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Chai-yok is the local term for a traditional Korean folk treatment for a variety of female health problems. In this treatment, a woman sits naked on an open-seat chair positioned over a vaporizer. The vapors created by hot herbal teas are said to treat a range of health concerns including painful or irregular periods and infertility. This treatment is offered at some holistic clinics and high-end spas.
Chai-yok is sometimes known by the Western name vaginal steam bath or by the Spanish term equivalent of bajos.
A chai-yok treatment involves sitting over a steaming pot of herbal tea for 20 to 45 minutes. The tea mix varies, but typically contains mugwort to help maintain uterine health and wormwood which eases digestive problems. The steam should first be tested on the inside of the forearm to ensure it’s not too hot for the genitals. The woman receiving the steam bath is wrapped in a blanket that falls to the floor to trap the steam inside. There is often another blanket wrapped around the top part of her body so that she stays warm. It’s essential that the woman stay warm for 24 hours after the chai-yok.
The vapors from chai-yok, also known as vagi-steam, create a douching effect that is said to stimulate the production of hormones which aid in regular menstruation, maintain uterine health, correct digestive issues, and soothe the nervous system. Vaginal tissue is thought to be the most absorbent tissue in the female body. Practitioners of chai-yok believe it’s the best place for healing herbs to enter the body. Chai-yok is thought to treat infertility, endometriosis, vaginal tears, premenstrual syndrome, and hemorrhoids. It is also believed to reduce stress and keep skin looking young.
Western practitioners cannot confirm the effectiveness of chai-yok although there is some anecdotal evidence that the treatment is effective. However, some medical professionals are concerned that ingredients in the herbal teas may be harmful to the vagina. They also worry that the practice may cause burns or injury to the vaginal area.
Chai-yok is not recommended for people who are menstruating or pregnant, those with vaginal infections, sores, or open wounds.