One thing that I value an incredible amount about working with Kolya Naturals is the community of women that have graced my life. Not only are they all knowledgeable and passionate about what they do, they are also all immensely caring. Each one of us has our own niche of specialty, so when one of us is feeling under the weather or has something going on, you can expect to get 10 different pieces of advice. Everything from products to use, people to see, or lessons they’ve learned in the past.
A perfect example of this occurred when I was complaining about my terrible menstrual cramps. It’s almost guaranteed that on the first day of my cycle I will be alternating between my bed and bath trying to calm the waves of pain I experience. Knowing I’m a birth doula, my co-worker emailed me an article about vaginal steaming and how it could help with painful menstruation and speed up recovery after birth. Anything that has to do with woman’s health, fertility, or pregnancy I’m all over. So I thought what the heck, I’ll try this out! After all, if I were to ever recommend a vaginal steam to a client without ever trying one myself I would feel like a complete phony!
Vaginal steams are often referred to as Yoni steams; this name takes into consideration the sacredness and wholeness of a woman’s reproductive system rather than just a single anatomical part. Yoni is the Sanskrit word that means “vagina”, “womb”, and “origin of life”. It is the symbol of the goddess and divine mother. The idea behind vaginal steams is to purify the uterus from within. The combination of steam and essential oils from fresh or dried herbs penetrates deeply into the cervix and uterine area to free old menstrual fluids and pathological accumulations that have not been properly sloughed off in previous cycles. This is ideal for women who start their periods with dark brown blood instead of red, or have had chronic pain with their cycles for years. The severe pain and dark blood could be an indication that your body is not flushing out the blood from each cycle completely. This can accumulate over the months, even years, and becomes thick and hard, which makes the uterus work and cramp more aggressively in an attempt to expel the built up material. Steams have been part of many cultures as a treatment for womanly issues such as dysmenorrhea (painful periods), amenorrhea (lack of period), ovarian cysts, cervical fibroids, infertility, and general prevention of any of those listed ailments. They are best to do 3-9 days before an expected period. Midwives may recommend steams 1-9 days following a birth depending on that woman’s health state. They are to be avoided by those who are pregnant or think they might be. The herbs are very potent and alter hormone levels that can cause the uterine tissue to shed or contract, which could threaten a pregnancy. For the same reason, those with IUDs should also avoid yoni steams as they can shift or dislodge the IUD.
I did some research and picked out my herbs- calendula, lavender, and rosemary. I chose these ones in particular for their combined calming, purifying, and antispasmodic effects. If using dried herbs you need 1 oz. of plant material; if using fresh herbs, you will need two handfuls of plant matter. Please note that essential oils are too concentrated for steams and should NOT be used. I boiled filtered water in a large pot and let the herbs infuse in the rumbling water for 10 minutes then let it steep for 5. As the directions stated, I bundled myself from the neck to waist and squatted over the pot for 45 minutes. Looking back I definitely wish I had thought of finding a pot that I could rest in the toilet and sit over. My legs got pretty shaky half way through. I continually changed my position to keep comfortable. I didn’t feel too much for the first 10 minutes. But I was shocked when about halfway through I had the distinct taste of rosemary in my mouth. I thought maybe I was inhaling the steam at first but it was definitely coming from within. Although I was a tad uncomfortable from squatting for a long stretch, I found peace in the silence and simplicity of the practice; no external distractions, my only job was to focus on the different sensations I was feeling. When the 45 minutes were up, I laid down to rest for 1 hour. I began reading my novel and within half an hour of resting, I felt a cooling sensation come from inside my uterus area. Again, the rosemary was making its healing presence known.
Three days later, my period arrived. Instead of being warned with pain, nausea, and shakiness like usual, it just appeared. I was shocked! For any woman who knows the stabbing, aching sensation of painful periods, having it just “come out of nowhere” is a miracle. The second day had more pain but still was not comparable to what I would normally experience. Along with the pain came thick blood with some bits that had a coffee ground consistency. This continued for 2 days of bleeding. As strange as it was, I was happy that I was getting the accumulation out of my system.
I did this practice twice a month for 4 months; all 4 cycles decreased in pain. I now do the steaming once every month as prevention. Although I still have some pain, my cycles are much easier on me. An additional and unexpected benefit I received was the connection I felt because of the meditative nature of yoni steams. I now feel more in tune with myself, especially around my cycles. Being physically and emotionally aware of your body is something that is lacking in the paradigm of women’s health. We are taught to be very “hush, hush”, and discrete about what’s going on with our systems. Many women view their periods as gross, inconvenient, and embarrassing. But the fact of the matter is that getting your period regularly means that your body is in sync and is an indication of good health! We bleed each month for the opportunity of making a human life, whether we choose to create it or not. This is a natural and primal event; though many may refuse to view it as sacred, I encourage you to take time during your cycle to slow. down. Allow yourself to sleep a couple extra hours, lay in bed if you’re in pain and exhausted, have a bath to ease the tension in your mind and body, eat good quality dark chocolate, cry if you need to; take this opportunity your body is giving you to cleanse both physically and emotionally.
How to Steam:
What Herbs to Steam With:
When doing a treatment on such a delicate area, the quality of the ingredients is critical. At Kolya Naturals, we take great pride in carrying only organic or wild- harvested herbs. The herbs on our shelves are free from irradiation and ozone treatments, sulfites, gases, and other chemicals. We sell a number of medicinal herbs that could be used for a yoni steam. Here are a few:
Calendula: Soothing, protective, and healing. Facilitates the repair of vaginal tears and scar tissue.
Crampbark: A uterine nervine; aids in relaxing the uterine muscles.
Lavender: Antibacterial properties. Calming to the mind and uterine muscles. Encourages menstrual flow.
Motherwort: Strengthens uterine tone and blood flow. May help with uterine fibroids. Eases menstrual pain.
Mugwort: Helps to regulate cycles, especially in young women just entering their cycles. Fights off infection. Encourages discharge
Oregano: Potent antimicrobial herb
Raspberry Leaf: Uterine tonic. Helps to tone and strengthen muscles. Source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, and E to nourish tissue.
Rose Petals: Fragrant, astringent, and calming. Improves connection to feminine energy.
Rosemary: Antimicrobial herb. Improves blood flow, treats bacterial infections, and speeds wound healing.
Yarrow: Uterine tonic. Aids in stimulating delayed of absent periods. Eases cramping and excessive bleeding.
From the descriptions above, you can pick and choose what to use depending on what you feel your system needs. Here are a few suggestions for specific areas of concern:
* Make sure to dry vaginal area after steam as infections can take advantage of a moist area.
** This blend would be most appropriate for those who have had a hysterectomy. The blend of herbs will increase circulation (thus having a positive effect on sexual function) and address the scar tissue build up. The rose will assist in regaining connection to the feminine energy of that area and keeping the vagina moist and beautifully scented.