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 3 days to cleanse your uterus or shrink your fibroids or treat bacterial vaginosis or tighten your vagina.

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

 

Your uterus and vagina wants 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 3 days is dangerous and smelly

What happens when you leave something in a vagina for 3 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 web site 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…

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The vagina makes excess discharge when there is A) irritation B) infection 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 text books 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.

 

Join the Conversation

219 Comments

    1. Holy shit, the main ingredient in that thing is croton!!!! It’s incredibly irritating and awful. Yes it’s natural. So is poison ivy.

      This reminds me of a series of articles from the 90s that the Village Voice did about AIDS in Africa (I was in high school, my dad made me read them and I now work in a TB & HIV research institution so I guess it made a dent). One thing they mentioned is a practice called “dry sex” in some parts of the world where women put bags of sand and irritating herbs in their vaginas because men demand the tight feeling. This leads to them getting torn up during sex which increases HIV transmission… I find it appalling and shameful that women in developed countries who are privileged and educated and have more control over their own lives and relationships should be stupid enough to pay money to harm themselves in the same way.

  1. “Self-cleaning oven”! I love it. I am a molecular microbiologist, and I’ve smelled some pretty foul bacterial species, but none that made me close the lab down for an entire day. Yikes.

  2. So I’m wondering why you specify “under 25” to get a STI screening? Multiple sex partners is by no means a thing that just young people do. And STIs are on the rise among the elderly: http://guardianlv.com/2014/01/senior-citizens-spreading-stds-like-wildfire/ I feel like a better way to say this would be “anyone who hasn’t been screened and has had multiple partners”.

    Otherwise, thank god someone said it. I can’t even imagine what those things (and other products like them) are doing to the vaginas of the women duped into trying them. Oy vey!

    1. The recommended regular screening in the US is annual chlamydia testing for women under 25, otherwise it is if multiple partners or new partner. Screening women under the age of 25 and treating for chlamydia has been shown to reduce the incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease

      1. Is that just based on an assumption that women in that age range have more new partners, though? Does a woman under 25 -or over- who hasn’t had sex need to be tested?

    2. More like anyone who’s had any partners. You are not in the clear just because you’re monogamous or a one-partner wonder. Your partner could have an STD and/or could be cheating. Basically, if you have sex, get the sex-life maintenance done, no matter what. Better safe than sorry. Annual HIV test too.

      1. Exactly, I am 25 years old and recently got chlamydia from a guy who had many partners from our encounter I got pregnant. Luckily, he told and got it treated before it coul harm the baby or me.
        Prior to this i never had any STI’S as I made sure to get tested and protect myself

  3. Yes I’m a guy but I’m almost positive your vagina doesn’t want you to “leave it alone”. It just doesn’t want you doing this to it.

    1. I know much more about vaginas Vaginas are an evolutionary marvel able to withstand the swill of seminal fluid and stretch to accommodate a 10 lb baby and still fell great when stimulated. They do all this the best when people don’t intervene with soaps and douches and herbs, hence the leave it alone.

      But you are correct in that consensual touching, when desired, is all that is needed.

      1. In regards to soaps, what is best to use? Aren’t soaps with all the chemicals harmful? Also, what about tampons?

      2. No soap in or around the vag Nicole. Warm water on the outside regions is fine. Obviously, tampons are OK but personally I prefer lady cups.

    2. Unless you have a vagina I would suggest you not put your 2 cents in on vaginas, ever. Especially not to a goddamn OB/GYN THAT HAS A VAGINA. Egads.

      1. YEAH! Only women know about female problems. Men are too stupid to understand how anything works. They are un-evolved troglodytes who can’t understand anything about the female body.

        THE UTERUS IS MIGHTY!! BOW BEFORE THE UTERUS!!! MEN ARE DUMB AND KNOW NOTHING ABOUT A FEMALE BODY!!!!!

      2. The term ‘douchebag’ would be extremely appropriate. It is an obsolete, unnecessary, vaguely misogynistic tool.

  4. I read the original link, and lost a bit of faith in humanity. Then I read the comments… and except for the people saying “Your vagina doesn’t need a detox” the rest made me lose more of my faith in humanity. Are people this oblivious to how their own body works?!

  5. 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.

    I understand and agree the vagina cleans itself but to say none of your organs want the kind of help that comes with the detox is utterly ridiculous. You need to get with the times. Colon Cleanses, liver cleanses etc are very helpful to the body. I even did a gallbladder cleanse after the doctor told me I had gall stones and I needed to have surgery. I passed those stones without surgery by using a cleanse.

