this matter appears dark and coagulated; other times it is polyp or fibroid-reminiscent. Either way, the reports are that material that might have been stuck before tends to come out.3
If we “shift the idea of ‘detoxification’ to developing habits that support overall vitality and cultivate body functions… the benefits are scientifically present.”6 This is a great way to approach the practice of vaginal steaming: In short, love and treat your womb space right and your vagina and uterus will benefit!
That’s a great question. We don’t know for sure, and there may be several reasons. But consider the following:
Traditional women’s knowledge may have been left out of the academic historic medical records because it wasn’t practiced by men. It is well documented that medicinal plants have played a huge role in feminine care in traditional ethnic groups around the world. However, most scholarly research around this type of medicinal plant use has focused on the knowledge of male traditional healers, often ignoring or missing the knowledge held by women.27, 102 Instead, the information carried and passed down by women has more often than not been relegated to the category of “old wives’ tales.” Because the scientific-medical establishment in the West has been a predominantly patriarchal institution, researchers erroneously assumed that any knowledge of scientific or medical value within the ethnic groups they were studying was held by men.102 This is part of the even larger-scale unfortunate practice of generally erasing the importance of women from academic history altogether.28
Furthermore, in many traditions it is likely that women also intentionally kept their knowledge around women’s health a secret among themselves in order to undermine male dominance and promote female empowerment within their communities.27
Given this information, it’s not surprising that even though vaginal steaming has been around for millennia, we haven’t heard of it in the West until just recently. Thankfully, the current wave of academia is making serious efforts are being made to bridge the gender gap in this kind of research.102 Viva la vulva.
“Yoni” is a Sanskrit word that means womb, uterus, vagina, vulva—it can mean any of these alone or all of them together, as an all-encompassing word for the entire womb space.29 It also represents the divine feminine power/goddess known as “Shakti.” The term “yoni” has been used a lot recently and is a buzzword in conscious women’s circles.
Many women are using the word “yoni” instead of “vagina” because it carries a reverence and respect for this part of the body that the word “vagina” does not inherently include. Did you know the original Latin meaning of the word “vagina” was “scabbard” or “sheath”30—aka a place for a man to put his sword?
We love the term yoni and fully support the efforts to shift language around the vagina in this direction. LOVE YOUR YONI! However, we also still use the term “vagina” because it is remains the most widely understood and accepted terminology when referring to this part of the body.
A traditional sauna uses heat to warm the air, which then warms your body. An infrared sauna uses light to create heat, which then warms your body directly without warming the air around you as much.31
While less documentation exists about the effects of infrared heat on the vagina than vaginal steaming with water/herbs, there is a growing body of evidence showcasing the positive of effects of infrared heat on the human body in general.
- Infrared saunas tend to produce similar physiological results as traditional saunas (i.e. those elicited by moderate exercise, including sweating and increased heart rate), but at a lower temperatures, which makes infrared sauna more accessible to those who cannot tolerate the heat of a regular sauna.31 Applying this logic to your yoni, if you are extremely sensitive to the heat involved with traditional vaginal steaming, using infrared heat could be a way to reap the same benefits at lower temperatures.
- Infrared sauna can be a useful and safe treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and can also decrease negative moods, anxiety, and depression.24
- Infrared sauna treatment can help with neuromuscular recovery from strength and endurance training.32 If you have pelvic floor muscle issues, infrared heat during a vaginal steam could, similarly, be of benefit.
- Infrared sauna treatment is “light” in terms of body load and provides a “comfortable and relaxing experience” in general.32
- Radiant heat/incubation systems used in hospitals to regulate the body temperature of newborns incorporate infrared heat to do so.33 Yes, the technology is considered safe enough that it is used across the world to keep infants warm!
- Infrared radiation can stimulate circulation, increase collagen production, and have beneficial effects on your skin, making it smoother and suppler.34
- Emerging trends in scientific literature show that sauna therapy can help your body detox heavy metals and other pollutants through sweat.35, 36, 37
- No adverse effects have been reported with infrared saunas.31
A more in-depth article examining the full spectrum of infrared sauna therapy benefits can be found here.
In summary, the benefits of infrared sauna in general are well-studied and wide ranging. These benefits for the body and skin generally can also logically apply to the vaginal area specifically. This is why we offer a FAR-infrared heat option on the Leiamoon Steam Seat in addition to the steam heating mechanism.
As always, consult your physician or qualified health care provider if you are interested in trying infrared sauna therapy for your vagina or otherwise.
YES! Any activity involving boiling water and hot steam involves a risk of burning. So be careful! If you are making your own steam at home, of course make sure you don’t touch the boiling water, but we also recommend that you wave your hand over your steaming pot to gauge heat and appropriate squatting distance.
This varies from woman to woman, and depends on countless individual factors including your age, where you are in your cycle, why you are steaming, what kinds of periods you have been experiencing, if you are trying to get pregnant or if you are post-partum, if you have any specific variety of pelvic pain, what your personal emotional/psychological/spiritual state is, etc. Because every woman is different, results will always vary.
