V-Steaming: Part 2 How to Set Up Your Steam
Part 2: How To Steam Your V
Now that you know V-Steaming is right for you, here’s everything you need to know about setting up your steam and choosing the right herbs.
How to Setup Your V-Steam
The simplest setup requires only a heat proof vessel, a towel to wrap around the vessel to protect your legs and retain heat, a blanket or sheet to cover yourself - if you want to, and a handful of herbs.
For the vessel I prefer glass and ceramic for their heat holding properties and less tendency to leach harmful chemicals into the hot water, but you can use stainless steel or another type of heatproof pot or bowl. Don’t use plastic though. Plastic and heat should never come together, and certainly not when it involves your reproductive organs.
The blanket goes over you to keep you warm and help hold the steam in. If it’s hot out and you don’t mind being uncovered, it isn’t necessary.
Step-By-Step V-Steam Instructions
Set aside at least a half an hour for your steam, if you have an hour, even better. You’ll need to boil water, let the herbs steep for ten minutes, and steam for ten minutes. Aftward you may want to relax for a bit. A nice time to steam is before bed, but really it can be done whenever works best for you. Also, make sure you pee before you steam, the relaxing warmth of the steam may induce a “jacuzzi effect” if you haven’t peed recently.
Decide where you’ll be doing your steam and have your towel and blanket ready. If there are long distances and or/stairs between where you’ll be steaming and where you’ll be boiling your water, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared.
Boil 1 to 2 quarts of water, or enough to fill your steaming vessel. This can be in done in the vessel itself if you’re using something safe for the stove-top like a pot or saucepan, or in a kettle or pot and then transferred to your steam vessel.
Once the water has come to a boil, remove it from heat and steep a handful (½ to 1 cup, give or take) of your chosen herbs for 10 minutes. I like to to cover the pot while it sits to keep the aromatic oils from escaping.
While the herbs are steeping, carefully carry them and your vessel to where you’ll be steaming and place it on the floor. Wrap your towel around the outside of your pot or bowl, this will help keep the water steaming longer and prevent you from touching the hot sides of your bowl or pot with the inside of your legs.
After ten minutes of steeping, remove the lid if you used one and test the heat of the steam with the inside of your arm. Gauge whether it feels like it will be too hot for sensitive areas and at what distance. Be smart. Don’t scald your vagina. If the steam feels right, kneel, sans pants, over your steam pot. If it’s too hot. Wait another couple minutes or increase the distance between your body and the steam. It’s better to under-steam than over-steam. If you want to you can wrap a sheet or blanket around yourself at the waist or shoulders to hold the steam in and to protect your bare buns from a chill.
If kneeling is comfortable, you can stay in that position for the whole 10 minutes. You can also try bending forward and resting on your elbows and forearms in a modified Child’s(ish) Pose. It’s your body, do what feels best in terms temperature, focus of the steam, and body position. This isn’t an exact science. There’s a lot of room for improvisation.
When you’re done steaming, simply get up and get dressed. Let your hot herb water cool and when ready dispose of the herbs themselves in the garbage or compost. You can use the infused water to water your plants, pour it outside, or down the drain.
This is the most basic set up. If you feel like steaming is something you want to incorporate into your life on an ongoing basis, you may want to invest in a steam stool or sauna. There are many options available, from beautiful custom wood steam saunas as seen in the Steamy Chick Sauna Marketplace to commode chairs that you can order on Amazon. Again, there is so much room for customization with steaming. Get creative and be safe! Steaming water is very hot. Take every precaution to avoid burning or scalding yourself. I believe in you!
Herbs for Your V-Steam
You don’t have to use herbs when steaming. The steam itself is softening, warming, and moistening and will have the effect of increasing circulation to your reproductive organs. You can also just add a bit of sea salt to your water if you don't have any herbs on hand.
Better circulation means more fresh, nutrient-rich blood flowing to your ovaries and uterus so that hormones from your brain and hormones from your ovaries can communicate properly.
