Vaginal Steams

The following information is for educational purposes only. 

*Herbal vaginal steams, also known as yoni steam baths, or bajos, as they are known in Spanish, or  chai-yok in Korean have been are used for centuries to treat many conditions including painful or irregular periods, endometriosis, infertility, fibroids, cysts, cervical stenosis, vaginal dryness and hemorrhoids.  The bajos have been used in conjunction with the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® (ATMAT).

How vaginal steams are believed to work:

Because of the abundance of blood vessels and mucus membranes, it is believed the essence of the plant compounds are more easily absorbed through the walls of the vagina.  Because of this permeability, doctors often prescribe vaginal suppositories to fight infections or balance hormones. The vaginal steams have been thought to  work as a uterine lavage to soften and cleanse the uterine wall of  accumulated debris.  The steam does not directly enter the womb, but the warmth of the steam softens the tissues and relaxes the belly and pelvic floor and increases blood and lymph flow. In the first few months of doing bajos in combination with the Arvigo massage, women have reported that their menstrual blood looks different. Some women have reported blood that resembles coffee grounds (old dried blood) or even the passing of fleshy tissue.  Usually by the third month women see a bright red oxygenated blood. Even women who haven’t bled in years because they’ve been through menopause, have reported a “cleansing” of old indurated blood.  Improved blood and lymph flow increases the health of the tissue on a cellular level. I’d also like to add that outside of improving blood and lymph flow in a congested pelvis and softening the pelvic bowl, I believe the vaginal steams have a healing effect in a way that can’t be explained by science. Many woman use vaginal steams as symbolic cleansing to help clear the energy of sexual abuse, rape, past sexual partner or miscarriage.

When NOT to do the Steams:

  • Never do a vaginal steam when you’re pregnant or think you may be pregnant, unless you are full term and in labor and directed by your midwife. 
  • if you have an IUD  
  • when an infection is present
  • If you have genital piercings, you must remove the jewelry first, otherwise the metal would heat up and may cause burns.
  • Avoid steams with a herpes outbreak (or other open sores) since herpes is a damp heat condition.
  • with hormonal creams or rings.

How women are using steams:

  • Three month fertility protocol (ATMAT)-right before your period (this is if you are using a barrier method and know for sure you aren’t pregnant)
  • One month fertility protocol-first day of your period or at the tail end of your period
  • Hormonal migraines- up to three times the week before your period
  • Dysmenorrhea or painful periods – up to three times the week prior to your period, or the first day of your period if you are spotting
  • Menopause- as needed or four times a year at seasonal changes, for instance.  Sometimes women who haven’t bled in years will report having what seems like another period, but it is actually a cleansing of old debris from the uterus.
  • Full Term Labor- oregano steams (oregano stimulates the uterus) . *consult with your midwife.
  • Postpartum-with normal pregnancy (not with heavy bleeding or perineal tears)  oregano in the steam (and drink oregano tea)-three vaginal steams within the first week of birth.  Traditionally oregano, marigolds and basil are used at this time. *always consult your midwife before doing a steam right after delivery.

Vaginal steams are a pricey service option offered in some health spas (usually between $20-$75).  DIY vaginal steam at home is convenient and inexpensive.  Doing the steam at home shouldn’t cost more than a couple of  dollars for the herbs, or free if you collect your own herbs.  And it is nice to stay in the comfort of your own home and not have to drive or go out in the cold after a treatment.  But then again, maybe you need to go to a spa for some peace and quiet if you can’t make it happen at home.  Go for it- pamper yourself, I’m sure the experience is divine and it’s also nice to have someone take care of the details.  You may also look up Korean spas in your area for affordable steaming options.

If you’re going to steam at home, you have a few options on what to use for a steaming chair.  I have one similar to this:
U-shaped shower chair with removable back rest. (Amazon link)

It’s not as attractive as the chairs that are designed specifically as vaginal steam chairs, but it’s convenient with the adjustable legs.  I love mine.  The back is removable, which is convenient for wrapping the blanket all the way around the chair to keep the steam in.  You can also put hand towels on the seat for extra comfort.

My perfect set up includes using a small crock-pot (Amazon link) with the U shaped shower chair.  The crock pot is a nice way to control the heat.  When I’ve used a regular bowl, the water tends to cool off too quickly.

I lowered the stool to the lowest height. ©

Keep the lid on until you are ready to steam. No more rushing around before the water cools. ©

You can also use your toilet, but you must clean it out really, really, REALY well and then flush it and then turn off the water shut off  valve while the toilet bowl is empty.  Once your toilet is clean and empty, wrap the steaming bowl of herbs in a cloth to protect the porcelain and place the whole thing in the toilet bowl.  The downside here is that you need to clean your toilet before your steam, and make sure no one will need to use the bathroom for the next 30-40 minutes.  And once you sit on the toilet your body may respond by wanting to empty the bladder.  You can always get up and squat in the bathtub if you need to pee.

