• Vaginal steaming is a century-old natural remedy believed to cleanse vagina, uterus
• It is said to help regulate menstruation as well as ease period cramps and bloating
Women’s health and wellness is multi-layered and holistic and that’s why the modern woman must understand the importance of vaginal steaming, commonly known as yoni steaming.
Though many medical practitioners are divided on whether or not to support the practice, wellness experts believe that the modern woman must steam at least once a week.
Vaginal steaming is a century-old natural remedy believed to cleanse the vagina and uterus, regulate menstruation and ease period cramps and bloating.
Vaginal steaming directs herb-infused steam into your vagina in a process where the woman sits or squats over a container of herbal-infused steam for a few minutes.
Kakamega-based wellness expert Lucy Kavugwi says yoni steams can be done by a woman in the comfort of her home as long as they understand the specific herbs to be used and how to mix them carefully to attain the required balance.
She, however, says yoni services are common in many spas in the country at a fee.
HOW IT'S DONE
According to the wellness expert, commonly used herbs include mugwort, wormwood, chamomile, calendula, basil and oregano.
“They can each be used on their own or mixed in twos or threes depending on one’s preference to prepare the steam,” she says.
She, however, says while it is easier to do it in spas installed with ‘thrones’, which are simply special seats with a hole for the steam to come through, it’s a little more challenging to do it at home as many find it difficult to find the perfect seat.
“I normally tell the modern woman to spare some cash and do this in a spa because they have special seats and are also good at combining the herbs,” Kavugwi says.
However, for those who cannot afford or manage to do it in a spa, the wellness expert breaks it down on how one can prepare their own yoni steam from the comfort of their homes.
“You fill up a basin with hot water then add a cup of your preferred herbs,” Kavugwi says.
“You are then to allow the herbs to absorb the water for about a minute or two. Undress from your waist downwards then stand or squat directly over the steaming basin.”
For those with water closets, she suggests placing the water and herbs in a small pail or bucket that can fit inside the WC, then sitting on the toilet.
“If you are going this route, you are to wrap a towel around your waist and legs to prevent the steam from escaping,” she says.
Kavugwi says the average steam session lasts between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on how hot the water is or until the steam has cooled off.
Apart from being used as a natural remedy to clean the vagina, uterus and the entire reproductive tract, she says, yoni steaming equally helps to relieve stress, depression, haemorrhoids, infections, infertility and hormonal imbalances.
“It also clears headaches or migraines, fatigue and clears digestive issues that one might have and gives a general relief to the body,” she adds.
She, however, advises pregnant women to stay away from the yoni steam until they put to bed concerns of a possible miscarriage.
SCIENCE IS WRONG?
Chrystal Patrick’s Kizito, a wellness expert and also the founder and director of Botanique Naturalle, a wellness clinic in Nairobi, says yoni steaming is about creating the optimal environment, physically, emotionally and spiritually, for healing to naturally take place.
She says yoni steaming is delicate, beautiful and has deep respect and honour to a woman's body, knowing what a woman's body needs to heal.
Despite scientific claims that the vagina is self-cleansing, Kizito disagrees and instead encourages women to learn their bodies by understanding the relationship between their hormones and menstrual cycle.
“I always tell women to know that particular part of their body because when many of them find something off down there, they keep quiet and assume that it will take care of itself, yet it's not like skin, which can heal itself. It needs help,” Kizito says.
Other women will rush to administer antibiotics whenever their vaginal wellbeing is in limbo.
When many women find something off down there, they keep quiet and assume that it will take care of itselfChrystal Patrick’s Kizito
Kizito believes such actions and the silence surrounding vaginal health have left many women nursing pelvic inflammatory diseases, bacterial vaginosis, dryness, yeast infections and subsequent low self-esteem.
The wellness expert says many women experience a hormonal shift and low oestrogen during their menses, which in turn alters their vaginal pH.
“That high alkaline pH is the root cause of vaginal odour, yeast infections, just to name but a few,” Kizito says.
“Then we have others like antibiotics, contraceptives, semen and most notoriously unprotected sex, multiple partners and diet. All of which will mess with your vaginal balance.”
