In Advocation of Vaginal Steaming
You probably heard me talking a lot about Vaginal Steaming since you started following me, I’ve had a couple of articles published about it and have spoken about it in the Listen podcast with Forage Botanicals, as well as on my social media channels. Its a practice I recommend to my clients where I believe it would be beneficial, and is something I do for my own health.
I wanted to address it this month because it has been receiving a lot of bad press in the popular press and social media recently, and for various reasons I believe it has been misrepresented in some places.
So to clear this up I would like to state, it is not like getting a facial for your vee-vee (or other cute name for your genitals), it is not about making your vagina more aesthetically pleasing, its not about cleaning or ‘cleansing’ your vagina or vulva, I am not asserting that the steam reaches the uterus or performs a steam clean. These are a few of the things I have seen it associated with, and this is unfair, both to the women who read it, the responsible practitioners who are advocating it, and the practice itself.
It is important that perceptions of this traditional female healing modality are spoken about with realistic expectations, truth, and are based on chemistry and human anatomy and physiology. The information can be empowering, but there is no MUST for undertaking the practice - so I am not saying you have to this to ensure your gynaecological well-being. In certain situations it can be clinically relevant, and this is where true empowerment lies.
Its main direct benefit is improving blood flow to the pelvic bowl, and this has the double benefit of nourishing and improving elimination from tissues in the area. Also in using herbs you utilise the volatile oils from the herbs and these may confer various benefits - however it is important to be clear that these cannot directly reach the womb via the steam. On average, 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed by the skin - vaginal mucosal tissue is even more absorbent - so when volatile oil crosses the skin barrier it can exert some physiological benefit. Combine this with an increased circulation to the area at that time, and you are getting the benefit of those herbal volatile oils to the pelvic area.
So how do you do it? Here you go:
V-Steaming is for almost every woman (however, see below for times when it isn't appropriate) and is about vulval/vaginal and intimate female health. Most women who do it say that it is very deeply nourishing, relaxing and releasing. I am a real advocate for it and I’d like to remove the veil and demystify it for you – its totally accessible to all women and is not something to be afraid of or squeamish about. Rather, its all about getting personal with your intimate health care and owning it. It can be a really powerful experience!
There are so many lovely herbs you can use for your steam - highly aromatic herbs such as oregano or lavender can be lovely for their anti-fungal properties, while yarrow and chamomile are perfect for their anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic qualities. If you’re doing a steam for general good health, calendula, rose and lavender (pictured) are three beautiful herbs you can use, either on their own or in combination with the ones above and smell beautiful together. Always use good quality herbs, from a reputable source.
To do your V-Steam you will need your herb mix, boiling water, a bowl, a towel, 20 minutes undisturbed alone-time and a toilet, steaming or slatted stool.
Boil a large pan of water and then pour into the bowl you will use for the steam. Let it cool for a few minutes off the boil so that it does not burn your skin, then add two large handfuls of your herbs. Place in the toilet, or on the floor under the stool with holes or a slatted seat.
Take your underwear off, but make sure you wear socks, as cold feet can affect the position of your womb. Sit on the toilet or chair, draping a large thick towel or a blanket around your waist to trap the steam in. The heat should feel comfortable. If it is too warm, wait for a few minutes and try again. DO NOT BURN YOURSELF! Be careful not to allow any draughts in, so make sure the blanket goes all around and reaches to the floor. I have heard this described as being a cocoon for the pelvis and I think this is such a lovely description!
Make sure you don’t get cold from the waist up either, and remain sitting over the steam for 20 minutes. This is a lovely time for mindfulness, meditation, reading.
Rest quietly after the herbal steam in a warm room free from draughts or open windows. It is best to go to bed for at least an hour or to do it before an abdominal massage. Be careful for the next 24 hours to protect yourself from cold drafts, keep warm and avoid sudden temperature changes.
Its great to do a V-Steam as close to your period as possible. However, if you are being treated for fertility issues and are not taking contraception, only do the steam before you ovulate.
Steaming is relaxing and releasing for the uterus, and is one of the tools that can help to reduce cramping pains around the time of your period, pelvic adhesions (over time), increase pelvic circulation, and correct uterine positioning - when combined with abdominal massage. Its also one of the many therapeutic tools you can use against fungal infections such as thrush.
The benefits of the steam are conferred both by the warmth from the steam and the essential oils from the herbs you use, and it is these essential oils which confer some anti-fungal properties too. Its a great, gentle way to administer them via the vagina as mucous membranes are delicate and highly absorbent.
All women, including post-menopausal women and ladies post-hysterectomy will also gain the benefits of connecting in with their womb space. Energetically the womb space in a woman is the centre that we create from, whether that is new projects or new life, and also a space we can hold emotion in. To connect in with this space can be helpful for letting go or processing emotion, birthing creative projects or preparing for pregnancy. Some women have reported vivid dreaming or revisiting childhood memories after a steam, which has helped to release the energy of old or stuck emotions for them.
Some women have also reported changes in their vaginal discharge or menstruation. This can be because of the overall cleansing nature of a V-Steam. Ultimately, everyone’s experience is different, but if you are at all worried by what happens do contact a practitioner who has experience with V-Steams - there are more of us than you think! (such as Mizan, Mayan or Fertility Massage therapists or menstrual health practitioners)
Always consult with a qualified practitioner before undertaking any new regime yourself. There are times that it is not suitable to steam: if there is a chance you may be pregnant; if you have an IUD fitted or if you have any gynaecological cancer. Apart from that you are good to go - I’d love to hear how you get on!