Given the above, you can generally expect to feel immediately relaxed, more in tune with your womb space, rejuvenated, confident, and open to your feminine creativity. Intense emotional release during a steam session is also very common—you might laugh or cry, and that is great! Check out some of our Steam Stories to hear what other women are saying about the experience.
Physiologically, the most common general report after a first steam is a heavier flow in the ensuing menstrual cycle as seemingly stagnant or built up matter tends to be released. Subsequent periods then tend to be lighter. Many women have noted an initial discomfort with the immediately ensuing menstrual cycle during this stagnant matter release, followed by more comfortable periods with continued practice.
No. Leiamoon is an organization dedicated to empowering the womb and raising divine feminine consciousness on the planet. We share information from a network of experts (including many doctors) and relevant research, and develop products in line with this goal.
Yes, here is what some MD's are saying:
Louisville-based family medicine/obstetrics specialist Dr. Rebecca Cohen, M.D, says:
I recommend vaginal steams in my practice regularly for a variety of reasons, including fertility support, vaginal dryness during menopause and nursing, menstrual irregularities and postpartum support….I believe that they are safe when used correctly and can be a helpful adjunct to conventional medical therapies.38
Dr. Lissa Rankin, M.D., NY Times best-selling author and TED talk alumnus, is “all for it,” with a heavy emphasis on each woman listening to and trusting her own body. She writes that, despite being uncertain of the exact scientific benefits:
I'm a big fan of checking in with your gut (and your lady bits!) What does your body tell you? Is this for you? Do you believe this will benefit you? If not, skip it. But if the wisdom of your body speaks to you and says, "YES! This is the answer for me," pay attention.
That little voice can be much wiser than any randomized controlled double-blinded clinical trial. And as long as you're not putting your body in danger (I personally doubt you are), what's the harm? Worst case scenario, you're out $50 and the pores of your vulvar skin are squeaky clean and tightly closed. And if it works to help you meet your goals, more power to ya.Your body knows best. Trust it.39
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD may not be a full-fledged advocate but at the very least has gone on record to say that vaginal steaming is “not insane,” and that the heat increases circulation, which brings more blood flow, oxygen, and “immune factors” to the area.40
Dr. Siri Chand Kaur Khalsa, MD, believes that “as long as the steam… doesn’t damage the delicate membranes of the vagina, embracing this ancient ritual may bring a renewed sense of empowerment to a woman’s reproductive energy.”6
Dr. Alyssa Dweck, M.D., practicing gynecologist and renowned author of V is for Vagina, says: “Steam will bring extra blood flow to the genital area, and that helps with healing and muscle relaxation in general.”41
Dr. Camilo Gonima, M.D., practicing OBGYN has stated on the record that “Herbal steams could have some relaxing effects and some beneficial superficial effects on the skin, just like a sauna or a facial steam would.” While he encourages caution to avoid burning, and notes that the vagina maintains a “mix of beneficial bacteria” on its own, Dr. Gonima says women can steam as often as they desire.42
Dr. Charles J. Ascher-Walsh, M.D., director of gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City states, “It’s reasonable to think that steam could soften the cervix and cervical mucus to make fertility-related procedures easier… and the herbs may even have an aromatherapy-like effect.”43
No. Douching is the practice washing or cleaning out the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids. Most douches are sold in stores as prepackaged mixes that usually come in a bottle or bag. You then squirt this mixture upward through a tube or nozzle into your vagina and wait for it to come back out.
Vaginal steaming is gentle, non-invasive, and done for entirely different reasons than douching.
Most doctors recommend against douching but advocate for sitz baths.44, 45 While vaginal steaming is still a completely separate practice, it has more in common with a sitz bath than douching. As doula and reproductive women’s health advocate Zoë Etkin explains: “I liken v-steams more to sitz baths. Gentle, external, but the warming properties have a lot of benefits.”46 On the other hand, douching actually forces a stream of water, often mixed with chemicals, up in to the vaginal canal.
It is no secret that stress affects your reproductive system! This can include making your period irregular/painful, exacerbating other PMS symptoms, interfering with your sex drive, increasing vaginal discharge and/or dryness during sex, causing yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, and directly affecting your ovulation.47 Vaginal steaming can be a truly calming, stress-relieving, meditative experience. In this regard alone, the fertility benefits are very real! Experts agree that less stress equals more fertility.8, 48, 49
Steaming also has the added benefit of connecting your conscious mind with your womb space, which beautifully complements the Fertility Awareness Methods (FAMs) for fertility (and pregnancy prevention). These are widely recognized ways of tracking your menstrual cycle to pinpoint when you will be the most fertile.50, 51 Science has shown FAMs to be remarkably effective for couples trying to conceive52, and we found a great guide to using this method for pregnancy here.
Furthermore, many doctors and practitioners believe steaming has real physiological effects that increase the chance of pregnancy. The common thread among these theories is that the increase in circulation to the region enables the uterus to more optimally prepare itself for pregnancy.3, 5, 53 Check out our full interview with Dr. Marc Sklar here for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.