      1. There is such a thing as a gall-bladder “cleanse” – although I doubt it has always been called that. If you drink a pint of olive oil, every hour, on the hour for 24 hours (with a little lemon juice to make it palatable) the amount of fat you are ingesting means that the gall bladder completely opens up and you pass the gall stones. My mother did it about 20 years ago. The second time she had gall stones, she had surgery, said it was too disgusting to do twice.

      2. Appreciate your saying this. All they do is screw with your flora, and possibly worse things. I would hazard a guess that drinking lots of fluids would help pass gallstones, but that is just a guess.

      3. Ben Sheard: No, my dear, if you drink olive oil with lemon juice, then something comes out of you. But it’s not gallstones, it’s what the colon does when fed with olive oil and lemon juice. Everyone, even persons who have no gallstones, will produce such things. Works every time. So the fact your mother’s been doing it for 20 years means nothing. If in doubt, take some of these oil excrements to the hospital lab for analysis. They are able to tell what is and what isn’t a gallstone.

      4. So you mean to tell me that with ALL of the toxic things we take into our bodies on a daily basis from foods, drinks, beauty products, hell the air and whatever else, that our bodies don’t need cleansing? Unless you’re a holistic doctor, I don’t feel that you should even comment on natural cures. You have only been trained to push man-made remedies on people to continue the unhealthy cycle of coping with health issues instead of actually curing them that is the medical system in today’s world. It’s okay to prescribe medicines that don’t cure but only ease symptoms and cause addictions or side effects (that only add to the list of issues that are already present) so you can prescribe more medicines to combat those side effects. But a detox/cleanse is just too out of this world! I’m pretty sure you’ve done NO research on natural cures for much of anything but yet you’re so adamant that this is wrong. There is no biologically possible way that a cleanse or detox help? Really?! So when the body can’t expel it through the menstrual cycle or sweating or urination or bowel movements, we should just leave it in there right? Or is it just not beneficial because it puts no money in your pockets? You sound like the female obgyn’s who say it’s okay to have cysts on your ovaries from birth control as long as they’re not bothering you…because again, it’s only about the symptoms.

      5. We have a liver and kidneys and a bowel. There are no hidden toxins that a cleanse removes (toxin is not even the right word because toxins are made by bacteria). The uterus also isn’t some dumping group for waste. This is basic physiology – cleanses ignore physiology so they are the exact opposite of natural. The end.

    1. “Colon cleanses” / colonics are basically just a glorified enema, and unless you’re severely constipated, they don’t “clean out” anything that your butt won’t pass out on its own. Even if you’re severely constipated, magnesium citrate is less than $2 at most drug stores, and it’s a lot more pleasant and experience, and far more effective.

      1. Wow. I had to drink a ton of that stuff to prepare for a surgery 5 years ago. I actually couldn’t do it because it was so awful and made me so nauseated. I managed to do enough to have the surgery, but it had the, ahem, affects of it for several days, which is super fun after having a major, invasive surgery when you’re stuck in a hospital bed.

        So, if magnesium citrate is more pleasant than a “cleanse,” then I am staying far, far, far away from them. I’ll stick with occasionally using other OTC remedies like Colace if there is an issue, and if there’s not an issue, I will continue to leave it alone.

      2. You didn’t get the cherry flavoured one? I had to resort to that a couple times when I was still on Vicodin for my pain management. My best friend took me to Walgreens for a powerful laxitive (we were busy looking for *something* that’d be effective), and we saw that was a dollar, and it can in cherry flavour.

        After the first half a bottle (which the bottle suggested), which helped me go for a couple days, I went to adding a couple teaspoons to my morning juice. After a couple weeks of that, my doctor finally took me off the Vicodin and we tried something else.

      3. If you really want to go, and get everything out then just drink a gallon of apple juice and stay very close to the toilet. By the time your done you pretty much have clear water coming out your bum.

    2. You’re even more dumb than Will. Nothing good comes from a non-medical colonic “cleanse”. The colon is also self-cleaning, and I am an Ob-Gyn MD

    3. Nosense, Ms Cordova, your liver can take care of itself, just as livers have been taking care of their owners for all the millennia before your fancy, money-sucking ‘cleanses’ were invented. You’re being taken for a ride.

