Known as chai-yok, this centuries old Korean treatment for the vaginal area is said to aid health and fertility. The claim is that vaginal steam baths reduce stress, fight infections, clear hemorrhoids, regulate menstrual cycles and aid infertility, among other health benefits for which there is much testimonial and very little evidence.
In Korea, many women steam regularly after their monthly periods and there is a degree of logic behind the “folk wisdom” to support the idea that carefully targeted steam may provide some physiological benefits for women.
But there are no current studies to document the effectiveness of steam rising from a boiling pot of a mugwort tea blended with wormwood and a variety of other herbs. Traditionally, a nude woman sits on an open-seated stool above the pot of tea, her body fully absorbing the powerful vapors.
“It sounds like voodoo medicine that sometimes works,” said Dr. Vicken Sahakian, medical director of Pacific Fertility Center in Los Angeles.
Nonetheless, the treatment has many followers, among them Niki Han Schwarz and her orthopedic surgeon husband, Charles Schwarz.
Niki fervently believes the treatment worked for her, as after five steams, she found herself with more energy and fewer body aches. Within eight months, she also became pregnant at the age of 45 after attempting to conceive for more than three years.
The couple are doing their best to introduce vaginal steam baths to Southern California women. They have opened one spa in Santa Monica, California, (Tikkun Holistic Spa) which offers a 30-minute V-Steam treatment for $50.
Across the country, chai-yok treatments are available in a scattering of holistic health centers.
Will the V-steam be the wave of the future?
Only time (and a lot of steam) will tell.