Vaginal Steaming - A Simple Guide
Vaginal steaming (also known as yoni or v-steaming) is a simple practice with really profound benefits. From detoxification to helping you to conceive (through changing up the physical and energetic environment of the uterus), vaginal steaming is super simple to do at home and requires stuff you probably already have lying around - a metal bowl or cooking pot, a large towel or blanket, and maybe some herbs.
This is not a new thing - vaginal steaming is used in traditional Asian and Mayan healing and variations of it (smoking, for example), are used traditionally in Africa, the Middle East and North America.
It’s become a thing in LA, where you can steam your vag for $50 a pop. My version is a hell of a lot cheaper, and just as effective (and totally customisable, to your body and your needs).
I HIGHLY recommend this practice postpartum to move stagnant blood (wait for a few weeks until you’ve healed from the birth) and to help regulate the menstrual cycle, especially if coming off the Pill or experiencing and menstrual pain or irregularities. It is said that vaginal steaming can help heal haemorrhoids too, though I’ve not tried it.
The benefits come from the heat and the herbs. The heat warms the tissues and organs of the lower body - in TCM, many female health issues are caused by a lack of energy (qi) circulation and blood flow to this area, causing them to become ‘cool.’ This is a common diagnosis for infertility and one of the ways the steam can help if you’re having trouble conceiving.
The herbs can add healing benefits from anti-bacterial/anti-fungal benefits to protection/clearing (more energetic) to help heal from sexual trauma. They can also help detoxify your body, or regulate your cycle or strengthen your connection to your body and heart, or just to enjoy the aromas while you steam.
Different herbs will have different benefits and with time you’ll find the ones you love to work with. Mugwort and wormwood are used regularly as these herbs chase out ‘evil spirits’ and, according to more modern herbal research, are powerful cleansers as well as being antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. Mason and I agree with Stephen Harrod Buhner who theorises that these ‘evil spirits’ identified by the early herbalists we’re probably bad bacteria, yeasts and fungi. Either way, these herbs are protective and powerful and some of my favourites.
I also love the floral herbs like lavender and rose, which are more feminine and calming to work with.
I’ve listed a few ideas and combinations for you to explore, or feel free to make your own creations. Basically, any herb you’d take internally is useful in this practice, though some are more commonly used than others. (See list below.) Please don’t use essential oils, they’re too concentrated and strong. If you must use them, use just ONE drop.
There are a few things to take into account before you consider trying the vaginal steam:
As this is a stimulating practice, it’s best avoided during pregnancy. You want that baby to stay in there. Steams were used as an abortive in traditional cultures. Take note.
Trying to Conceive
If you’re undergoing IVF or trying to conceive, the timing of your steams is everything. Steam at least monthly BEFORE you start treatment (as part of your preconception planning) and then cease steaming once you start undergoing IVF. If you’re trying to conceive naturally, steam after each period, but stop before you ovulate.
Short or long cycle, post-Pill issues, painful periods, you name it, steams can help it. From a health perspective, brown blood, clots, fibroids, stringy blood, pain and cramps are all signs that your body’s detox and cleansing channels are not functioning optimally. Steams can help eliminate this ‘toxic residue’ from the body. You will find, over time, your period becomes regular, pain-free and shorter (probably around 4 days). This is how periods are meant to be! You can even reduce your bleed further using Taoist practices, but I’ll share that in another post. ;) Ideally, steam during your cycle for best results come menstruation time.
Don’t steam while you are bleeding UNLESS you feel that it will help with your cramps…in which case proceed with caution, as steaming can make your bleed heavier, which may be the opposite of what you want. HOWEVER some people find steams help with menstrual cramps, so try a short steam if you think intuitively that it will help.
Steaming is great during menopause and can help with fibroids and irregular menstruation. Some women find that steaming is too much with their hot flushes and it makes them feel worse, others find it makes theirs better. Try a short steam and see how you feel.
Don’t steam if you have an IUD. It’s too risky (metal + heat). Women on the Pill should definitely steam, as it will help to clear any accumulated metabolic waste from the artificial hormones. If you’re on the Pill, your bleeds are not true menstruation. In my opinion, the more support you give your body while you’re on the Pill the better.
If you have a vaginal infection, do short steams (10-15 mins) and choose herbs that are antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial - see the list below.
