This article is for educational purposes only. All reported benefits are based on personal accounts and are not based on scientific studies. I believe 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 disease. Consult a qualified health care professional if you think you may have a medical condition.
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). Personally, I like to call them pelvic floor steams because the steam has a relaxing effect on the pelvic floor and warms the pelvic bowl.
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 women 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 in the week before your period
- Dysmenorrhea or painful periods – up to three times in 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.
- Postpartum- Timing of the steams or whether they are done at all depends on birth complications and other factors. Timing can vary between 3 days and 6 weeks postpartum. Traditionally oregano, marigolds, and basil are used at this time. Consult your midwife before doing a steam.
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-shape Shower Chair
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.
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
Now that you have your stool, you need to collect or buy herbs. Make sure you collect or buy organic herbs. Always collect herbs with prayer and gratitude as ATMAT practitioner Tricia Weber is doing here.
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 afterward 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.
Here’s a short list of herbs that have been used for v-steams:
*Note-herbs used externally for v-steams don’t necessarily 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 itchinessCalendula- skin healing, vaginal fungus, lymph, spiritual healing
- 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 in the week prior to your period alternating the days with castor oil packs.
- Endometriosis Formula: oregano, roses, yarrow and calendula
- Traditional Formula (Basil, Calendula, Oregano, Yarrow and Lemon Balm) be purchased on the Arvigo website.
I also buy my bulk herbs from the Mountain Rose Herbs website.
IMPORTANT! Never use essential oils for a pelvic steam, they’re too concentrated.
“Gwyneth 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 than slam another woman like Gwyneth 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 Kent
“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