Vaginal steaming or smoking is a wellness practice available in some spas.
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9 Things To Know About The Spa Treatment Called Vaginal Steaming Or Smoking

No, it has nothing to do with cigarette smoke.

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You ever get misconceptions about things? I do all the time. And when I first heard the term “vaginal smoking,” I assumed it was some type of vaping trend. Sounds legit, right? It turns out vaginal smoking is a tradition from the island of Java that involves a seatless chair, herbs, smoke, and (of course) your vagina.

“The practice is most common in Indonesia and Malaysia,” Dr. Monica Grover, M.S., head gynecologist at VSPOT, tells Romper. “It is starting to become available in the west; however, it is still something that people raise an eyebrow to when they hear ‘vaginal smoking.’” It’s a pretty common spa treatment specifically in Bali, but now more Westerners are becoming hip to this practice, where it is sometimes called a Venus smoke.

The basics: You sit in a chair without a seat, and scented herbs are burned underneath your privates. Although the health benefits have yet to be studied in great detail, many spas provide the service as a way to cleanse, relax, and even scent a vagina. Massages are often part of the package as well. In many ways, it’s just another selection on a spa menu. “Vaginal smoking is a traditional Japanese treatment that involves an herbal blend called ratus, steam, and smoke from coal,” explains Grover. “Traditionally, ratus is made from piper betel leaves, cinnamon, gloves, and vetiver. These are boiled over a grill with coals to create steam and smoke that is thought to be absorbed by the vulvar skin to enter the vaginal tissue and bloodstream.”

If you’re curious, there may be a spa near you that offers vaginal smoking, or even its offshoot, vaginal steaming. There’s even a way to DIY the whole thing, so you can have your very own at-home vaginal smoking station. (There’s a birthday present no one will expect.) Who knows? You may never look at a plume of smoke the same way again.


It Has Many Purported Benefits

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While the ancient practice doesn’t have scientific or medicinal evidence behind its health claims, the tradition of vaginal smoking is said to have a number of benefits. These include curing the vagina of infections, acting as an antibacterial, removing odors, alleviating itching, managing menstrual cycle, and improving blood circulation, Grover tells Romper.

Vaginal steaming, on the other hand, uses a different combination of herbs and is supposedly “a relaxing, detoxifying spa treatment for your nether regions,” Cindy Barshop, women’s intimate health expert and founder of VSPOT, tells Romper. “It has been known to also increase your libido.”

But again, the evidence is lacking. However, Grover notes the benefits of simply giving yourself a special self-care treatment. “Allocating time for yourself and treatments that make you feel healthier and have a positive association with your body can be very beneficial for [your] mental health and physical health.”


It Involves Heat

“It is said to be a meditative and relaxing treatment that usually includes a massage on the abdominal area,” Barshop tells Romper. Even so, getting your vagina smoked or steamed means hovering over hot air for an extended period of time (anywhere from about 25 to 45 minutes). So, you can imagine things can get hot down there.


It Goes By Many Names


This practice goes by more names than you might imagine, including "chai-yok" in Korea, "ratus" in Indonesia, and "ganggang" in Malaysia. Some also call it vagina fogging. Who knew there were so many monikers?


It Involves Burning Ratus & Other Herbs

Here’s how Romper writer Evie Carrick described the experience of vaginal smoking: “Before I could get too deep inside my nervous mind, Eka returned with a steaming ceramic pot the size of a soup bowl. She spread apart my legs, opened the door to the box, and centered the pot beneath me. It felt comfortably warm and immediately filled the room with an herby, earthy smell.” That earthy smell comes from the ratus, which is thought to help beautify and cleanse your vaginal area.


The Cost Varies

The cost of vaginal smoking will vary per spa, as does any other treatment. At the Air Cawan spa in Jakarta, for instance, vagina smoking costs about 65 Indian dollars. (This converts to only about $5.00 USD.)


It Is Said To Scent The Vagina


Ratus may have a lasting impression on the senses — think of it like incense for your privates. Even if the scent in your vagina doesn’t last longer than a few hours, you’ll come away from the treatment with a lasting feeling of relaxation.


You Can Make A DIY Vaginal Smoke

Too shy for spas? No worries: you can buy your own stool for at-home steams or smokes. The herbs are sold separately, but you can also put together your own combination. Try lavendar, basil, rosemary, and calendula, to name a few.


It May Cause Health Issues

Some medical professionals have expressed concerns about getting heat-oriented treatments on such sensitive areas of the body. “We need to remember that the vulvar and vaginal tissue is the most sensitive in the body to just about anything,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., OB/GYN and clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, tells Romper. “There are cases of second degree burns from people steaming their vaginas.”

She also has hesitations about its effects on the bacterial levels. “If they think they are ‘cleaning’ anything with either smoking or steaming, it is totally unnecessary for the same reason that douching is unnecessary,” she explains. Since your vagina is home to billions of healthy bacteria, some cleansing practices could inadvertently be slaying the good guys along with the bad. “Of course, douching doesn't have the possibility of inducing second degree burns,” Minkin adds, mentioning kegel exercises as a better practice for vaginal upkeep.


It's Rooted In Pre-Wedding Rituals

This type of vaginal smoking has a long history, and it has traditionally been used as a pre-wedding ritual. Many spas still include ratus treatments alongside foot baths and body scrubs as an essential relaxation tool for brides-to-be.

Vaginal smoking certainly isn’t for everyone, and it’s worth talking to a doctor before trying this treatment out for yourself. But if you love trying every new wellness trend out there, this one might be a worthy addition to the bucket list.


Dr. Monica Grover, M.S., head gynecologist at VSPOT

Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., Clinical professor of OB/GYN at Yale School of Medicine

Cindy Barshop, women’s intimate health expert and founder of VSPOT

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