And finally, if you have a little money to spend you may want to try a chair specifically made for vaginal steams.  This stool costs $98 and can be ordered by calling Phil : 303-249-8839

Hardwood Steaming Stool by Phil Reddick

Now that you have your stool, you need to collect or buy herbs.  Make sure they are organic!  Always collect herbs with prayer and gratitude as ATMAT practitioner Tricia Weber is doing here.

Collecting plants with prayers. ©

Here is a short list of herbs that have been used for v-steams:

*Note-herbs used externally for v-steams do not always have the same effect when used orally. Consult an experienced herbalist.

Basil-antibacterial, spiritual cleansing
Oregano-antiseptic, uterine stimulant
Red Clover-promotes healing (skin)
Rosemary- antiseptic, stimulates circulation

Motherwort- for suppressed menstruation
Lemon Balm-reduces itchiness

Calendula- skin healing, vaginal fungus, lymph, spiritual healing

Eucalyptus- cooling, wound healing, anti-fungal

Rose petals- gentle and astringent to tissues of the genitals

Lavender- calms the mind and body and is antiseptic to the vaginal tissues, it also has phytoestrogens that have been reported to plump the tissue and a cooling effect on inflammation

Blue Malva- soothing, dry vagina

Marshmallow- soothing, dry vagina

Sage- moves blood and chi through physical and emotional obstructions

Fibroid Formula: oregano, basil, calendula, sage

For fibroids, steam three times the week prior to your period altering the days with castor oil packs.

Endometriosis Formula: oregano, roses, yarrow and calendula

Never use essential oils, they are too concentrated.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There have not been any scientific studies on V-steams, all reported benefits are based on personal accounts.  There is a wisdom that should be explored in practices that have been used for centuries. 

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.  Consult a qualified health care professional if you think you may have a medical condition.

Traditional Use:

Not to be used in pregnancy or acute infections.

  • Collect organic plants with prayer and intention or use dried herbs (1 quart fresh or 1 cup dried)
  • Crush the herbs into a large pot with a gallon of water as you give thanks to the herbs and infuse them with your intentions.  The Maya tradition is to offer prayers nine times to whatever spirit offers you guidance.
  • Bring the water to a soft boil; turn off heat and steep for 10 minutes with the lid on.
  • Place the pot under the chair you will use to steam.
  • Test the steam on your wrist before sitting down.  The membranes of your vagina are sensitive, so you don’t want it to feel too hot, steam burns are very serious. Get undressed from the waist down (keep your warm socks on) and sit on the chair with a blanket wrapped around you to keep the steam in.
  • Sit comfortably for at least 20 minutes, meditate or read a book. It should feel pleasant.  I usually feel the warmth rise all the way up to my heart. If it feels too warm, remove the pot to let it cool a bit.
  • Rest afterwards stay warm and do something nurturing for yourself like drink a warm herbal tea of raspberry leaf, nettles, oat straw and rose petals, or take a warm bath.  Protect yourself from drafts.

I get many emails daily asking for medical advice.  This is not a medical advice blog and I’m not a physician.  And the human body is too complex to answer specific questions regarding your health in a comments box or email.

UPDATE: Dr Rosita Arvigo recounts a story about how vaginal steams helped a young girl suffering from menstrual cramps.  Vaginal Steams: Forgotten Ancient Wisdom For Women’s Health  
“Gywneth Paltrow recently recommended vaginal steams, and received a backlash of negative responses by media and gynecologists whose retorts I found condescending and woefully lacking in real knowledge. Given that I’ve sat with over 3000 women doing pelvic work, I likely know far more about how to actually take care of vaginas. Overall, “experts” would do better to ask questions about how we can truly take care of the female body rather then slam another woman like Gywneth Paltrow who has found helpful ways to take care of hers. Mainstream women’s health needs a major overhaul with physical and holistic practices that align with the natural medicine of our female bodies–and health practitioners who don’t think they know everything when they’ve hardly listened to the inherent intelligence of the body or the pelvic bowl (or the women themselves).”- Tami Lynn Kent,  MSPT Holistic Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
“Women are detached from their pelvic organs, and imbalance in circulation, flora, etc cause great discomfort. Vaginal steams are one of many ways to increase circulation and delivery of nutrient-rich blood to the vaginal and pelvic area. Please don’t discount this ancient wisdom. In my own health journey, I have suffered from severe pelvic pain and vaginal steams are one of the therapies that have helped me the most. Don’t knock it until you try it!”-Dr. Jennifer Karon-Flores
© 2015
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44 Responses to “Vaginal Steams”

Leave a Reply

  1. Great Article! Am a recent ATMAT practitioner….loved your chair options and your visuals.

  2. A huge thanks for posting this information to your blog. I was trying to find this piece of info for 4-5 months but was unsuccessful in finding any knowledge on this anywhere else!