Vaginal steaming authority Dr. Rosita Arvigo includes vaginal steaming as the second part of a two-step modality for fertility, and believes it is particularly useful once a woman’s uterus is properly positioned. She also sheds light on the correlation between dysmenorrhea and infertility:
Every woman is a unique puzzle with fertility. There are no simple and straightforward answers. However, we do find in clinical practice that… maybe seven out of 10 women with a fertility challenge actually have a misplaced uterus…. Sometimes the uterus is lying right on top of the ovary, and the ovary is not able to modulate properly, or it ovulates and the egg is not able to find its way into the fallopian tube.
Sometimes the fallopian tube is kinked, and all it needs is a good stretch--a nice soft and easy pull to put it back into prime condition. And, of course, a uterus that is lying anterior or backwards or too low also is not cleaning itself out properly [i.e. properly menstruating]. So usually, we find women with fertility challenges also have dysmenorrhea or painful periods…. Once we bring the uterus into proper position, we recommend a vaginal steam. And if the woman is willing to do self-care regularly at home, we find that the nine out of ten women with dysmenorrhea will improve with the abdominal therapy. How many will be able to resolve a fertility challenge? It's really difficult to put an exact number on it, but it looks like after forty-five years of experience, about half of women with fertility challenges really need a good deep abdominal therapy to bring the uterus, the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the broad ligament, the uteral sacral ligament--bring them all into a proper position to allow a good amount of arterial supply, which brings all the light and the nutrients into the uterus and to drain away the venous blood and then also to help with the lymphatic congestion to bring that to a normal state.
And therefore what you have is a return of homeostasis. Homeostasis simply means balance within. It's normal for women to reproduce. It would be abnormal for a woman not to be able to get pregnant. So when we are able to accomplish these things, then nature--homeostasis--is then put back into proper order and condition and things normalize; function returns. 3
Steaming may also serve the function of priming the cervix prior to IVF and IUI fertility procedures. Dr. Arvigo, in conjunction with cooperating IVF doctors, has her patients do vaginal steams on the day of in vitro embryo implantation.3 This practice is also advocated by CNY Fertility Clinic in New York, which recommends: “If you are doing an IVF cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your transfer. Steaming before your transfer procedure helps to create a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.”53 The clinic likewise recommends a specific steaming regimen for IUI and a donor egg cycles.
In summary, experts believe that the stress relief, increased womb awareness, and even potential physiological effects of vaginal steaming can all play a role in maximizing fertility and increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
We don’t know for sure as there is no known scientific study that proves whether this happens or not.
Doctors don’t really know either. A few mainstream OBGYNs, including Dr. Manny Alvarez and Dr. Jen Gunter, have publicly postulated that it’s not possible.54, 55 But others, like Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, suggest otherwise.40
Dr. Charles J. Ascher-Walsh, M.D., director of gynecology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City states, “It’s reasonable to think that steam could soften the cervix and cervical mucus to make fertility-related procedures easier… and the herbs may even have an aromatherapy-like effect.”43
Katherine Thurer, M.D. and gynecologist, concurs: “Healthy vaginal tissue is used as an effective vehicle for the administration of medications like antibiotics, antifungal creams, and hormones, so I suspect the herbs in the steam can be easily absorbed this way, too.”43 Isa Herrera, author of Ending Female Pain and clinical director of Manhattan’s Renew Physical Therapy Healing Center elaborates further: “’The steam thins the mucus [of the cervix], in much the same way that it clears a congested nasal passage, so the herbs can then do their job…’” Furthermore, “vaginal tissue is epithelial and mucosal… muscular and stretchy, but also absorbent and porous, like skin.”43
In a recent interview with Leiamoon, San Diego-based acupuncturist, Eastern medicine practitioner, and fertility expert Dr. Marc Sklar notes that the steam “definitely hits the external vaginal tissue” and “would easily get into the vaginal canal, and possibly even the cervix,” but how far up it goes is difficult to know and depends how open the cervix is. This may vary based on where a woman is during her menstrual cycle and other factors.
While we may not know the degree to which the steam itself “goes in,” doctors agree that heat from the steam is certainly likely to boost circulation and therefore increase blood flow to the vaginal area. The increase in circulation means more oxygen and more nutrient-rich blood moving through the vaginal tissue, which subsequently could translate to more blood flow in and around the pelvic area generally, including up in to the womb space and uterus.40, 3, 38, 43, 56
Many case studies from vaginal steam practitioners/facilitators and anecdotal reports from women attest to the benefits of steaming in conjunction with other fertility treatments. 4, 57
The most voluminous case studies treating women with vaginal steams while they were undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) treatments (notably IVF) come from Dr. Rosita Arvigo. Based on experience culled from decades of her own clinical practice, she asserts that doing a vaginal steam on the day of the embryo transfer can increase the chances of successful implantation, because it “makes the cervical fluid more abundant and helps the physician get in to the cervix and uterus much more easily. It makes the environment more moist and slippery for the physician to be able to insert the [embryo].”3 The practice is also advocated by CNY Fertility Clinic in New York, which recommends: “If you are doing an IVF cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your transfer. Steaming before your transfer procedure helps to create a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.”53 Likewise, the clinic also recommends a specific steaming regimen for IUI and a donor egg cycles.
