Based on my experience as young, South African woman, the taboos surrounding openly discussing reproductive health and related self care seem to slowly be falling away.
Just got my PAP SMEAR results. The nurse asked me to encourage my fellow ladies to go get their smear done. Ladies let’s take care of ourselves as we are really complex beings 🙏🏽 #Zithande— Zola Nombona (@zolanombona) January 15, 2018
More and more women are freely discussing the state of their reproductive organs and what it takes to keep them healthy. Women are plagued by a number of reproductive health issues such as uterine fibroids, painful menstruation, irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, STIs and endometriosis. In addition to the basics of cleaning, which are REALLY basic and the necessary annual health check-ups, more and more women are looking for alternative methods of caring for their vaginas and wombs.
One of the ways in which they do this is vaginal steaming and it is increasingly gaining popularity. There is however, more to steaming than just standing over a kettle and hoping for the best. DO NOT do that.
Also known as yoni steaming (yoni is the Sanskrit word for womb or vagina), or “The V-Steam” in Hollywood, the practice has reportedly been around for decades and has mainly been used to relieve the discomfort associated with menstruation in addition to healing other ailments.
What happens during vaginal steaming?
A unique blend of dry herbs or essential oils are mixed with hot water (water that isn't too hot, so as to avoid burns) and a woman gets naked from the waist down and sits/squats over the water for 20 - 40 minutes.
Proponents of the practice advise against using essential oils because vaginas are very sensitive to hot oils.
According to Dr. Arvigo, “the tissues of the vagina are exceptionally porous and absorbent, and the warmth of the steam works to soften and open them. When the herbs are placed in the hot water, their medicinal properties, including volatile oils, are released and carried to the surface of your skin, and to the inside of the vagina, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream and, ultimately, into to the uterus.”
Additionally, the medicinal herbal steam is believed to increase circulation, thin mucus and cleanse the entire reproductive system. This then allows the uterus to shed unnecessary membranes and buildup which in turn reduces the amount of work it has to do.
Some experts advise against this however as discussed by Ashley Oerman for Women’s Health USA.
This is mainly because the steam could cause burns - not only to the vagina’s skin but to the bladder and the rectum according to Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of ob-gyn at Yale School of Medicine. It could also mess with the vagina’s natural P.H. balance, therefore throwing off the bacteria that naturally exists in that environment.
Dr. Minkin also says that claims that it helps with hormonal imbalances are false as the herbs/steam cannot reach far enough to affect the parts of human physiology that are responsible for our hormones.
On the other hand, there are people who believe in the benefits of steaming, such as XONecole contributor, Andrea Imafidon who claims to have been steaming for years and now does it at home. She has developed a list of favourite herbs to use, including:
Lavender - helps with cleansing and healthy uterine functioning
Rosemary - helps with circulating out old fluids and blood
Lemon Balm - helps with reducing occasional itchiness and it smells delightful
Dandelion - helps improve endocrine and reproductive health. It helps rid excess estrogen, sugars, and toxins of the body
Marigold - helps ease and treat cramping
Burdock root - helps with balancing hormones
Peppermint - helps with restoration of the yoni and enhance energy
Chamomile - helps with cramping as well and promotes relaxation
Imafidon advises research what plants/herbs you need for your steam based on what your personal needs are; do you need to steam due to your period? Do you want to tighten? Are you looking to try something new?
She also states that you must note that once yoni steam is complete, it is advisable to go lay down and wrap yourself under a blanket to restore your body. You might become lightheaded the first time due to the steam cleansing and detoxifying.
The practice of steaming is a holistic (natural) method and should not be used to replace medicinal interventions. If you are looking to make use of the various online tutorials in circulation, PLEASE consult a medical professional beforehand to find out whether or not you are eligible to do so.
It is also advisable that you do extensive research, which includes finding out the do’s and dont’s among other things.
Main image credit: youtube.com