6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Herbal Tampons to Detox Your Vagina
It seems that no matter where you turn, there’s a trendy new way to “cleanse” your body. The latest craze: herbal tampons, otherwise known as womb pearls (yes, really). Some bloggers are raving about these so-called vagina detoxifiers, which are essentially mesh baggies stuffed with herbs (such as motherwort and angelica), that claim to help your lady parts flush out harmful microbes and other toxins. To get a professional opinion, we called Jennifer Gunter, MD, an ob-gyn based in San Francisco. Here, she gives six reasons why using womb pearls isÂ definitely not a good idea.
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They don’t actually flush out toxins
With all the talk about detoxing these days, it’s hard to figure out what’s legit. But the answer is simple, says Dr. Gunter: None of it. If toxins (like bacteria) do get into our bodies, we are equipped to dispose of them, she explains, with detoxifying organs like the liver, spleen, kidneys, and colon. The best thing you can do to help your body “cleanse,” says Dr. Gunter, is to eat a balanced diet with enough fiber so you colon can do its job effectively.
They might cause a reaction
One blogger wrote that the “toxic discharge” she discovered down there after using herbal tampons was a sure sign of unwanted bacteria escaping her body. But as Dr. Gunter explains, excess mucus is actually a sign of infection or irritation. “Discharge is caused by an irritant that’s brought in, in this case, the mesh bag.â”
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They’re not a magical cure
It’s hard to believe, but herbal tampons are touted as a natural remedy for all sorts of health problems: vaginosis, fibroids, infertility, endometriosis, you name it! These claims are totally unfounded, says Dr. Gunter. “None of these thing have been studied, and you can’t even use herbal products to treat most of the conditions they’re talking about.”
Being all-natural doesn’t make them healthy
Some natural products can actually do us more harm than good. Many herbs are irritants, Dr. Gunter points out, and some are even poisonous. “Anyone who has seasonal allergies will tell you plants can be very unfriendly,” she adds.
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They could throw your vagina out of whack
Dr. Gunter compares womb pearls to feminine cleansers. “Just like douching damages the good bacteria in the vagina, these are likely to do the same,” says Dr. Gunter. And once you kill off that good bacteria, it can be hard for your body to replace it. “You could be left with a long-term change in your vaginal discharge, which could increase your risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases or vaginosis.”
Another potential danger: toxic shock syndrome, says Dr. Gunter. Retailers instruct you to place this product in your vagina for anywhere from 24 hours to three days!
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The contents could be a mystery
You run a risk when you purchase herbal tampons from an independent retailer online, Dr. Gunter points. The packaging might list specific herbs, but how can you be certain about what’s inside? The fact is, you never really know.
A woman who voluntarily inserts anything into her vagina, for something other than menstrual or sexual reasons, is going to cause quite a stir. Especially, if she puts a video of herself pulling it out or “after” photos on social media. Womb detoxing, by way of tiny bags of herbs commonly called yoni pearls, vaginal pearls or herbal tampons, is becoming more popular among women looking to cure fibroids, PCOS, yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. Some companies also claim that their products will aid in the removal of ovarian cysts, thrush and endometriosis.
READ: What Are Yoni Eggs?
However, most of the “Womb Warriors,” as some distributors refer to themselves, are not gynecologists, nor any kind of medical professionals for that matter. In fact, some gynecologists, like Dr. Jean Gunter, speak against using at-home womb cleansing techniques to detox your womb and warn women that certain products lead to TSS, or toxic shock syndrome. Many of the Womb Warriors post their clients’ testimonies alongside graphic images of their discharge, released after the cleanse. But, Dr. Gunter regards these images as photographic evidence that the herbs are causing more harm than good.
“The vagina makes excess discharge when there is A) irritation, B) infection, C) an absence of good bacteria,” Dr. Gunter wrote in a recent blog after seeing a photo of womb cleansing pearls on her social media timeline.
READ: Decoding Your Vaginal Discharge
These images are causing quite the reaction from women. Some women are eager to try it while others think it’s dangerous and best left to gynecologists and fertility clinics. Nevertheless, brands like Yoni Pearls, Embrace Pangaea and Dinqnesh Pearls continue to grow amidst the controversy.