Additionally, as with fertility in general, your stress levels can impact the success of your IVF treatment.57 In this regard, the stress relief effects from steaming alone may be of great benefit.
As always, consult your doctor, IVF specialist, or other qualified medical professional if you plan to do IVF or IUI and are interested in using vaginal steaming as a complementary practice to these fertility methods.
Vaginal steaming with herbs can have both thermo-therapeutic and aroma-therapeutic effects.2, 58 Aromatherapy and herbal care around childbirth have a long history, and this is one of the specific reasons why herbs have been used historically in vaginal steam baths.2 The smell of herbs alone can have very soothing and relaxing effects! In fact, many practitioners and women claim that being able to “taste” the herbs on their tongue is an integral part of the steam session.41
Beyond the aromatic effects, steam can carry the essential oils of the herbs used. Certain experts believe it is this combination of steam and essential oils that ultimately work together to increase circulation and “dislodge indurated menstrual fluids and pathological accumulations that have not properly sloughed off with each monthly cycle.”59
Yes! Leiamoon currently offers a premium signature blend that is a great “all-around” herb blend for vaginal steaming. Check out our herbs page for detailed descriptions of the herbs used in our blend and stay tuned for future offerings of different blends.
Different regional traditions also use different local herbs for steaming, and different herbs have different purposes. Consult with your local herbalist or expert vaginal steam practitioner to find a custom blend that is right for you. If you are going to source your own herbs, make sure they are organic, and ideally wild-crafted and solar dried for maximum benefit.
The consensus among vaginal steaming thought leaders is no, you should not steam with essential oils because they are too strong and may burn your vulva tissue.60, 61, 62 While we have found one instance of a physician recommending essential oil use, it was only recommended to use a few drops of a “very gentle oil.” Our recommendation is to stick to the herbs!
Sure, but it's nowhere near as nice! If you steam with water alone you will still get the effects of the moist heat. However, the essences of the herbs you use can add so much to the experience, not only in terms of their specific properties, but also in terms of relaxation and their aromas.
Both are viable options depending on your preferences and needs. Steaming at home is private, affordable, intimate, and gives you complete control over your own experience. Steaming at a spa can be luxurious and pampering! However, it costs more, puts you at the discretion of the spa practitioner, is less private, and can come with sanitation risks.63 These factors vary based on the particulars of each spa, including their equipment, the training of their employees, and maintenance of their facilities. Be sure to thoroughly research any spa before going in for a vaginal steam. If you steam at home: use caution, don’t burn yourself, and make sure that you are not contraindicated for steaming—see “Who should NOT vaginal steam?” above.
NO, do not steam when you are pregnant.
While the scientific research is still scant, anecdotal reports and case studies are very promising.98 First, there are many women who claim to have eliminated fibroids altogether through vaginal steaming or a combination of vaginal steaming and abdominal massage techniques, and likewise practitioners who have logged numerous accounts of this happening with their patients.4, 64, 66 See the above question “Can steam really permeate the cervix and go up into the uterus?" and this fascinating article for more insight as to how this may be possible.
In addition to prospect of eliminating fibroids altogether, steaming can also help to assist with the associated discomforts that come along with them:
For the fibroids, it depends on the size and also the location. We have the best results with those fibroids that are polyps. They are fibroid "balls" so to speak--fibroid tissue that hangs from the uterine membrane by a stem. Those, in our experience, we have the most success dislodging from the uterus. Those fibroids that are actually growing in the wall, the intramural ones, of course they're more difficult. And [with] the other fibroids it really depends on the size. We have good results with fibroids that are five centimeters or less. [With] the very, very large fibroids, we find that we are able to help a great deal with the pain, the bleeding, and the symptoms; but that they only shrink to a minor degree…. It would in so many ways depend on the woman, her history, her present state of health, her emotional well-being, her spiritual well-being.... We like to take all of those things into consideration.
But, having said that, in general, women with fibroids and endometriosis report that the symptoms are tremendously improved even if the fibroids have not disappeared. Sometimes they do [disappear], but it really depends on the size, the age of the woman, her health in general, and whether or not she is willing to accept the responsibility of what she has to do for herself: the self care, the vaginal steaming, usually taking a herbal remedy. It just depends on the woman but also depends on how well she is able to be engaged in her own self-healing.3
If you have or think you have uterine fibroids, consult your doctor or qualified healthcare provider for the best treatment options.
If you are experiencing painful periods (aka dysmenorrhea), the first thing you should do is consult your doctor. You may be experiencing period pains for any number of reasons, and it is important to figure out where your pain is coming from.
