The New-Old Practice of Vaginal Steam Baths

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Genital Tract On Woman

Spas offer treatments for just about every body part these days, so it isn’t terribly surprising that the Tikkun Holistic Spa in Santa Monica is now offering a $50 V-Steam — literally a steam bath for their female clients’ genitalia. What is of interest is the treatment’s history.

Tikkun’s owners, Niki Han Schwarz and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Charles Schwarz, are using a centuries-old Korean remedy known as chai-yok, that is believed to regulate menstrual cycles and treat infertility.  Han Schwartz swears by the treatment and insists that she is in a position to know: she told the Los Angeles Times that it was chai-yok that helped her conceive at the age of 45, after 3 years of trying. (More on C-Sections on the Rise, Especially for Black Moms)

No surprise, many western docs are not sold in the treatment. “It sounds like voodoo medicine that sometimes works,” Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles, told the Times.

A session of chai-yok involves a pot of boiling water, infused with 14-20 different herbs, often imported from Korea. The primary herbal ingredients are mugwort and wormwood, which both have alleged antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. The mixture is prepared and the pot is then positioned between the legs where the herbs work their putative magic. Simple.

Once confined to salons and spas throughout Korean neighborhoods, chai-yok is now appearing in establishments that cater to a more diverse clientele. Still, there is no evidence that steam from boiling herbs could have an effect on infertility, or  anything else for that matter. The heat and vapor probably do increase blood flow to the pubic area, but so does a hot bath and that won’t cost you $50 a pop. (More on Is “Birth Rape” for Real?)

Verdict? Could be fun and sort of novel, but don’t count on much more than that.

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