Yoni steaming, or vaginal steaming, is an ancient self-care practice that’s come back into trend, thanks to celebrity advocates. As an alternative health treatment, “steaming” is used by homeopathic practitioners to treat everything from period discomfort to infertility. Some experts claim that steaming can alleviate (even cure) gynecological conditions such as fibroids and endometriosis.
So could steaming truly be the hidden remedy to curing all uterus-related ills? We asked our women’s health experts to weigh in.
What is vaginal steaming?
Vaginal steaming is a centuries-old therapeutic practice that dates back to ancient Mayan and Central American culture. Used as a natural, holistic remedy for treating a wide variety of uterine struggles, the process entails sitting over a pot of steaming water mixed with “medicinal” herbs, with the intention of opening the pores of the vaginal tissues and carrying the benefits of the plants into the body.
Can it really help my fibroids?
Proponents of yoni steaming describe the practice as beneficial for women suffering from a wide range of conditions. Keli Garza, founder, and owner of Steamy Chick, the largest distributor of vaginal-steam saunas in the U.S., has stated yoni steaming to be “ideal for postpartum use.” She also lists it as helpful for any woman having infertility issues, infections, cramps, missing periods, fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, low libido, or any other gynecological issues.
Dr. Rosita Arvigo, a celebrated naturopathic doctor who lived in and studied the Mayan culture, in which yoni steam is common practice, explained to MindBodyGreen.com, “If anybody complains about any problem with the uterus, everybody says, ‘Have you done your vaginal steam?’ just like we would say, ‘Are you drinking enough water?’ ”
Specifically related to fibroids, Midwife Tema Mercado of La Matriz Birth Services reported that one of her clients saw a fibroid shrink from five centimeters to two and a half centimeters after three steam sessions within one month’s time.
But are these astonishingly quick results valid or worth the practice of vaginal steaming?
“There is merit to holistic medicine, but exposing the vagina, one of the most sensitive areas of the body, to steaming is potentially harmful,” said OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner Maris Huffman at VIVA EVE.
Also cautioning women in the use of vaginal steaming VIVA EVE board-certified gynecologist Dr. Nithya Gopal said, “Some of the worst burns occur as a result of steam. Much more than touching boiling water or fire because it has a much stronger penetrative power than just liquids.”
Does vaginal steaming detox? Or can it harm me?
According to holistic medicine practitioners, yoni steaming is a cleanse or detox for the vagina and uterus, after which one may experience a release of leftover material from previous menstrual cycles, as well as spotting and discharge. However, Dr. Gopal finds steam to be dangerous to the vagina for reasons beyond burns.
“Most women believe that by washing their vagina, they are cleansing their bodies and eliminating harmful bacteria. However, the vagina balances its pH naturally, so when a woman washes too much or adds a lot of moisture from steam, for example, it’s going to cause infections.”
This in turn kills normal healthy vagina flora in the process, says Dr. Gopal, allowing for vaginitis or infections to develop.
What is the medical efficacy of vaginal steaming?
Currently, no research studies have tested vaginal steaming or its benefits, and your general healthcare provider will most likely discourage you from trying yoni steaming because of safety concerns and a lack of medical efficacy.
“There’s no reason to believe that heat or steam would somehow be able to get rid of fibroids or get rid of endometriosis,” restated Dr. Gopal on the effectiveness of vaginal steaming.
While women who suffer from multiple issues might be eager to try alternative methods, Nurse Practitioner Maris Huffman instead offers women the encouragement to advocate for more in-tune medical care.
“Health care providers should be asking themselves how they can better equip women to deal with their uterine issues.”
Yoni steaming may offer relief in some sense - whether by the placebo effect or because its heat properties is anyone’s guess - but it’s founded on shaky evidence, and thus isn’t medically supported; when healthcare providers take safety concerns into consideration, they’re likely to tell you to avoid it. If you’re suffering from painful menstrual cramps, infertility, and other uterine struggles, visit a women’s health clinic, like VIVA EVE, for treatment.