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Weird Things Women Are Putting In Their Vaginas In the Name of Health

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    Marijuana

    With the legalization of marijuana in states like Colorado and California comes experimentation with, well, other ways to use the substance. One such product: a marijuana-laced oil that essentially allows you to absorb the drug vaginally and de-stress, in theory enhancing libido and leading to a better orgasm. However, Jennifer Gunter, M.D., director of pelvic pain and vulvovaginal disorder for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says that this hasn't been proven. "Any effect of this medication when given vaginally is happening because it's affecting your nervous system, and it's unlikely due to a local effect," she says. Plus, inserting products into the vagina that haven't been studied for their potential side effects is dangerous. "Absorption can be erratic and the dosing in these products isn't tested for consistency or purity, so you could be getting a different amount every time you use it," says Gunter.

    The same company that produced the sensual enhancement oil also released a cannabis vaginal suppository, which is inserted like a tampon and intended to ease PMS symptoms and menstrual cramps. Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says the thought behind the product might make sense—marijuana can act as a muscle relaxant—and since many cramps happen because of uterine muscle contractions, you'd think a product like this would help. But it hasn't been thoroughly studied either, and Gunter has doubts about the high levels of THC—the psychoactive component of marijuana that could be absorbed vaginally, she explains—that are recommended in order to actually give you some relief (960 mg). "It's actually very high, so it seems to really only be designed for one purpose—to get you high." And while there isn't currently much information about how inserting marijuana could affect the vagina's ecosystem, one study has linked cannabis to more vaginal yeast colonization. So unless you're willing to risk a bout of not-so-fun yeast infections, just say no until there's more research on whether either product is actually effective—and safe.

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    Herbal Vagina Sticks

    Promoted as a product that will help you balance the pH levels in your vagina, internally cleanse (translation: shed dead skin), and "tighten up" down there, yoni sticks are made from ingredients like kaolin (a mineral that originates from silicate rock) and turmeric and...should never be used, Gunter says. "There is ample evidence to suggest these types of products are very harmful to the vaginal ecosystem and could potentially increase your risk of getting an STD if you were exposed," she explains. "They're basically the equivalent of cigarettes for your vagina."

    If it's the tightening claim that piqued your interest, Gunter says "only potentially caustic agents—or drying ones—can give you the sensation of tightness, and those are harmful for the vagina." As for vaginal pH, she says you can't balance it with a product because it's maintained naturally by lactobacilli, a healthy bacterium that acts as a probiotic to help ward off vaginal infections. And those dead skin cells? Yeah, you don't need a stick for that either. "The vagina sheds dead skin cells just fine on its own. That's why we have discharge, which is partly made up of cells."

  • Herbal Detox Balls

    Intended to stay in the vagina for a maximum of 72 hours, companies producing "womb detox pearls" say they'll "cleanse the womb and return it to a balanced state ... [and] contain potent traditional herbs that aid in the removal of toxins from the vagina." Once again, you don't need a product to do that. "Your vagina does not need a detox; it is a self-cleaning oven," Gunter says. (Here's Why You Don't Need a Detox, Either). "These herbs will not help the vagina in any way." Plus, "leaving something inside a warm, dark, moist environment (i.e., your vagina) is a prime invitation for bacteria and infection, and it increases your risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS)," Dweck adds. (Related: 8 Things Every Woman Should Know About TSS). Gunter says that keeping a foreign object in the vagina for more than eight hours—let alone three days—when it wasn't scientifically designed to be there (like, for example, the NuvaRing) is also likely to produce a foul odor, along with excessive discharge and sometimes even inflammation that could lead to bleeding and breaks in the walls of your vagina. This could allow bacteria to get into the bloodstream—which is extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

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    Hands

    No, we're not saying you shouldn't masturbate (actually, quite the opposite). But if you're interested in getting a professional yoni massage, Gunter says you should think twice before booking that appointment. "If they're not a trained pelvic floor physical therapist, run in the other direction," she says. "There is a lot of misunderstanding about the muscles that surround the vagina among people with less than adequate training," and it'd be very easy to incur an injury. In fact, though some holistic practitioners say the treatment can activate the chi energy within your body to allow for intuitive healing, those looking to get a vaginal massage are usually there to see if they can improve their sex life. Gunter says there aren't any studies showing that pelvic floor physical therapy can help a woman who already has a satisfying sex life have an even better one. In other words, "If it isn't broke, don't try to fix it," she says.

    That said, if you're having actual pelvic floor pain, pain during intercourse, or vaginismus, which is when the muscles are so tight that nothing, not even a penis or tampon, can be inserted, both Gunter and Dweck say pelvic floor physical therapy with a trained specialist could help. "This isn't about the activation of chi, rather learning how to relax the pelvic floor muscles and tighten them when needed," says Gunter.

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    Yogurt-Soaked Tampons

    Using yogurt as a DIY remedy for yeast infections has been around for years, and now people are slathering it on tampons before inserting for a quick-and-dirty application process. Gunter says that it's not really that dangerous, but it doesn't help treat the infection because yogurt doesn't contain the kind of lactobacillus bacterium that is good for vaginal health. It's more likely acting as a soothing salve from the itchy side effects that tend to come along with the diagnosis, says Dweck. She suggests leaving the yogurt in the fridge, and finding temporary relief by applying cool water in between over-the-counter treatments like Monistat.

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    Steam

    No surprise here: If Gwyneth Paltrow endorses a health trend, women will immediately start trying it. But it's important to remember that Gwyneth is not a medical professional, and just because she got herbal-infused steam up her precious lady parts doesn't necessarily mean you should, too. Yes, the warmth enhances blood flow just as the treatment says, but you risk suffering a burn on your skin down below. "There's no guarantee that the steam temperature is being regulated, and your skin could be more sensitive in that area," Dweck says. You could even be allergic to mugwort, an aromatic herb that's commonly used in these steams. Mugwort is related to ragweed, so allergic contact dermatitis could be an issue, she adds. And there are also infections to worry about. "We all know what it's like to get an infection when you get a pedicure and find out it's not the most hygienic place, so putting your vagina at that risk can be dangerous," says Dweck. Plus, why worry about enhancing blood flow to that region through steam when you can do it through sex? "The best way to increase blood flow is to get aroused, have foreplay, masturbate, or have good sex," says Gunter. Doctor's orders.

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    Tea Tree Oil

    "While there is some basic research to suggest tea tree oil can kill yeasts and bacteria, we don't have good research to show how we could translate that into medical care," says Gunter. Translation: Don't use the stuff to DIY a yeast infection treatment, as there isn't concrete proof it'll actually work. It's better to take a one-time tablet of an anti-fungal, or use an over-the-counter medicine like Monistat, Dweck says. "These things are tried and true, we know that they work, they've been studied, and they're accessible," she adds. (Oh, and don't use it as a lubricant either—Gunter says oil extracts are very concentrated and have alcohol in them that could easily irritate your vulvar and vaginal tissues.)

 

Samantha Lefave

Samantha is a writer who is living, eating and sweating her way through NYC. You can find her running half-marathons like it's her job, Instagramming her favorite food and fitness finds or, let's be honest, eating peanut butter straight from the jar.

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