She explains that semen is alkaline and when deposited into one’s vagina, it makes it less acidic (alkaline), which promotes growth of bacteria.
Kizito says with all the aforementioned, it is definitely impossible for the vagina to self-cleanse, hence the need for a Yoni steam.
“Women must learn how to steam for their own well-being. I believe every woman that cares about her wellbeing holistically must learn this,” Kizito says.
She advises that one of the best ways to ensure and maintain perfect vaginal health is by sitting on warm water before menstruation.
Kizito says vaginal health can also be achieved if women ensure they yoni-steam before and after their menses, shower after intimacy and eat healthy.
“While taking your bath, don’t just use plain water. Rather, use cumin clove and guava to wash down there. Women are to stay away from soap as it is among the items that destabilise your vaginal pH and cause irritation,” she says.
The cumin clove and guava wash, Kizito says, are meant to ensure the vagina is slightly acidic to enable it be hostile to infections and at the same time has a great scent.
Kizito reveals that yoni steaming during cold weather is even better since blood flow slows down, which can lead to painful menses, clots in blood, uterine fibroids or endometriosis.
Kakamega gynaecologist Peter Lubang’a disputes the yoni steam and says there is no scientific research to prove whether vaginal steaming is safe.
He warns that the vagina is never meant to be steamed as that may disrupt the natural pH produced by the vaginal microbiome and thus provide an ideal environment for bacteria that causes vaginal infections to thrive.
“The vaginal skin is delicate, sensitive and easily traumatised, and so steaming it could easily cause vaginal burns or scalding,” Lubang’a says.
The medic warns that there have been incidents in medical history where patients suffered second-degree burns while attempting to steam themselves.
“There are no acceptable medical guidelines for steaming your vagina. Which means, unless you consult an alternative health practitioner, you’re on your own to figure out which herbs to use and how often. This puts you at risk of causing yourself harm,” Lubang’a adds.
He says although some alternative therapies are helpful and well-studied, vaginal steaming is not, and he urges women to stay away from it.
Lubang’a says any medical condition must be treated in hospital, including vaginal infections in women and girls.
“You need to pause and wonder how it is claimed that a single practice can heal almost all those conditions because it doesn’t make sense,” he says.
“You can use steam to treat a medical condition as you may end up skipping mainstream medical evaluation and treatment and worsen your condition.”
You need to pause and wonder how it is claimed that a single practice can heal almost all those conditions because it doesn’t make sensePeter Lubang’a
Dr Francis Lutomia insists that the vagina is a self-cleaning machine and doesn’t need help from a herbal steam session.
He warns that though it is possible that vaginal steaming may make one relax and ease cramping, like a heating pad does, the only evidence that vaginal steaming cleanses the vagina or uterus, improves fertility, and balances hormones is purely anecdotal.
Lutomia says there is no scientific evidence that vaginal steaming helps with any condition, let alone wellness.
“It's just a logical issue. Ask yourself how those steaming herbs are supposed to gain access to one's uterus through a tightly closed cervix at the end of the vagina? It beats logic,” he says.
The doctor says in actual sense, vaginal steaming will actually increase the risk of vaginal infection by altering the vaginal bacteria ecosystem.
“That’s not to say some herbs can’t improve reproductive health, but there’s no evidence steaming them into your vagina does so,” Lutomia says.
“Herbs may be natural but also potent, and when used topically, may cause allergic reaction. And the last place you want an allergic reaction is your vagina.”
He says there are safer ways to use heat and herbs for period relief, among them using a hot water bottle on the pelvic area and sipping a warm cup of herbal tea.
“You need to understand that vaginal steaming seats or other equipment may introduce harmful bacteria that could result in a vaginal infection if it has not been properly cleaned,” he says.
“If you are pregnant, know that excess heat can cause complications or even birth defects.”
The medic advises that in order for the vagina to stay healthy, it must maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria.
“Therefore, cleaning it with soap, douching or introducing scented products is not recommended,” Lutomia says.
“Just use water. If you’re experiencing vaginal pain, discharge, odour or dryness, go to the hospital as there may be an underlying problem that needs to be treated. Don’t steam.”