Womb cleansing techniques have been practiced for years, but as with most things, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian have made old practices the new trend. Two of the more popular methods of womb cleansing are the yoni pearls and herbal tampons, which consist of inserting them into the vagina and leaving them in for three days. After they are removed, most women experience a thick mucous or tissue-like discharge. Some of the herbs included in the cleanses are rhizoma, osthol, and borneol.
READ: 3 Herbs To Detox Your Uterus
Dr. Eden Fromberg, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, recently told Shape magazine the herbs used in womb cleansing products can be helpful. But, she questions the quality of the herbs. “What you’re buying off the internet isn’t the same recipe or quality as what an herbal medicine practitioner would give you,” she said. Dr. Fromberg also warns that using these cleaning methods may be removing good bacteria, which can result in vaginal infections.
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Fad detox programs have managed to convince thousands of seemingly intelligent people that a restricted diet can restore their body to a purer state. But what’s the next step for women who have already cleansed their blood, GI tracts, and chakras? Thankfully, they no longer need to rely on the time-tested combination of anatomy, physiology, and medical care to keep their reproductive tracts footloose and toxin free. Now you can place a ball of herbs (or “pearl”) wrapped in a piece of gauze into your vagina to “detox your womb.”
According to Embrace Pangaea, one of the companies that manufactures detox pearls, the cleanse treats the “toxins from a poor diet, chemical based environment, and emotional stress (that) can get stuck in your womb.” These ominous, unspecified toxins are allegedly/reportedly responsible for “major imbalances” like bacteria vaginosis, yeast infections, endometriosis, infertility, vagina pain, excess bleeding, vaginal dryness, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and fibroids. These imbalances are sometimes referred to by another, better known term: medical conditions.
Your womb and vagina are self-cleaning organs. Helpful bacteria, natural secretions, a carefully maintained pH, and your hormone cycle all help to keep the female reproductive tract healthy. In most cases, no intervention is required. In general, your body will signal you when something is awry through symptoms like dryness, bleeding, pain, unusual discharge, itching, or foul odor. There are scientifically-supported medical treatments and therapies available for these gynecological conditions. There are also hoax treatments that may do more harm than good—like detox pearls.
Detox pearls are cloth-covered balls containing herbs like mothersworth, osthol, angelica, borneol, and rhizoma. Purveyors claim that they can detox your womb and reset your natural balance by, among other things, increasing elasticity, regulating the menstrual cycle, killing parasites and (bad) bacteria, improving fertility, reducing discharge, and removing toxins (there’s that undefined word again).
You might notice a rather glaring error in the system here. Despite the urging of the woman in the instructional video, you cannot place one of these detox pearls in your womb. The womb is separated from your vagina (and the outside world) by the cervix. There is a hole in the center of your cervix, the os, that opens naturally to release the contents of your uterus during labor and (to a lesser degree) during menstruation. When closed, it keeps your uterus off limits to things you place in your vagina—tampons, penises, sex toys, and magical herb balls.
Naturally, there is no given explanation for how the detox herbs, once placed in your vagina, manage to open the cervical os, penetrate the uterus, and allow the accursed toxins, fibroids, and excess endometrium to exit your body and restore balance. This is because detox herbs and reproductive organs do not work that way.
In addition to the myriad of benefits offered by Embrace Pangaea, womb detoxes from Sacred Blood Womb Wellness claim to treat pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted infections, postpartum hemorrhage, uterine polyps, and ovarian cysts. These claims are bald-faced lies. Despite customer testimony accompanied by some rather graphic user submitted photographs on the company websites, there is no evidence of these benefits—or any benefits—in the use of these or any other womb detox products. Peer-reviewed studies indicate that some of the herbs mentioned on the Embrace Pangaea site do have beneficial medical properties, but none of the above medical conditions are included. These studies focus on intravenous and oral use of the herbs (and are largely conducted on rats). I found no data on whether inserting these herbs in the vagina has any effect on the uterus.