Adding herbs can help you fine tune the intention of your treatment to cause a specific change. Herb selection can be simple and general or prescribed and therapeutic. For at home use, common kitchen and garden herbs are safest and have an overall balancing effect. Be sure to use herbs that are organic and tested for residues and contaminants. You can grow your own or order them from Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals. Some may already be in your kitchen or herb garden.
Almost all of the herbs commonly used for steaming are very aromatic. That means they’re high in essential oils. The essential oils are easily released from the plants by the heat of the just-boiled water and carried upward by the rising steam.
This is basically how essential oils are distilled. But instead of being collected, bottled, and sold for a premium, they are wafting up to bring balance and joy to your delicate undercarriage.
It’s important to note that actual essential oils, the kind in the little brown bottles, should not be used for steaming. They’re too concentrated, too strong and can result in irritation to your vulva and vagina.
Think of aromatic herbs as safe whole foods versions of aromatic compounds, and essential oils as refined, concentrated therapeutic supplements that must be diluted for safe use.
Some of the most common herbs used for steaming are:
Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca, Yi Mu Cao
Motherwort is a member of the mint family and is one of the best herbs for treating any kind of period problem and helping to ease the symptoms of menopause. Motherwort is antispasmodic, meaning it soothes muscle contractions like the ones turning your uterus into knots.
Like many other mint family members, motherwort has a soothing effect on your nervous system helping to reduce irritability. It’s cooling and has the ability to ease night sweating and hot flashes.
Motherwort increases the flow of blood in the pelvis, and as we discussed earlier, blood flow is important.
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris, Ai Ye
You may be familiar with mugwort if you’ve ever experienced moxibustion therapy. Mugwort is the primary herb burned for fumigation in Chinese Medicine. It’s warming, whether burned or steamed and increases blood flow to the pelvis.
Despite its moving properties, mugwort can also help to control inappropriate bleeding. Mugwort is warming and nicely balances the cooling effects of motherwort.
Calendula Calendula officinalis, Jin zhan ju
Calendula is soothing and healing to skin and has been shown to promote wound and tissue healing due to its antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It soothes itching as well. Calendula relaxes muscle cramps, helps increase blood flow, and helps to tighten and dry tissues.
The above three herbs can be the basis of a safe and gentle herbal formula. If you want to address your own specific symptoms you can add one to three more of the following herbs.
Rose Rose spp., Mei gui hua
Rose has the effect of helping to increase circulation to help reduce cramps, clots in the period and irritability. Its astringent qualities help to tighten and protect the moisture of cells and tissues.
Raspberry Leaf Rubus Spp.
Raspberry leaf strengthens and relaxes the uterus and other muscles of the pelvis making it a good choice for cases of prolapse and cramps. It’s also useful for helping to establish regular periods.
Chamomile Matricaria recutita
Chamomile relaxes the smooth muscle which is found in both your uterus and your fallopian tubes and is another good herb for cramps.
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yarrow is yet another herb that increases circulation to improve blood flow to your ovaries and uterus. It’s well known for it’s wound healing abilities stemming from its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The same properties make it useful for treating UTI. Although, it’s a good idea to check in with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you’re experiencing signs of a UTI, if your symptoms worsen, or don’t clear up with at home treatment. UTIs can travel to your kidneys and nobody wants that.
If you don’t feel comfortable selecting your own herbs, I suggest you visit a certified steam facilitator like myself or order pre-made blends from steamychick.com. These blends have been developed by Keli Garza and Kris González, L.Ac., the ladies at the forefront of the V-Steam revolution. While you’re there, check out the wealth of information that Keli has put together. Any questions I haven’t answered here are surely answered there.
While I can’t personally vouch for the quality or formulations, pre-made blends are also available via Etsy and Amazon.
If you have a more complicated condition such as infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, an infection or tendency towards infection, and want a more specific customized herbal formulation and steam plan, you’ll want to seek out a practitioner that has been trained in herbal medicine and vaginal steaming. I offer vaginal steam sessions in my clinic and can customize herbal formulas for you to use at home.
If you aren’t local to me, check out steamychick.com for their Practitioner Directory.