When it comes to “alternative” medical practices from Asia (or from anywhere else, for that matter), I’ve ceased to be surprised by anything I hear. After all, if somehow, some way, people can justify just about any strange health that can be imagined. If you don’t believe me, I have two words for you: Coffee enemas. If you still don’t believe me, I have two more words for you: black salve (i.e., burning skin lesions off). Still don’t believe me? I have three more words for you:
Vaginal steam baths.
Yep. I learned about it in a news story in the L.A. Times yesterday entitled Vaginal steam bath finds a place among Southern California spa options, and the article told me all about it:
Pungent steam rises from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Above it sits a nude woman on an open-seated stool, partaking in a centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West.
Vaginal steam baths, called chai-yok, are said to reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among many other health benefits. In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods.
Holy steaming vajayjay,
Now, being a male, I can’t from personal experience imagine how steaming a vagina can either feel good or bring any sort of health benefits. Being a guy, of course, I can imagine that I don’t want steam anywhere near my family jewels. I’m funny that way. Men have a distinct fear of pain, particularly burning pain down there. Little did I know, however, that apparently not only do people have all sorts of horrible toxins that cause health problems but that they can be removed from the body via the private parts:
At Daengki Spa in Koreatown, a 45-minute V-Herbal Therapy treatment can be had for $20 a squat. The steam includes a mixture of 14 herbs imported from Korea by spa manager Jin Young. The spa’s website claims the treatment will “rid the body of toxins” and help women with menstrual cramps, bladder infections, kidney problems and fertility issues. “It is a traditional Korean health remedy,” according to the website.
Of course it is.
I have to admit that, were I a woman, I would be very disturbed by the image of all sorts of horrific toxins emanating from my “female parts,” all stimulated by steam to come out in some sort of nasty cloud. By comparison, “detox foot baths” are far more pleasant in that those very same toxins, or so it is claimed, just pool in a bath of warm water that turns the color of rust, thanks to the electrolysis masquerading as all sorts of horrific “toxins” being sucked out of your feet. In any case, why is it always “toxins”? Toxins, toxins, toxins. That’s all I ever seem to hear from “alternative” medicine practitioners. Oh, well. In any case, I suppose this whole “perineal” or “vaginal” steam bath is just something that we nasty, allopathic “Western” doctors just don’t understand. To us, it’s just shooting a bunch of steam up a woman’s nether regions. To the woo-meisters, though, it’s not just steam that’s being forced to go places where usually only spouses, lovers, or gynecologists go. Oh, no. It’s super special, extra powerful herbal detox steam, which means that it has super duper magical powers:
The two predominant herbs in the steam bath mixture are mugwort and wormwood. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) has been used in Eastern medicine for hundreds of years to balance female hormones. It contains natural antibiotics and antifungal agents, according to herbalists and alternative medicine journals. It is also said to stimulate the production of hormones to maintain uterine health, protect the uterus from ulcers and tumors, stimulate menstrual discharge and ease fatigue, headaches, abdominal discomfort and nausea, among other claims.
Wormwood (Artemisia herba), an antimicrobial “cooling herb,” is also popular in Eastern medicine. It has been used historically to induce uterine contractions and treat bladder infections, fevers, open sores, constipation, diarrhea, hepatitis, jaundice, eczema and parasitic infections. The leaves and young shoots are antibacterial and antiviral, and they also relax the blood vessels and promote the discharge of bile, according to historical tradition.
As is pointed out in the article, it’s not entirely crazy to think that warm steam to one’s nether regions might be somewhat beneficial, at least in women. However, one of the claims for these treatments is that they can aid in infertility, and indeed there’s even an anecdote right there about a 45-year-old woman who was having trouble getting pregnant for three years:
Niki Han Schwarz believes it worked for her. After five steams, she found she had fewer body aches and more energy. She also became pregnant eight months ago at the age of 45 after attempting to conceive for three years.
Han Schwarz and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Charles Schwarz, are determined to introduce vaginal steam baths to Southern California women. Their Santa Monica spa, Tikkun Holistic Spa, offers a 30-minute V-Steam treatment for $50. (The identical treatment is available for men, to steam the perineal area.)
Oh, dear. That last idea doesn’t sound so good. After all, sperm production is inhibited if the testicles are too warm; that’s the reason why infertility clinics tell men to wear boxer shorts instead of briefs. Besides, steamed testicles don’t sound any more appealing to me than a steamed vajayjay.
Unfortunately, consistent with my annoyance with journalists, this article was completely credulous. True, the journalist did interview a couple of apparent token skeptics, who probably appropriately scratched their head at the strangeness and came up with what are in essence “WTF?” quotes saying that, yes, a bit of moist heat probably doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t do the things claimed, either. A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine is even quoted, and he blathers on about how infertility is due to “coldness and stagnation.” Here’s a hint: The only thing cold and stagnating is the skepticism of the writer.
Which makes me think it’s perfect for Oprah. For all I know, maybe she’s already featured this on her show.