    4. She may be an OBGYN but she’s still a doctor who’s getting paid. It’s insulting to tell people they don’t need to detox or clean any part of their bodies when the food is full of toxins. THIS IS JUST COMMON SENSE. Our living environment requires that we cleanse and detox. Our air, our food, our lakes and our bodies are full of pollutants and toxins that will cause us to become Dis-eased if toxins are not removed. I don’t trust anyone who makes a profit off people who are Dis-eased. It’s sad that we live in a world where we trust people who treat symptoms more than they cure and prevent Illness. Our bodies are working harder now than they did with our ancestors and so our bodies need help. Our ancestors didn’t eat and breathe chemicals and toxins 24/7 like we do. Detoxing and cleansing is a necessary adjustment to the world we live in.

      1. No. Medical providers do not just treat symptoms. We HAVE to treat symptoms because people don’t take care of themselves. 90% of disease is obesity- it causes diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, gall bladder stones and inflammation, etc. I would much rather my patients prevent these problems than have to treat them..You really need to educate yourself.

      2. You say that as if the alternative medicine industry isn’t out to profit off you too. Last time I checked, herbs, supplements & other alt medicine products cost money; sometimes more than a bottle of pills.

        Oh, and here’s something that will REALLY blow your mind: many of those oh-so-natural supplement companies are owned by “Big Pharma”.

    5. There is such a thing as a “detox”, but unless a product contains Buprenorphine (or at the very least Loperamide) its manufacturers have no business marketing it as a detox product.

  6. I ran across these the other day on Etsy while doing a search for “Endometriosis” (I like to buy little crafty things here and there about Endo)…and wanted to scream. So thank you for screaming for me. And sharing with the world. And, as far as your comment about horribly stinky leftover tampons…I had one in there for a week and didn’t know it – completely forgot about it (had shoved the string up inside when I had put it in to go swimming and not have the string slip out of my suit). BRAINFART! When I went to my Gyno complaining of a raunchy stench emanating from my vag, he found the culprit scabbed to the side of my vag canal. Not only did it hurt when he dislodged it, but when it came out, the reek did fill the room. I dunno how he didn’t gag right there…it was horrible enough as it wafted up to my nose at my end of the table. *vomit* How do YOU do it? Ugh.

    1. Oh that’s terrible D: I always just tick mine in my buttcrack to swim lol. But I don’t have to worry about it staying in there either way. I don’t think my vagina likes them, it always pushes them out.

  7. I get targeted ads for fish tank filters and other aquarium cleaning supplies on this post. Nice try, Internet. 😛

    1. Hahaha.. “Hallo I hear u like cleanse! I am helpful, yes?”

      I mean, if it’s subtly trying to tell you “hey, these are things that ACTUALLY clean stuff, just fyi” then it’s a lot more clever than we give it credit for.

  8. I just visited the ultra toxic de-tox website after reading this article, and there seems to be absolutely no contact information. I just would like to think this person would get sued for selling this crocodile dung to women, but since someone has to be devoid of their senses to know don’t leave objects in your vagina for more than “what is it 2 hours,” (I find tampons to be uncomfortable and so I’m iffy on the time), are very unlikely to bring a business like this to its oh so very needed end.

    1. I just visited the ultra toxic de-tox website after reading this article, and there seems to be absolutely no contact information. I just would like to think this person would get sued for selling this crocodile dung to women, but since someone has to be devoid of their senses to know don’t leave objects in your vagina for more than “what is it 2 hours,” (I find tampons to be uncomfortable and so I’m iffy on the time), are very unlikely to bring a business like this to its oh so very needed end

  9. Dr. Jen have you seen toxic shock syndrome from these pearls or any other problems? Toxic shock is also caused by tampons, but I don’t see any docs warning ppl against those. If anything is dangerous it all these medications doctors prescribe. The side effects are worse than what it’s suppose to cure.

    1. You don’t see doctors warning agains the risk of TSS from a tampon? I suggest you go look at a box of tampons and read the BIG WARNING IN THE BLACK BOX about TSS.

      And I highly doubt any doctor is recommending that a tampon be left in place for 3 days.

  10. While looking for alternatives to tampons out of curiosity after finding some at the store, I ran across several other items for sale, including sponges with some brand name about pearls. Pearls are just calcified gunk built up around trash that landed in the oyster. Not really inspiring to put it in my body.

    Even the companies that sell sponges and cups instruct: “don’t leave this in your body all day”. More confident in the product if the manufacturer is offering safe advice on how to use it.

  11. Hello I ha e been diagnosed with adenomyosis as well as endo. I was considering a uterus cleanse which i believe is a tea to help detoxify that area…is there any advice you can offer?

  12. I recently read about THC suppositories for menstrual cramps. You should enlighten some hippies on this danger.

  13. If you say detox it cleanses don’t exist then maybe you need to read up on it just a little. More you sound very freaking ignorant.

