Feb. 2, 2011 at 9:05 AM ET
Here at Body Odd, we thought we’d heard it all when it comes to strange spa treatments. But that was before we heard about the latest trend to hit the Manhattan/Southern California spa circuit: vaginal steam baths.
According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, chai-yok (not to be confused with bok-choy, also good steamed) is a “centuries-old Korean remedy that is gaining a toehold in the West,” thanks to its many purported health benefits.
Those benefits – none of which have been studied – are said to include everything from reducing stress to fighting infections to helping with infertility. Not surprisingly, vaginal steams are also supposed to help with hemorrhoids.
Treatments cost anywhere from $20 to $75 (depending on your location) and basically involve perching naked on a bottomless stool over a boiling pot of water infused with mugwort, wormwood and a variety of other herbs.
While some women swear by the “V-steam,” (a 45-year-old woman interviewed by the LA Times says she not only had fewer body aches and more energy, she also became pregnant after just five steams), doctors seem dubious.
“I just don’t understand physiologically how putting steam up the vagina is going to change your fertility or help you relieve stress,” says Dr. Laura Riley, director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General in Boston. “There’s plenty of data that supports mind-body intervention and how that improves fertility and decreases stress. But steam itself in the vagina doesn’t make any sense for me. It’s not like it’s going to blow up some closed tube.”
This placebo effect might do it for some people, she says, but it wouldn’t do much for her.
“Someone who believes it’s going to work might get some benefit,” she says. “But I’d be more concerned about burning my vagina. That’s a very sensitive area.”
What's the strangest spa treatment you've had? Tell us in the comments.