The sales portion of the Embrace Pangaea site walks back its claims slightly, warning users that “Information and statements regarding dietary/herbal products have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.” Since they acknowledge that the pearls serve no health function, it leaves one to assume that the only purpose of using these is to make your vagina smell like a garden party.
Of course, companies behind womb detox programs neglect to inform you of the very real risks that may come with their use. Like douching, these herbs may disrupt the good bacteria (lactobacilli) in your vagina, causing harm to the natural balance that it claims to restore. The textured mesh wrapping of the pearls may irritate and scratch your vaginal walls, increasing susceptibility to infection. As is the case with tampons, a foreign object left in your vagina for 24 hours can put you at risk for toxic shock syndrome (despite the outraged blog post on Embrace Pangaea’s site strenuously denying this, it’s true that leaving any foreign object in the vagina can serve as a potential nidus for bad bacteria to grow).
Whatever success these companies have had can be attributed to the factors they implicitly prey on: a combination of fear, miseducation, and lack of access to health care, as well as a heavy dose of pandering to ideas of female strength and purity. Womb detox enters the scene under the guise of empowering “wombmen” (!) to protect and restore the “foundation (of their) stability.” It reduces women to their wombs, positioning the uterus as the biological equivalent of a Captain Planet ring—the source of our power and how we interact with the world. The deliberate use of the word “womb,” which evokes images of motherhood and femininity, rather than the word clinical word “uterus,” is a clever PR trick. Lifting the uterus up in importance with the heart and brain, detox companies urge women to purge all of the emotional grief and trauma from their wombs, the conduit for “bringing souls into this world.”
In reality, women who use these products in their vaginas are either throwing their money away or risking very real damage to their reproductive health. Your womb naturally purges itself via the menstrual cycle. There are no emotions and toxins stuck in your uterus. It does not need to have its balance restored, it needs to be left alone (or attended to by a healthcare professional). Do not torture it by stuffing a ball of herbs inside your vagina.
In general, the word “detox” should immediately set off alarm bells; programs that claim to cleanse your body of dreaded toxins are either pointless exercises in ascetic living or dangerous practices that can have a serious effect on an individual’s wellbeing. But people continue to be duped into believing that these strange, often grueling regimens will do a better job of detoxifying their body than their liver and kidneys. They won’t. I wish every dollar spent on detox pearls could have been spent on a doctor’s visit, or a donation to Planned Parenthood: two institutions that might actually do a “wombman” some good.
Caroline Weinberg has previously written about science and health at Eater, Vice Motherboard, Aeon, the Washington Post, and a few dry academic publications. You can find her on Twitter @ckw583.
Doctors Have Warned Against Using Herbal Tampons To “Detox The Womb”
Doctors and health experts have strongly warned against using a “womb detox” product that has recently caught attention online.
Embrace Pangaea, a herbal and holistic product online company based in the United States, has been selling small bags of herbs, designed to be inserted into the vagina to “cleanse the womb and return it to a balance state.”
The bags contain a mix of perfumed herbs such as Mothersworth, Angelica, Borneol, Rhizoma and Cnidium monnieri.
One “pearl” costs $15 and is intended for once-a-day use. Alternatively, the company offers a “Monthly Womb Maintenance Package” for $75 to $180. It also has a scheme to encourage customers to distribute its products themselves.
Dr. Jen Gunter, a gynaecologist from the United States, wrote a blog post strongly condemning the products, the Independent reports.
“Your uterus isn’t tired or depressed or dirty and your vagina has not misplaced its chakra,” she said.
“These herbs… could be damaging to your lactobacilli (the good bacteria) or be directly irritating to the vagina mucosa (the lining) and both of these outcomes will increase your risk of infection.”
Image credit: Roman Prishenko/
Other doctors have said using the products could lead to irritation, bacterial infections, and even potentially fatal toxic shock syndrome. They also urged women who experience heavy bleeding, odour, discomfort or pain to visit their doctor.