    1. I dunno. I think 4 years of medical school and five years of residency in OB/GYN and then a year of fellowship in infectious diseases is probably enough. What additional training do you suggest?

      1. Thank you for sharing….. Glad i read more about them first .i did order some but for sure mines will be going in the garbage asap!!

  14. I ordered 1 a few months ago.. Yet to use it.. Something was telling me not too… I’ll just stick with my herb baths.

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  16. I wont criticize this article, as I understand modern medicine. I am a CMA and although I’ve always worked in Primary amd IMA, I’m a natural woman. Im also an herbalist. I’m highly trained and skilled in natural health, which often works far better than chemicals. Of course I cant say that to my pts. Its illegal. Why wont I condemn this article? Bc doing anything but discouraging natural health is bad for business. Many women have tried natural “remedies” and actually been better off. But some people are just too afraid. Personally. If you are against something, it is better to do real research first. My biggest problem with this article is the part where the author doesnt even know whats in it. No one who is untrained or ignorant about sometjing should form an opinion on it. Hearsay is not valid proof that something is void. Real research is key. And I would expect more from a medical professional than to use hearsay as an argument for or against anything. Its just bad practice.

    For example. The pills they gave my mother for high blood pressure had adverse affects. She ended up having to take several other medications just for the side effects. I changed her entire diet. And she never had a problem again. Her doctor hadnt even realized she wasnt taking the pills. Not only that. But her lytes and sugar levels were damn near perfect.

    But again. Encouraging healthy eating or herbal remedies is bad for business. Drs dont make money from healthy pts. The make money from sick pts.

    1. When herbal medicines works it is because they have chemicals.

      Actually, encouraging people to out untested herbs in their vagina which could damage their flora is good for my business if you think about doctors as money grubbing people. Why do I prefer women not subject themselves to unproven potentially harmful therapies? Because I don’t want them hurt. Most doctors feel that way.

      Also, this post isn’t about high blood pressure or diet. Lifestyle is always the first option and every doctor I know discusses it.

    2. Doesn’t matter what’s “in it.” The vagina does not react well to foreign objects left inside, be they tampons, herb sacks or anything else. Even douches are not safe. This is basic gynecology 101. The only thing you need for a clean, healthy vag is regular bathing with mild soap and water. And breathable cotton underwear with a white crotch.

  17. Gotta love the “natural = safe” folks. Just because something is naturally-occurring doesn’t make it beneficial, and just because something is synthetic doesn’t make it bad. This is called the Appeal To Nature Fallacy, and it can be dangerous for people who choose ineffective or dangerous “natural cures” over proven therapies. Plenty of natural things will kill you, including:

    – Death Cap mushrooms
    – Datura (“Jimsonweed”)
    – Asbestos fibers
    – Heavy metals (mercury, lead, etc)
    – Snake venom
    – Apple seeds
    – Rosary peas
    – Oleander
    – Puffer fish

    …to name a few. All these things occur in nature without man’s help, and all of them can kill. Likewise, just because something contains “chemicals” doesn’t make it dangerous. EVERYTHING is comprised of chemicals, which you’ll know if you have even a basic understanding of chemistry.

    Oh, and detoxes are most certainly crap. Ill-defined “toxins” are an invention of the alternative medicine industry meant to scare you into buying their snake oil.

  18. You are absolutely right and I wish more women knew how to care for their lady parts. You know it’s funny when we have women conversations and I tell women that you should not use a lot of soap when washing and basic warm water is really all that’s need when washing the lady area. Also I told them you don’t have to douche never ever ever in your lifetime because your lady parts are self cleaning and have a natural PH balance that can get messed up bad when you douche and use soap inside for bathing purposes. A lot of women lack the education when it comes to taking care of their lady parts and I’m beginning to see these Youtubers influence women into using the “vaginal detox pearls” and it is so dangerous and sad at the same time to see women buying that dangerous product.

  19. Damn, I purchased this product and I feel so naive. I usually read reviews and research any and every product. I should have known better. Knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss.

  20. Thank You Dr. Gunter I am so happy I read this before I purchased that crap! Saved my V-Life ❤️

  21. I completely agree with you, except for the part where you said that period pain is normal. It’s common, but it’s not normal, and doctors telling women that it’s normal is why women have undiagnosed endometriosis for a decade, so please change the lines to that song when you get a chance.

  22. Thank you so much was researching these asks hesitant to accept the “pearl” as miracle cleanser for your Chocha. But thanks Doc. I was not wrong. Also the comments from Twitter ate to die for.

  23. Thank you so much Dr. I was so worried about the disadvantages of these pearls. Because my relative sells them.

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