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Don't Steam Your Vagina with Magic Mushrooms
You don't want that kind of fungi in your garden
I’m known around the internet as the medical expert who will set you straight about what can go in, and not in, your vagina.
That stupid “cum” sponge that’s all over TikTok.
No, and if you don’t know, count yourself lucky and don’t even bother to google it because that is 15 minutes of your life you will not get back.
But this one, hoo yeah. You got me.
Someone left this question on a recent post…
Before we begin, I know that people end up on these pathways because they’re desperate. I know many have untreated vulvar and vaginal conditions and there is real suffering, that’s why I do what I do every day in the office and online. I get that it can be tempting to try a supposed cure that you find on line.
It can be so hard to get help for a variety of reasons. Some vulvar and vaginal conditions are difficult to treat. Misdiagnosis is unfortunately common and many people have their symptoms dismissed by their providers, both of which are inexcusable. In addition, open, factual discussions about the vulva and vagina are still hard, and so people end up in places willing to have the conversations, and many of the people who inhabit these spaces don’t have good advice. And so people end up trying bad therapies recommended by health influencers, people selling untested products, naturopaths, and all manner of integrative practitioners. And then there are rabbit holes created by people that might have good intentions, like perhaps a Reddit thread from someone who claims to have been there and solved their issues with a psilocybin vaginal steam.
As there is a growing discourse of the potential health benefits of psilocybin for treatment resistant depression and other conditions, I can see how claims about supposed “benefits” for vaginal health could sound believable.
What’s the Deal with Vaginal Steaming
Basically it’s a grift that people use to sell bags of herbs, steaming accouterments (think a fancy sitz bath), and spa services.
The original idea behind “vaginal steaming” was to squat over a pot of steaming, supposedly healing, potpourri in the hopes that some of the hot vapors find their way inside the vagina and possibly the uterus to “cleanse” or “remove toxins” or have some other quasi-medical benefit I don’t quite understand. Neither the vagina nor the uterus need cleansing because they are not dirty. Instead, “cleansing” and “removing toxins” are just modern euphemisms for purity culture. However, the idea that the vagina or uterus are dirty has been embedded into a patriarchal culture for centuries, that’s why the myth that the vagina needs to be cleaned just refuses to die.
This myth of a dirty vagina was intertwined (ok, who am I kidding, is still intertwined) with being sexually experienced. That is why a good vagina has historically been a clean vagina, meaning a dry and tight vagina. Being wet was a sign of sexual experience. That’s one reason many botanicals that have been used historically are astringents, because they dried up secretions and gave the mucosa (skin) of the vagina a tight feeling (this is medically very bad).
Really, there’s no medicinal value for vaginal steaming? Isn’t it an ancient practice? Yes, it’s true that many ancient cultures used steam from botanicals and animal matter (people often conveniently forget that part) and this was applied to the vulva and possibly the vagina. Crocodile dung was also used vaginally as a contraceptive. Does that mean we should be using it today? Look, many therapies may have made sense 2,000 years ago with a different view of the body and when religion and medicine were essentially the same, but now we know many things that we didn’t before. Important things, for example, that women aren’t overly moist (another reason why many ancient therapies for women for all manner of conditions were astringents, because women were viewed as being defective as they supposedly couldn’t regulate body fluid like men, so you had to dry ‘em out). We also know that we don’t need to burn fragrant herbs between the legs to coax the uterus back down into the pelvis (per the Ancient Greeks), because we’ve moved beyond thinking the uterus roamed the body like a wild animal. We also know that germs exist and that disemboweling a puppy and stuffing it with herbs and burning it for vapors isn’t therapeutic for anyone, especially the puppy.
“Vaginal steaming” for health in the 21st century is akin to using maps from 1,000 B.C. to plot shipping routes, even though you have GPS and know the earth is round, and choosing a specific pathway so your ship doesn’t fall off the earth.
Because of modern biology and science, we know better today. The steam likely isn’t even going into your vagina, it’s hitting your vulva, which could cause a burn (yes, this does happen), and the labia minora are especially vulnerable to this as the skin here is thinner. We also know that all attempts at vaginal cleansing are harmful, because it can damage the vaginal microbiome and the mucosa. And there is no medical condition that can be treated by squatting over a pot of steaming herbs.
There is also one other important, and awful, aspect of the vaginal steaming grift. Not only is it advertised with false medical claims, but people suggest that it can remove past sexual trauma. It’s so predatory.
But Why Not a Magic Mushroom Steam?
I’m not here to talk about the possible health benefits of psilocybin, I’m here to tell you not to put it in or around your vagina, steam or no steam.
For those who don’t know, psilocybin along with psilocin are the two main hallucinogenic compounds in magic mushrooms. There are several issues with a vaginal application.
Psilocybin is erroneously believed to be the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, but it’s essentially a prodrug, meaning the body converts it to a chemical that has the desired effect (and here that chemical is psilocin). Psilocybin is converted to psilocin in the gut and liver. So the best way to get an effect from mushrooms is to have them go through the gut to the liver. The vagina is one of those shortcuts that isn’t actually a shortcut.
In addition, psilocin is believed to have its main mechanism of action in the brain. The vagina and vulva are not the brain.
Psilocybin and psilocin are also heat labile, meaning it’s entirely possible if you aren’t careful with the steam you will just inactivate it.
But here’s the real kicker. Magic mushrooms are fungi. Most people aren’t jonesing for extra fungi in the vagina, ya know? Yeast infections? Those are fungal infections.
I asked Dr. Ryan Marino, a board certified toxicologist, and he told me magic mushrooms usually have “some spores that can still grow and are destroyed by stomach acid.” Dr. Marino told me mushrooms can also have “microscopic amounts of soil” on them or who knows what else, maybe even “cow feces”. So you are not just steaming the mushrooms, you are steaming everything else that’s along for the ride.
You do not need to be a board certified OB/GYN or a toxicologist to know that warm, aerosolized fungal spores, cow feces, and soil is probably not beneficial for the vulva or vagina.
Oh but the steam will kill the baddies!
Not so fast. There is an unfortunate case of a man brewing tea with magic mushrooms in boiling water, who then injected himself with the tea. The boiling water clearly didn’t kill all the bad stuff in or on the mushrooms, because he developed a bloodstream infection from Brevibacillus, a bacteria commonly found in soil and decaying matter, and the fungus, Psilocybe cubensis. Yes, the mushroom spores and bacteria on the spores survived being boiled and injected and were now growing in his blood.
If you have a vaginal or vulvar health concern, the answer is never “vaginal steaming.” It’s getting a diagnosis and seeing an expert if your local provider can’t help. And if you are struggling to be heard or to get a diagnosis, I have almost every symptom covered in The Vagina Bible, and if buying it isn’t in your budget, a public library is a great option. I also have lots of free information about many vulvar and vaginal conditions on this blog.
Basically, steaming your vulva and vagina with magic mushrooms is like giving them a hot spritz and possibly a douche with bacteria and fungi and theoretically this could lead to infections. And no, it can’t possibly have any medicinal effect.
Nicholas B.Giancola, ClaytonJ.Korson,Jason P.Caplan, Curtis A.McKnight. A “Trip” to the Intensive Care Unit: An Intravenous Injection of Psilocybin. Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Volume 62, Issue 3, May–June 2021.
Henry Lowe,Ngeh Toyang, Blair Steele, et. al. The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin. Molecules. 2021 May; 26(10): 2948.