Your vagina doesn’t need a herbal cleanse. Here’s why.


I woke up to someone forwarding this tweet.

Yes, some company is selling tiny bags of herbs (they call them pearls) to stuff in the vagina for three days to cleanse your uterus or shrink your fibroids or treat bacterial vaginosis or tighten your vagina.

This is not only pointless it could be very dangerous. Here’s why.

Your uterus and vagina want you to leave them alone.

Your uterus isn’t tired or depressed or dirty, and your vagina has not misplaced its chakra. They want no real help from you unless there is something wrong and they will tell you there is something wrong by bleeding profusely or itching or cramping badly or producing an odor. Don’t blame malaise, or fatigue on your uterus or vagina (unless you are anemic from bleeding, but then you would have had the warning sign).

Actually, none of your organs want the kind of help that comes with a “detox” because they have evolved to take care of themselves in partnership with the rest of your body. There is no such thing as a detox or a cleanse; they are fake terms used by snake oil salespeople to lighten wallets.

If you are having regular periods with a few days of cramps each month, your uterus is fine and honestly not trying to tell you anything, if you have an odor or are bleeding heavily or have pain see a doctor. If you are under 25 or have a new sex partner, your uterus also wants you to get screened for sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia.

The vagina is a self-cleaning oven.

Many plant products and extracts are irritating and certainly none of the claimed contents have been tested for vaginal use. God knows what is in the “vaginal tightening” pearls, but I imagine something caustic or drying – both really bad.

These herbs (or whatever, because you really just don’t know — hey it could just be dirt from someone backyard) 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.

Leaving a bag of anything in your vagina for three days is dangerous and smelly.

What happens when you leave something in a vagina for three days is that anaerobic (not good) bacteria grow. I have removed many retained tampons over my career, and the smell is so bad we typically have to close the exam room for the rest of the day. Yes, you read that right. Bad bacteria smells bad — this smell alerts you there is a serious issue somewhere.

These mesh “pearls” will just be a nidus for infection. The website actually provides proof of this as they have pictures of what they proudly claim to be the “discharge” users have removed from their vagina while using the pearls.




The vagina makes excess discharge when there is a) irritation, b) infection, and c) an absence of good bacteria.  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.

Toxic shock syndrome

Yes, leaving a product that is not designed for prolonged vaginal use (and these are not) in the vagina is a risk for toxic shock syndrome. Just don’t do it.

In medicine we use the term “pearl” to describe tips and tricks that might not be found in textbooks or really important clinical points, so here’s my vaginal pearl — leave it alone, it’s not exactly sentient, but it can cope very well without any meddling.

And do not under any circumstances put a mesh baggie of herbs in your vagina.

Jennifer Gunter is an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of the Preemie Primer. She blogs at her self-titled site, Dr. Jen Gunter.

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