I’ve been a bit slow on the Blog post lately but this one has been brewing for some time. Much like the Herbal Brew’s I make and sell for Vaginal Steaming. Maybe you’ve heard about the V-Steam, maybe you’ve even tried it, maybe this will be a whole new concept for you. Either way read on…
While the V-steam may be gaining new attention and momentum, the practice itself is ancient, many cultures around the world have used steaming, smoking and or oils with herbs for both treatment and prevention in reproductive health. These days you will hear the terms, Vaginal Steam, V-Steam or Yoni Steam. Yoni? The Vagina is actually just the internal passage whereas the correct name for the external female genitals is the Vulva, the labia minora and majora, clitoris, urethra, vaginal entrance. Yoni is a Hindi/Sanskrit word meaning the whole female reproductive system, but more than that, has multi-layered meaning, partly the Yoni denotes a spiritual source of life. How beautiful that there is a word to encompass all of that!
In other cultures steaming has it’s own name also:
~ Chai Yok in Korea
~ Bajos in Central America
~ Ratus o Bakera in Indonesia
~ Fumigation in British Isles and Ireland
~ Dukhan in Sudan (smoking)
So what, why and when? Well there the simple answer and long answer, I’ll try to give something in between for this blog post. V-Steaming can be done from the onset of Menstruation through to Motherhood and into Menopause. It’s especially powerful for healing after birth in the first few weeks postpartum. Various organically grown herbs are used and the herbal steam is applied gently to the pelvic area. The steam carries various healing plant properties to the sensitive tissue of the vulva and perineum, where it is absorbed and carried to the uterus, ovaries and other reproductive tissue directly. By applying the herbs this way, you bypass the digestive tract giving a more direct application to the pelvic area. Much like steam inhalation is used for lung complaints by inhaling via the nasal passages. The skin our largest organ, can be a very effective way to apply herbs, absorbing large amounts of anything applied topically.
Herbal Medicine has a long history of effective use but also modern research to back this up. My favourite herbal medicine, researchers, practitioners and publishers of books are listed in references below. The herbs I have selected for the v-steam blends are primarily for their nourishing, antimicrobial, astringent qualities.
Vaginal or Yoni Steaming has been associated with assisting with a wide variety of Women's reproductive issues such as:
· Regulating Menstrual Cycles
· Lengthening Short Cycles - less than 28 days
· Assisting to Resolve Interim Bleeding
· Bringing on Delayed Cycles - more than 32 days
· Decreasing Heavy Flow
· Easing Painful Menstruation
· Easing Pain and Bloating of PMS
· Decrease and Assist with Fibroids, Cysts & Uterine Prolapse
· Clearing Old Residue associated with Endometriosis & Adenmyosis
· Healing Scar Tissue
· Resolving Bacterial, Fungal (Yeast) and Viral Infections
· Resolve Abnormal Discharge - coloured or smelly
· Postpartum Recovery - wait 6 weeks with c-section
· Relieve dryness Associated with Menopause and other Hormonal Life Changes
· Assist with Resolving Trauma both Birth and Sexual
· Maintain Healthy Cycles and Fertility
· Develop a Ritual of Self Care and Self Love
Do NOT steam if:
· You are pregnant
· You are trying to conceive AND you have already ovulated
· You are bleeding - either a period or spotting
· You have had spontaneous or interim bleeding within the last 3 months. This means you have had a period and then you have had bleeding in-between the next period. This is different to very light spotting, which is ok, but I must be informed of.
If you have consistently short cycles and or interim bleeding I highly suggest seeing a GP and specialist for diagnosis, a Traditional Chinese Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine and or Naturopath to address underlying issues.
The only exception to this is the postpartum period where you do steam while bleeding, the postpartum bleeding is known as lochia. You wait a few days after birth until the lochia has started to ease a little and then you can start. Many cultures steam for at least 30 days postpartum and this is what I recommend in my protocol.