Pain related to menstruation is one of the biggest reasons for vaginal steaming. We cover this topic in depth in our interview with functional nutritionist Nicole Jardim. V-steam expert Dr. Rosita Arvigo shares her perspective on how and why steaming can help:
[W]omen often have painful periods because they have indurated or encrusted fluids from previous menstrual cycles that have not been flushed. The combination of planet oils and steam moves into the uterine walls. The uterine wall is kind of like hills, valleys and mountains if you look at it under a microscope. In between the parts of the membrane that rise, are something called the “venous lakes”. In those venous lakes is where we find the accumulation of incompletely flushed menstrual fluids from previous cycles. It tends to accumulate and then harden there. So you can imagine, if you want to clean something really well, you heat it and steam it. Its steam cleaning! And then the plant oils have their own effect of breaking up, separating and moving things along. So that’s my take on it. I think it’s a combination of those, and the fact that it’s so soothing. Most everyone who tries it loves it. It’s so comforting, physically and emotionally, all at the same time.5
Numerous case studies and individual accounts speak to the effectiveness of vaginal steaming for dealing with this kind of pain.12, 22, 67 See the links in our sources below to read more.
Based on case studies and personal accounts, it seems likely. Although it depends on when, how often, why you are steaming, and your personal physiology, it is very common for women to seen increased and darker flow in cycles after their first few steams, as the uterus begins to release stagnant matter that may have built up over time. Subsequently, it is common to see a more consistent, slightly lighter more oxygen-rich fresh blood after steaming for a few months.59
We don’t really know for sure. Some sources say no. However, there have been reports, like this one, from some women who have had success with steaming for this purpose. Be sure to consult your doctor, midwife, or qualified healthcare professional if you are concerned about your heavy flow.
You are right, and this is a great question! The entire outer/external part of the female genitalia is called the vulva. The vulva encompasses both the outer and inner “lips” of skin (labia majora and labia minora) that open up to the vestibule that surrounds the vaginal entrance (check out a great vulvar anatomy guide here).
In the strictest medical sense, the vagina itself is the internal canal. However, the majority of women, and most people in general, still refer colloquially to the entire area as the vagina. Because part of our mission is to make vaginal steaming easily accessible to all women, Leiamoon still uses the term “vagina.” We fully support refinement, education, and working towards more conscious language around the womb space; we’re just starting from the place of widest understanding.
If you suspect you are suffering from any of the above, please consult your doctor or qualified health care provider right away. For a thorough introduction to the different types of vaginitis, check out this article.
The reports and opinions around vaginal steaming as it relates to vaginal infections are mixed. Check it out:
While western medicine has yet to move forward with clinical studies around vaginal steaming, they do exist in Korea! One notable example is a 2016 study that found vaginal steaming was a positive treatment for atrophic vaginitis.68
Another study examined records from a Korean medical hospital where vaginal steam treatments were given to women with a variety of ailments including cold hypersensitivity, vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, dyspepsia, and infertility. The study found that the patients were highly satisfied with the treatment for their respective complaints and none reported having any side effects.69
V-steam guru Keli Garza of steamychick.com details her theory of vaginal steaming as an effective alternative therapy for bacterial vaginosis here, and logs two anecdotal reports of positive results from her clients here and here. She also mentions another client with “over ten years of chronic bacterial vaginosis was able to clear up an infection after a couple steam treatments.”70
While the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism specifically endorses vaginal steaming as a “supportive therapy” for bacterial infections including yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, cervicitis, and Trichomoniasis71, Dr. Rosita Arvigo, on the other hand, categorizes any sort of active infection in the area a contraindication for steaming.3
Lindsay Wilkinson, N.D., L.Ac., an Oregon-based naturopathic practitioner, believes steaming is good for chronic vaginitis/vaginosis if there is no active/obvious infection at the time of steaming.72
Note that there are various vaginal conditions that exhibit seem similar symptoms to vaginosis. Some may be bacterial, others viral or fungal. It is important that you get diagnosed by and consult with a qualified health care provider before considering steaming if you have any type of vaginal infection!73
Many experts have rightfully asserted that the vagina is a self-maintaining organ that generally does not need outside agents interfering with its cleaning process. We completely agree! But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it the nourishing, gentle, TLC that vaginal steaming provides.
We discussed this question in depth in our interview with renowned women’s health coach and functional nutritionist Nicole Jardim, using this quote from her blog as a starting point:
With all the torture we inflict on our vaginas these days – waxing, lasering, chemical-laden douches, synthetic tampons and pads, antibiotics, hormonal birth control, vaginal rejuvenation surgery, bleaching, spermicides...I could go on and on – I’m frankly shocked at the recent backlash in the media about vaginal steaming.
It’s mind-blowing to me that everything I listed above is considered completely normal and okay but sitting over a bowl of hot water and herbs for 30 minutes is going to ruin our health. I mean seriously?74
We’ve found the following points to be particularly noteworthy in answering this question:
Doing something in moderation is not the same as overdoing it. In our interview with Marc Sklar, the Fertility Expert, he stresses that after years of clinical practice prescribing vaginal steams for fertility, disrupting the vaginal biome was the least of his concerns, and that he has “never seen it cause yeast infections” or “any negative effects in the vaginal area,” for that matter. He does, however, recommend against over-doing it:
I think if someone does this excessively, and does this daily, for instance…if you're influencing the environment regularly and not allowing the body to recover from that… then yes, I do think it can have adverse effects. I have yet to see anyone do anything like that and I haven't seen anybody have any negative side effects from [steaming in general]. But you know in terms of changing microbiome… If you do it once a month, twice a month, maybe even three times a month spaced out, then I don't think it will have that sort of effect, and I've never seen that.