Tamieka Atkinson, the owner of Embrace Pangaea, told the Independent: “Our product is not a drug by any means, and we make no claims of curing, diagnosing, or treating disease.
“Embrace Pangaea is a holistic company that provides high-quality herbal detoxes and information to educate clients about natural living.
“Our Herbal Womb Detox Pearls is simply a natural herbal alternative that women can make a conscious and informed decision in using. With all our clients, we do advise them that we are not medical professionals, and that they should seek assistance from their doctor.”
I Tried Herbal Tampons And Now My Vagina Smells Like A Corpse
DO NOT WANT.
My official title here at YourTango.com is senior staff writer.
Unofficially I think it’s safe to say that my title is actually “employee most likely to stick things up her vagina so that our readers don’t have to.”
Vagina weight-training kegel eggs? Done. And ouch.
Menstrual sponge to sop up my period, albeit poorly? Done, and I’ve still got the nightmares to prove it.
A needle full of my own plasma right into my clit and vagina? Yes, and there’s video of that too, so goodbye to any plans I ever had of running for office!
While each experience of putting something strange in my own vagina for your benefit has yielded different results, he one thing they had in common (other than my vagina) is that they left me with great stories to tell.
That, as a writer, is something I truly cherish.
Today is no exception to the rule.
When I first learned about herbal tampons I was delighted. That’s partially because I am always delighted when I find a new women’s health product to try, and also partially because any product that claims to be used by the ancient Imperial Chinese courts is going to make me feel kind of delighted.
I spent $4.00 and was promised in exchange a 5 piece pack of herbal tampons. I was expecting something similar to the photographs shared on the website where I first spotted them.
Those expectations were quickly thwarted when the mail arrived many weeks later and I opened an envelope to find this:
Now, I joke about my vagina being large, or wide-set, but in reality it is probably a fairly average vagina (I just like to bolster her ego from time to time).
That said, the idea of putting this alleged tampon, roughly the size of a baby’s incisor, into my vagina with no visible means of pulling it back out of my vagina with ease made my womb shudder.
But I take my responsibilities for this site very seriously. So, after writing a last will and testament on the off chance that I did not survive this encounter, I got to work.
The first thing you need to know about herbal tampons is what they are meant to do. They are not supposed to act as a real tampons. Instead, the collections of herbs are supposed to detox your womb and correct “womb erosion.”
This was good news, since I did not know my womb contained any toxins that needed flushing, nor was I aware that my womb was in danger of washing away like the beaches of Fire Island.
There is a veritable laundry list of ailments that Clean Point Qing Gong Wan Tampon promised to cure, from vaginal dryness to even a sluggish metabolism.
True to its word, the tiny ball was stuffed full of herbs that I probably should have researched before getting to work, but time, tide, and my vagina wait for no man.
As instructed online, I let the tiny orb steep in some (tepid) water. I noticed a cloud of dust color the water and panicked but tried to think positively. I thought that the herbs might expand in the water, but after a wait of twenty minutes (ten minutes longer than required) I realized that wasn’t going to be the case.
Since there was no string attached to the tampon, I used dental floss because I am the MacGyver of putting things up my vagina. Pro tip: If you try this, do not use a mint-flavored floss because oh my god the burning.
The tampons recommended that you keep them inside your body for 72 hours, but at just twenty minutes my vagina was doing everything in its power to reject the soggy stank pellet I had inserted into my person.
I didn’t tell you about the smell, did I?
You guys. It was so bad. I’m worried that I’m not a good enough writer to capture it fully, but because I’m a journalist and the stank is a key feature to this detoxifying pellet, I’ll give it my best shot.
Imagine you decided to exhume the corpse of England’s Queen Victoria from the grave. Once she was out, you decided to take her to Lush and have her try out every single lotion in the store. Now, imagine sticking her nose betwixt her corpse breaths and inhaling her scent deeply and with purpose.
That is probably better than what this sucker smelled like.
I knew that 72 hours weren’t going to be feasible for me, so I settle for three hours. This was just enough time for me to both grow used to the fact that my vagina was going to smell like I was rotting internally forever and to get used to the way the little annoying bubble felt making its home in my vaginal canal.