So how do you do it? Well I have a free PDF guide here with more details. Basically you can use a steam chair or stool or kneel over a bowl on a bath mat. The main important factor is that no matter whether you use a steam stool/chair or kneel over a bowl, the steam temperature should be warm and relaxing but never too hot! Too much heat could damage sensitive vulva tissue. I have a few steam chairs and am looking to get my partner who is handy to make and sell them, so stay tuned on that. For the postpartum period I highly recommend get a stool or borrowing/hiring one. I have one for loan for all steam and postpartum clients. Don’t worry! I clean and sterilise it well.
Steaming for maintenance or steaming for treatment? There is not a one size fits all steam treatment for women. Be wary of V-steam Spas (yes there’s a thing) or online herbal formulas that are sold to anyone without assessing history.
In Korea women steam at least once a month, usually after their period and do this for health maintenance. I believe it is mostly Mugwort, Artemisia spp. that is used, a herb I grow and put in most of my formulas.
Then you can also address and treat many health issues as mentioned above. I started out selling herbal steam packets for postpartum and quickly realised Women at all life stages were interested and needing steam treatments. So, I studied with Keli Garza from the Steamy Chick who has worked alongside many women and other herbal practitioners to develop safe and effective steaming protocols. I developed my herbal blends with her also to ensure I had four different blends to suit a wide array of ailments, needs and constitutions.
As with many holistic therapies the treatment plan and herbs will need to suit your personal history and situation. For example if someone has a short cycle – less than 28 days – some herbs may be too strong and exasperate the situation. However the right herbs could actually help to lengthen the cycle. Same goes for heavy and delayed periods, infections etc etc.
I’ve personally taken my periods from heavy and 7 days to moderate flow and 4 – days.
I do a maintenance steam before and after my period.
Self-care, the emotional benefits! When was the last time you pampered your reproductive area? People talk about liver, digestive and respiratory cleanses and health practices, but the vagina, vulva and uterus often get forgotten about, yet can be an area of much trouble for Women. The womb can also be a source of stored tension. By practicing the ancient science art of steaming we are intentionally loving our Wombs. There is also some evidence of the connection between warmth and relaxation of the pelvic area and the stimulation of the vagus nerve, leading to greater relaxation and healing benefits. Also of the link between warmth and oxytocin the love hormone.
A whole blog post could be done on oxytocin and the vagus nerve but to summarise “the vagus nerve is known as the "wandering nerve" because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen touching your heart and most major organs along the way. Vagus means "wandering" in Latin. The words vagabond, vague, and vagrant are all derived from the same Latin root.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201607/vagus-nerve-stimulation-dramatically-reduces-inflammation
The vagus nerve is responsible for many functions but in this case primarily switching off the flight or fight stress response and allowing the body to enter into a calmer state. Also to decrease inflammation. Both of these factors are important in reproductive health as cortisol the stress hormone has an inverse relationship with progesterone – which is needed for a healthy menstrual cycle and overall health. Also, some female reproductive issues are related to inflammation.
I’m not going to go into the science too much here but I feel that steaming also has a wide scope for assisting in alleviating anxiety, sleep issues and trauma stored in the body.
While some of the women I have worked with to steam have reported wonderful results with treating and preventing infections, period health etc. The most common and profound experience across the board has been the relaxation effects and improved sleep.
Keen to give it a go? It’s pretty much a herbal tea for your vag! Please check out the V-steam shop page for more info or contact me via email as I’m always happy to answer any questions, inspire you to get steaming and troubleshoot along the way.
Steamy Dreams! xx
A bunch of references that contributed to this blog:
Botanical Medicine For Women's Health, 2017
The Fifth Vital Sign, Lisa Hendrickson-Jack, 2019
The Oxytocin Factor, Kerstin Uvnas Moberg (2003)
The Period Repair Manual, Lara Briden, 2018
The Women's Herbal Apothecary, JJ Pursell, 2018
Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle, Ruth Trickey, 2011
Keli Garza, http://www.steamychick.com/research/