If you have active herpes blisters or other wounds on the skin, best avoid long steams (keep to 10-15 mins) and if it's painful, stop and wait until you're healed.
If you have piercings, remove them first!!! (Metal + heat = burns!)
If you are miscarrying, you should wait until a week after your body has finished its process before commencing steams. Steams are very helpful for cleansing the uterus after a miscarriage. Highly recommended.
This is a great time to steam, but wait a week to ten days after giving birth before commencing steams. Steams are very helpful for cleansing the uterus after birth.
If it’s summer, steam less, steam for shorter amounts of time or keep the steams gentler (use cooler water).
Setting Up Your Throne
One of the easiest ways to create a throne for steaming (a Yoni Throne, if you will) is to use your toilet. Whilst this may seem an unusual suggestion it’s actually really comfortable and practical. You may wish to enhance the sense of sacred ritual with candles, flowers and other delights that help you relax and feel like you’re being deeply nurtured. You can also get custom built steam boxes (make sure the wood is not treated with chemicals) or build one yourself.
1. Clean the entire toilet thoroughly. Obvious, but worth noting.
2. Place a large heat proof bowl inside the toilet, preferably one that covers most of the inside of the toilet. (Optional - Place another smaller bowl inside the large bowl to concentrate the direction of the steam.) Use stainless steel NOT plastic.
3. Place 2 heaped tablespoons (5g) of herb in the centre of the bowl and add half cup of hot water. Keep the kettle or jug of hot water close by for topping up.
4. Carefully sit on the toilet seat - CAUTION check the steam is of a comfortable temperature first.
5. Wrap a towel or blanket around you, to help seal in the steam. I use a heavy beach towel to drape my lower body.
6. 20-30 minutes is best for effective healing. You may wish to top up the bowl with hot water to keep generating steam. If you’re new to this practice or have any health issues, start with shorter steams (10-15 mins).
7. Use this time for meditation, journalling, creative visualisation, listening to podcasts or audio books or just doing some nice deep breathing. Rest.
When is the best time to steam?
In my opinion, it's the week before you bleed (provided you are not trying to conceive) and the week after you bleed.
My favourite herbs to work with are listed below, but please don’t let this list confine you - experiment with different blends, and do some research. Basically, if you can drink it, you can steam with it!
Mugwort - cleansing and protective, brings on bleeding
Peppermint - stimulating and cleansing
Basil - uterine stimulant, can reduce cramps
Thyme - cleansing and healing
Rosemary - cleansing and healing
Oregano - cleansing, brings on bleeding, stimulates uterus
Calendula - cleansing, reduces inflammation, gentle and healing
Lavender - cleansing and soothing, nervous system tonic
Rose - smell amazing! :) cleansing, supports self love
Raspberry Leaf - strengthens the uterus
Wormwood - cleansing and stimulating
Comfrey - aids healing and fertility
Saw Palmetto - supports urinary tract
Frankincense - healing, cleansing, protective
Vanilla - aphrodisiac, soothing
Sage - cleansing and protective
Cinnamon - warming and stimulating
Chamomile - gentle and cleansing, sunshine for the nether regions!
Marshmallow - supports urinary tract
Licorice root - soothes
Lemon Balm - uplifting
Nettle - protection, defence
Plaintain - supports the kidneys and bladder, helpful emotionally
Yarrow - cleansing; good for infections
Motherwort - very healing for the uterus and ovaries
Some of my fave blends are:
WARMING: Cinnamon, Rose, Raspberry Leaf, Chamomile, Calendula, Marshmallow and Licorice.
CLEANSING: Sage, Lemon Balm, Mugwort and Wormwood
ANTIFUNGAL/BACTERIAL: Thyme, Mugwort, Oregano, Basil, Lemon Balm and Yarrow
HEALING: Rose, Lavender, Calendula and Raspberry Leaf
What to Expect?
You might find your cycle changes - gets heavier, weird clots can come out, strange things can happen! But know that this is part of the cleansing process. It might take some time, but it will help to normalise your cycle and bring your body into harmony.
If you’re curious to learn more, especially about post-partum care, check out this video: https://vimeo.com/306074043
I learned this technique from Laura Clemons, who you can find at stregagardens.com