About an hour in, I got lightheaded. I chalked this up to my anxiety and ignored it. At hour two, I started periodically seeing spots. At two and half hours, sure it was only a matter of time until my womb slid out along with the herbal tampon, I removed the beast.
I felt a strange tingling when I did so, and when I peed I tried not to blanch at the ochre color of my urine.
Did my womb feel detoxified? I mean, it felt fine, as far as wombs go. I wasn’t aware of it at all and ideally that’s how I feel most comfortable with my womb. The smell lingered longer than I would have liked (read: for any amount of time).
It’s been a few days and I have noticed no changes in my genitals or, for that matter, my womb. I briefly got diarrhea, but if that’s what they meant by detoxifying, I could just as easily have eaten a Hot Pocket and waited for all hell to be unleashed upon my bowels.
So final verdict, mostly this herbal tampon was a waste of time. If you’ve got a serious problem with your vagina go see a doctor, don’t pay 4 dollars and stuff mysterious herbs up yourself in the hopes of avoiding an awkward appointment with your legs in the stirrups.
These Herbal Tampons Aren’t Just Bizarre — They’re Potentially Dangerous
Herbs are good for the following purposes: as the main ingredient in your tea, as a sophisticated way to crust your salmon and as a brand name for drugstore shampoo.
But what about putting them in your vagina as a form of detox (or v-tox, if you will)?
Well, doctors are saying that miiiiiiight be where we should draw the line.
Herbal Tampons: Friend or Foe?Etsy
Herbal tampons (or “womb pearls,” if you’re feeling regal ’bout it) have been having a moment on the internet as of late. Last week, a blogger on the beauty website XONecole told readers that she recently detoxed her V with these homemade contraptions, which are available on such reputable retailers as Amazon and the homemade craft shop Etsy. She swore the herbal tampons yielded magical results, such as the expulsion of “toxic” discharge from her lady garden.
“Overall, I think this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in regards to my personal health,” wrote Tiara Janté. “I definitely recommend anyone suffering yeast and other vaginal infections, fibroid pain, severe menstrual pain and/or fertility issues to research womb detox methods further in order to determine if it’s for you. While I’m no medical professional, I can speak from experience and say it worked for me and is now a vital part of my overall feminine care regiment.”
Medical professionals themselves, however, aren’t quite as enthusiastic.
San Francisco gynecologist Jen Gunter wrote on her blog Tuesday that “the vagina is a self-cleaning oven” and “leaving a bag of anything in for 3 days is dangerous and smelly.” She also mentions that the pearls create a risk for toxic shock syndrome, a mix of bacterial infections that could actually be life-threatening.
And as for all that magical detoxing discharge, Gunter warns that it’s actually a bad sign.
“The vagina makes excess discharge when there is A) irritation B) infection C) an absence of good bacteria,” she wrote. “This discharge isn’t some toxic swill that the vagina was hiding that only the ‘pearls’ could release, it’s a sign that these ‘pearls’ are damaging.”
It should be noted that there are some Etsy alternatives to the mass market tampon industry that are not quite as harmful to your health as these tea bag-like nuggets. Homemade menstrual pads, for example, are a sustainable alternative to tampons that have revolutionized the way some women deal with their periods. Period-friendly fashion, such as Thinx’s leak-resistant underwear, is also making something of a splash on the handmade market.
But as for vaginal “detoxing,” most doctors agree that it’s really not necessary. Gynecologists have consistently said that the best course of action to #CleanseYourCoochie is simply to let go and trust your body’s ability to tend to itself.
“The vagina has really great mechanisms within it to keep it clean and have its own little healthy ‘ecosystem,'” Jessica Shepherd, a gynecologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Women’s Health last year. “The beautiful part of the vagina is that it’s physiologically built to take care of itself.”
So although these herbal tamps may seem holistic or healing or whatever, don’t be fooled. They’re no match for your body’s own capabilities of natural detoxification.
“Have a little faith in me” — your vagina, singing to you from below.
h/t the Frisky