The vaginal microbiome is complicated and contains a wide variety of both “good” and “bad” bacteria. What is considered “healthy” varies from woman to woman. Moreover, the mix of bacteria in many healthy women’s vaginal biomes can change significantly over short periods of time; in others it remains more constant. Bacteria vary so much among individuals that there is no such thing as a “normal” vaginal microbiome.75 More recent research reveals even more complexity in the nuances of what makes a healthy vaginal biome:
Lactobacillus bacteria—long thought to keep vaginas healthy—are not created equal. For some researchers, L. crispatus is emerging as the vagina’s superhero. It not only pumps out the best mix of two different types of lactic acid to keep the vagina inhospitable to other bugs, but it also fortifies a woman’s vaginal mucus to trap and keep at bay HIV and other pathogens. To confuse matters further, some of the vaginal villains deemed the culprits in BV, Gardnerella, Prevotella, and Atopobium, have been found in the vaginas of healthy women.76
The vagina contains a mix of good and bad bacteria. This mix is always in flux, varies from woman to woman, and there is no set definition of what good and bad bacteria is. As Jennifer Allsworth Ph.D., epidemiologist and research specialist in OBGYN and women’s health, sums up: With respect to the vaginal microbiome, “We don’t even really know what ‘healthy’ is.”76
Women do things every day that disrupt the bacterial balance of their vagina. Many of these things are 1) promoted by societal and medical establishments despite their inherent risks, and 2) significantly more invasive than a gentle vaginal steam. Some of these include:
- “Normal intrusions to the vaginal environment” such as tampons, semen, and even menstruation. Yes, semen causes the pH of your vagina to rise, and both semen and menstruation can potentially reduce good bacteria while allowing space for other harmful bacteria to flourish.76
- Sitting in a hot tub or even a swimming pool.77
- Using scented soap or deodorants in the vaginal area.78
- Sex, with anyone (especially a new person or with multiple partners). Anytime you insert another person’s body part into your body, you will almost inevitably disrupt the microbiome of your vagina.76
- Antibiotics. They kill off not only the bad bacteria that cause disease, but also the good bacteria you need to maintain a healthy vaginal pH.79
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs). Numerous studies have shown IUD use increases the risk of bacterial vaginosis and pelvic inflammatory disease.80, 81, 82, 83 Yet millions of women in the U.S. use IUDs and their use is on the rise.
- Hormonal birth control. Going on the pill can also affect your vaginal microbiome.84
- All kinds of invasive vaginal rejuvenation procedures involving lasers, surgeries, radio frequency technology and high-focused ultrasounds.85
- Stress, medications, and hormonal changes. All of these factors can influence the balance of vaginal bacteria.86
In short, all kinds of things get put into the vagina, but most vaginas are healthy most of the time.
Women have a right to choose what to do with their own bodies and vaginas. If you are going to vaginal steam on your own, be conscious and careful about it, and don’t overdo it. If you are concerned about how it might affect your biome, consult your doctor for advice. Be an empowered, informed decision-maker in charge of your own health!
Most vaginal steaming experts believe this is one of the best times for a woman to steam. Case studies and reports from perimenopausal/menopausal women have reported steaming can help with dryness, clear up excess cervical fluid, increase libido, enable deeper sleep, and even provide relief from “phantom” period symptoms. 3, 4, 5, 38, 88, 89
Dr. Rosita Arvigo believes vaginal steaming is an “excellent technique to continue for the rest of our lives in order to prevent pathologies after menopause,” and further elaborates that especially after the last menstrual cycle, stagnant matter can still be lodged in the uterus for years:
I had that experience myself I had not been menstruating; I was postmenopausal and still doing vaginal steams, and for three cycles in a row I was still passing fluid from my uterus. So we know that if that stays inside it can only harden and then indurate right into the wall of the uterus. The uterus should be clean--clean when it stops menstruating, and the only way to ensure that is to do the vaginal steams. Most women who are menopausal or postmenopausal may not have menstruated for a year or two; when they try the vaginal steam they're absolutely shocked to see that there were fluids left inside the uterus that had not completely flowed with their last and final menstruation. Especially if they have had a history of painful, difficult, or irregular cycles most of their reproductive life.3
As with any other medical condition, if you are suffering from PCOS or think you have related symptoms, consult your doctor or qualified health care provider immediately. Some info/thoughts on PCOS and vaginal steaming:
Check out Dr. Christine Schaffner’s interview with wellness coach Katie Strakosch, in which she details how vaginal steaming helped her through her own journey with PCOS. Another fascinating personal account of one woman’s journey with PCOS and steaming here. Christine Wexell, R.N and founder of PCOScysters.com also recommends steaming for PCOS specifically.26
Many of the symptoms associated with PCOS are those that women have had success self-treating with vaginal steams, including irregular menstrual cycles, reduced fertility (see “Can vaginal steaming help me get pregnant?" above), and fibroids/polyps/cysts and associated pain.