  3. Nitzanayah says:

    What does this do for fibroids?

    • The steams help with hemodynamics in the pelvis, so the body can maintain homeostasis. Fibroids are a cold condition, so the steam combined with the herbs help to soften, and warm the tissues so there is better flow of fluids and energy.

  4. Amazing web site. And so lots of wisdom to receive. I’m positive you are doing a very superb job.

  5. olga says:

    What herbs would I need to use in order to get pregnant?

  6. Rachel says:

    Fantastic article. Why can’t it be done if one were to have an IUD?

  7. Elle says:

    I suffer from a too much discharge, this is so embarrassing, both my husband and I are a bit concern. How can I tighten my linings aswell.

  8. Nazarell Williams says:

    Question: I’m learning to trust nature for healing. How effective iss this practice? I have continued discharge, stinky odor especially after cycle or during ovulation. Ive been to doctor& paps come n back normal, I just found out I have a fibroid but, I’m doubtful it’s causing this smell? I’m starting to have pelvicpain& would do almost anything to get rid of this smell& discharge. It’s embarrassing!

    • mrs muhau says:

      Its really a full info artical im planning to do vagi-steam for the 1st time n was confused .i had miscarriage in 2013 (12weeks) after that i dont had pregnancy even though me n my husband are perfect..i hate medication.thats why i want to try steam.after my periods my husband finds it struggling to enter his penis .i want the pregnency..kindly suggest formula and time for steam..love you.

  9. Thanks for this post.. I especially like the 1st chair option. gonna consider getting it to do at home v-steams.

  10. Jane says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Just a question about anatomy really, how can the steam reach up, because the muscular walls of the vagina sort of fold inwards blocking off the passage of steam upwards.
    Is it necessary to squat? Sorry just a bit confused, want to steam my vagina and not labia!
    Thanks :-)

    • Yes, it’s important to squat, or sit on a low chair positioned in a way that you feel most open. Even if the steam doesn’t get past the labia, you will still feel the whole pelvis and lower belly fill with a comforting, softening warmth.

  11. Mariea says:

    I always have pain from having sex with my husband and usually the pain will go away the next day but after I gave birth to our 6month old having sex hurts even more and it takes a couple days for the pain to go away, I think something could be tore. I heard that the v steam heals the vaginal area when it’s sore. What herbs do I need for my V to get back to normal?

  12. Emily says:

    I suffered a 16w2d pregnancy loss only 4 days ago. I am still bleeding, passing endometrial tissue, blood, etc.. I had vaginal steaming on my post-partum to-do list, but I feel this might be beneficial and comforting to me now. Can you suggest a formula for me? Many thanks.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m not comfortable suggesting steams in your situation or postpartum bleeding in general. I would consult a midwife. I know women who have done steams after miscarriage when the bleeding has stopped as a way to help energetically cleanse the trauma of loss. Oregano is traditionally used postpartum, but not with heavy bleeding or without the consent of the midwife. Basil and calendula are also traditionally used in spiritual cleansing. But I would add what calls out to me as long as you know it’s safe to use.

      • Emily says:

        Thank you, apprecate your quick response. I have many herbs in my garden, I’ll investigate more in a while.

  13. Marie Ahmar says:

    I’m seeing everywhere that you can’t do the steam while pregnant or if you think you’re pregnant. What is the reason behind that?

  14. Lolovivi Josephina Paz says:

    Thanks very much for answering the IUD question! Sad I won’t be able to get one anytime soon, but have no interest in surprise pregnancies right now either. So, I’ll wait until mine expires. Peace & blessings!

  15. Kelly says:

    Is it okay to use essential oils of the herbs you have mentioned…if the freshly picked herbs are not available or not an option? Just want to make sure if it’s okay to use EO’s instead of the fresh/dried herbs.

  16. This is totally awesome.Although variety of article on this topic,this article contains some of the precious points which can never be read in other articles.

  17. Charlotte Cunningham says:

    What do you think of this article?