As with so many other feminine-pain related conditions, there is a direct link between PCOS and stress.90 Some of the first treatment recommendations involve making healthy lifestyle changes geared towards minimizing your stress:
Healthy choices aren’t just common sense when you have PCOS. Eating wisely, being physically active, sleeping well, and managing your stress can help reverse the hormone imbalances at the center of polycystic ovary syndrome and the symptoms those hormone changes cause.91
The calming, relaxing, and womb-consciousness orienting practice of vaginal steaming can do wonders for relieving stress and anxiety and releasing tension in the pelvic region.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, PCOS symptoms are also caused by stagnant blood in and around the liver and uterus and are treatable with herbs that “promote qi and blood circulation in the uterus.”92, 93 Vaginal steaming, which brings heat to the pelvic region, promotes circulation, and can increase blood flow and oxygen to the womb space, is encouraged as a general means to combat this kind of stagnation.3
Unfortunately, a common Western treatment method for PCOS is to prescribe pain pills, birth control pills, or both. If you are looking for alternative, holistic treatment of your PCOS symptoms or want to complement your current treatment regimen, vaginal steaming could be a great option.
If you have any signs or symptoms of endometriosis, see your doctor immediately. Common signs can include painful periods (dysmenorrhea), pain during intercourse, pain with bowel movements/urination, excessive bleeding during periods, bleeding between periods, infertility, and other possible symptoms including fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, constipation, or bloating, especially during your period.94
Endometriosis and relief from the associated symptoms are some of the most prevalent reasons for vaginal steaming. Typical Western medicine options for treatment often include anti-inflammatory and hormonal medications, surgery to remove endometriosis adhesions/fibroids, and in some cases even a complete hysterectomy.94 Many women with endometriosis have found vaginal steaming to be a gentler and non-invasive self-care option. The positive reports from women who have steamed to help with endometriosis relief are widespread, and vaginal steam facilitators commonly recommend steams for endometriosis-related issues.3, 4, 16, 17, 61, 95, 96, 97
Because vaginal steaming is such a new practice in the eyes of Western medicine, the clinical trials proving its efficacy for endometriosis treatment are still scant. However, they ARE happening! In July 2018, an incredibly thorough case study published in Integrative Medicine Research Journal documented serious success of vaginal steaming and other Traditional Korean Medicine methods for endometriosis treatment. The study focused on a patient who had recurring endometriosis symptoms, including fibroids, for years; despite three surgeries and extensive hormone therapy, the symptoms would not go away. When doctors eventually applied the herbal therapy and vaginal steams, she had no more recurring symptoms over the entire observation period of 34 months.98
Vaginal steaming after childbirth is possibly the oldest reason for the practice on record!2 In an extensive study conducted for the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in the early 2000s, researchers examined the traditional herbal vaginal steaming practice known as Bakera in Indonesia. In Bakera, vaginal steaming is used by women to “recuperate, stay healthy, restore the mother’s strength… and to feel fresh, clean and at ease” after childbirth. With the caveats of general safety precautions and some specific contraindications, the study concluded the practice is an “effective and safe method for recuperation after childbirth.”2
Modern advocates of post-partum steams believe that steaming can:
- help to flush out leftover material from the uterus after the childbirth.
- help the uterine ligaments to return to a normal position.
- bring warmth into the uterus and pelvic floor.3
When exactly the vaginal steam is applied post-childbirth varies from culture to culture. Recommendations range anywhere from one hour to nine days after childbirth, and some cultures even deliver babies in a “steam house” structure designated for vaginal steaming.3 In the bakera practice, steaming regimens typically begin within 3-14 days after childbirth, continuing for many weeks, anywhere from twice per month up to twice per day.2
Steaming for postpartum care is also the subject of a cutting-edge research study happening in 2019—check it out here!
The “softer” reasons for vaginal steaming—that it can be stress-relieving, calming, cathartic, and emotionally relieving, are some of the best reasons why any woman can benefit from this practice.
Women all over the world are telling their stories about all the ways vaginal steaming has helped them rejuvenate, heal from emotional/spiritual trauma, eliminate stress, release trapped emotions, reconnect to their femininity and so much more. Check out our Steam Stories for some firsthand accounts of these experiences. Another amazing resource is the book Journeys in Healing, which is a collection of firsthand accounts from practitioners and clients of Maya Abdominal Therapy and vaginal steaming.
This depends on so many different factors. Every woman has a different body, different cycle, and different reasons for steaming. Consult your doctor, steam facilitator, herbalist or otherwise qualified professional for advice on the best frequency for you.
First and foremost, listen to your body! Second, please always take in to account the recommendations of your doctor or qualified healthcare provider. Third, vaginal steaming feels really good and really relaxing when done correctly. So only steam as long as you feel comfortable for.
Typical steam sessions last anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes, but you can steam for as short a time as you like. Most traditions and practitioners do not recommend going longer than 35 minutes at a time. You may also want to build up your comfort level, starting with a shorter session and gradually increasing your steaming time with subsequent sessions.
The bottom line is be gentle with yourself. There is no rush—just ease in to it and listen to your body.
This depends on so many different factors. Every woman has a different body, different cycle, and different reasons for steaming. Consult your doctor, steam facilitator, herbalist or otherwise qualified professional for advice on the best frequency for you.
If you feel you have a generally healthy cycle and just want to give steaming a try, perhaps adding it to your general feminine self-care practices, you might start just once per month after your period. We’ve also seen recommendations that run the gamut from daily,2 to weekly,56 to three times per month, to monthly, etc.,99 depending on the reasons for steaming and the condition of each woman. If you’re trying to decide how often to steam, be sure to do your own research!
Yes! We highly recommend consulting your doctor, herbalist, doula, midwife, OBGYN, vaginal steam practitioner, and/or any other qualified health professional before trying a vaginal steam on your own.
How often and when you steam will depend on a number of factors, including your purpose for steaming, how heavy your flow is, how many times you’ve steamed before, and how you are feeling. As a general rule, do not steam during menstruation (when you are on your period). If you are not trying to get pregnant and are definitely not pregnant, you can steam just about any time during your monthly cycle as long as it is not during your period.
A lot of women are saying YES! The simple increase in circulation can stimulate your sex drive, and just the experience of vaginal steaming can be a pleasurable turn-on. Many women have reported better sex, less painful sex, and increased libido as a direct result of vaginal steaming.19, 38 Any practice that puts you more in touch with your vagina is going to increase your awareness of and sensitivity in the region. Tuning in to your yoni through vaginal steaming is also a gateway to sacred sexuality, which can lead you (and your partner) to new heights of cosmic orgasmic pleasure.
The feeling of aromatic steam gently swirling up to caress your vaginal tissue can be many things, both physical and emotional—warming, soothing, opening, exciting, rejuvenating, cleansing, meditative, cathartic…. Every steam is an opportunity to explore and improve your relationship with the most intimate parts of yourself, and every feeling you have during a vaginal steam is valid. Many women describe a physical “softening” feeling of the vagina. Vaginal steaming is a very sensual, personal, and intimate experience. Give it a try and let us know how you would describe it.
If you are pre-menopausal and not pregnant, but are not menstruating regularly, it could be a sign of amenorrhea. This can be a serious gynecological disorder and you should contact your doctor or qualified healthcare provider immediately for assistance.
While amenorrhea is consistently touted as one of the many reasons to steam, no medical proof or evidence exists to suggest that vaginal steaming alone can bring back a completely absent period. However, it may work well as a complementary practice within a more integrative approach. Fertility expert Elizabeth Willet, MA, CH, explains: “While the traditional vagina steam may be helpful in some ways, it is but one tool for supporting reproductive system health…. Vagina steam alone may not be all that is needed to bring back menstruation. We feel a holistic approach to supporting the body is key – focusing on diet, maintaining healthy stress levels, and addressing existing health conditions or imbalances.”61
Dr. Rosita Arvigo is one of the world’s foremost authorities on vaginal steaming, specifically of the traditional Maya variety. She is a doctor of naprapathy (a holistic form of medicine derived from osteopathy and chiropractic medicine that focuses on connective tissue disorders”100, 101), a world-renowned author and ethnobotanist, the founder of the Arvigo Institute, which trains practitioners in her specialized Arvigo Abdominal Therapy, a contributor and founding member of the Belize Ethnobotany Project (commissioned by the New York Botanical Garden and sponsored by the U.S. National Cancer Institute), and an ardent advocate of preserving and sharing with the world the time-tested, plant-based healing modalities of traditional cultures. She has treated thousands of women and her therapy technique has practitioners in over twenty countries globally as of the time of this writing. Among a host of other lifetime achievements, she is a featured speaker around the world on herbal healing, and recipient of the prestigious New York Wings Worldquest Award for Extraordinary Women in Science and Exploration.
Dr. Arvigo apprenticed under Don Elijio Panti, one of the last and very famous traditional Maya healers in Belize. Elijio’s extensive knowledge and collection of unique plant specimens from this region were of great value for AIDS and cancer research, to the extent that his field work even garnered him co-authorship status in scientific papers published for the studies. He lived to age 103, and prior to his death he was honored with many distinguished awards for his contributions to this research. His life and work was memorialized in a New York Times article.
Dr. Arvigo studied under Elijio for the last decade of his life, intently learning and cataloguing his knowledge and helping him treat the thousands of patients that came to his clinic in San Antonio, Belize. Vaginal steaming was one of the specific, time-honored Maya healing techniques that Arvigo learned about from her studies with Don Elijio. In the Maya tradition, vaginal steams were prescribed for virtually all varieties of feminine ailments in the pelvic area with the same frequency as “rubbing your head for a headache or drinking more water for constipation.”
We are very grateful to Dr. Arvigo for her pioneering and prolific efforts to usher the sacred and traditional practice of vaginal steaming into the modern world.
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