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Vaginal_steaming

    It seems kind of negative, was wondering if you could address some of the points it has

    • Thanks for posting. Yeah, that article is pretty negative from the start. I’m not sure what all other proponents of bajos are saying, all I can do is address what I have written about here and what I know. I’ll start by saying there is a wisdom worth exploring in practices that have been passed down for centuries. In the article you linked to, they say, bajos are “fundamentally the same as douching”, but that’s incorrect. Yes, the vaginal steams are thought to work as a uterine lavage, to soften and cleanse the uterine wall of accumulated debris, but in an indirect way. The steam doesn’t actually enter the womb, but the warmth of the steam softens and relaxes the belly and pelvic floor (I know of PT’s who use it for tight pelvic floors) and increases blood and lymph flow. Improved blood and lymph flow increases the health of the tissue on a cellular level, I don’t think anyone is debating that. I agree that there are risks with using steams, but I mentioned that in the article. Using common sense and caution will prevent steam burns. I don’t think women need to be protected from themselves because there is a possibility of them doing something incorrectly. No one is suggesting that we shouldn’t drink hot coffee because we might burn ourselves. I also mentioned that I wouldn’t use the steam with a yeast infection. The author also talks about causing potential infection, but is referring to douching which again, is different. With the steams, you’re not directly putting anything inside the womb or vagina and you’re not doing it to “improve hygiene”. The vagina is self regulating and cleansing. As for the potential irritation to the herbs-yes, that is always a possibility when using herbs, or any medicine for that matter. In my personal experience or feedback from others, I haven’t heard of anyone having a steam burn or irritation (not to say it can’t or doesn’t happen). I’m just saying that if burns and negative reactions were a common occurrence, I don’t believe this practice would have been past down and repeated for centuries. As for the studies that are mentioned, I will have to read through them before commenting. A quick look at the one on alcohol extract isn’t relevant to bajos because alcohol extracts aren’t used in bajos. The first “survey” mentioned doesn’t even mention vaginal steams, so that one isn’t relevant either. I’m looking forward to reviewing the other four articles listed when I get time. You could also send me a specific question…
      I’d also like to add that outside of improving blood and lymph flow and softening the pelvic bowl, I feel the vaginal steams can have a healing effect in a way that can’t be explained by science. Many woman use it as a ritual or symbolic cleansing to help clear the energy of sexual abuse, rape or miscarriage.

  18. Angela says:

    I’m wondering if it could work to squat instead of sit. That makes more sense to me as it would be a more natural position – even though it wouldn’t be quite as relaxing. I might try it, but I’m curious if you have any experience or advice about doing it that way.

    • If you have the strength and joint range of motion to do so. 20 minutes is a long time to be in a stationary squat and you have to take into consideration how close you are to the steam, which isn’t as easy to control in an unsupported squat. So, it’s hard to answer because not all squats are created equal and everyone is at different abilities.

  19. bryofetcher says:

    Are vaginal steams safe to do on the “off” week of birth control? I have used uttara vasti in the past and know that it is not recommended with BC. Thanks!

  20. Dawn says:

    I was wondering what dried herbs would you recommend for painful periods which I’ve had ever since starting my periods. I am also in perimenopause. I have had several maya abdominal massages along with chi nei tsang so I’m thinking this might be the frosting on the cake for me.

  21. Mikeala De Coteau says:

    Hello, I have PCOS, retroverted uterus and infertile herbs in the steam should i use for this problem, please help me i really want a lil guy or girl to call me mummy, it has been my dream and will also be the one thing that might get me back to happiest because its making me very depressed

  22. Mia says:

    Thank you, Barbara.
    I had an abdominal myomectomy 5.5 months ago to remove a large fibroid. All is very healthy now and would like to conceive.
    Which herbs would be best to cleanse the dyes and other chemicals used during surgery?
    If I do the one month fertility protocol, can I attempt to conceive that same month, or must I wait until the endometrial lining is shed?
    With Gratitude

    • You wouldn’t want to try to conceive during the one month protocol either because you would be doing the massage (and possibly Female Tonic) and steams post ovulation-premenstruation-all of which you do not want to do if you may be pregnant.
      I don’t know of specific herbs for clearing chemicals. Clearing chemicals or other toxins isn’t something that is done with spot treatment, it requires a whole body approach. I would talk to someone to guide you through a detox that may include dietary changes, massage, infrared saunas, and possibly herbal support. All of these things depend on where you are at in terms of health and require the assistance from a qualified ND or nutritionalist. Plus you don’t want to do a detox too close to trying to conceive.

  23. Carmen says:

    I have fibroids and very heavy periods. What is the protocol for steaming during your period?

  24. Sam says:

    I had the idea to cut the center out of a bag lawn chair to save money on the chair. Do you think that would work just as well as the other seating ideas? Thank you! Great, informative article!

  25. Jaime says:

    What herbs can I use for the V-Steam to tighten the vaginal wall/muscles?
    Thank you

  26. Lori says:

    Hi! I keep reading here to do a steam pre period. I am living w/ a large fibroid. Would like to try a steam in the near future but I am just at the end of my period. Other sites I have read say to wait at least 3 days after U stop bleeding. Wondering what U would recommend regarding periods and steaming?? Also…. Does it have to be pre?? Would it be ok to do post period?? Thax so much for the website and knowledge. LUV you for this!!

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