Herbs belong in your pantry and planter, not in your vagina.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what yoni pearls are: herb heaps made for vaginal insertion. And, far from being just a wacky, woo-woo wellness trend, these pearls are dangerous.
Read on for your
411 on yoni pearls. 911
The short answer: Something you shouldn’t be putting inside your body.
The longer answer: Yoni pearls, sometimes called vaginal detox pearls, herbal tampons, cleansing pearls, or vaginal pearls, are basically vaginal tea bags.
(FYI: Yoni is the Sanskrit word for vagina. It translates to “a sacred space.”)
They’re bundles of cloth-wrapped herbs marketed as vaginal or uterus cleansers and detoxifiers.
You shouldn’t be putting them inside your body for 1 minute, let alone the 24 to 72 hours recommended on yoni pearl packaging.
The herbs in these so-called detox products vary from pearl to pearl and producer to producer, but common herbs include:
- angelica root
- peach kernel
Depends on who you ask.
One creator of the product says the herbs in these pearls create a “pulling effect that draws toxins, bad bacteria, dead cells, old blood clots, mucus and more from your yoni, while at the same time tightening your yoni and deterring vaginal dryness and other ailments.”
While it’s true that herbs have been long used in medicine, people who actually know how the vagina works (read: doctors) say there is literally no reason to think herb bundles will support the health of your vagina.
“There’s zero research that any of the vaginal pearls, or the herbs in them, are good for your vagina or uterus — let alone that putting them in your vagina for that amount of time would do anything other than cause harm,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the author of “Sex Rx: Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever.”
Felice Gersh, MD, the author of “PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones and Happiness,” offers a similar sentiment.
“Given that there’s zero research, data, or science to back up the use of these pearls, they 100 percent shouldn’t be put inside your vagina,” Gersh says.
People make yoni pearls because it’s highly profitable to feed into people’s shame about the way their genitals smell, look, and function, Streicher says.
(Did you know that the feminine hygiene market generated 20.9 billion bucks in 2020? Yeppp).
People buy yoni pearls because of that same genital shame.
Spread through marketing, media, and misogynists, “the idea that vaginas are smelly, offensive, and dirty has been going around our culture for a long, long time,” Streicher says.
Unfortunately, combined with lack of education around how the vagina is supposed to look, smell, and function, this shame leads people to buy products that are downright dangerous.
There is no research to support the safety of putting herbs inside your vagina. There also isn’t research that doing so is going to support vaginal or uterine health.
Ultimately, it depends on w-h-y you’re reaching for — or researching — these pearls.
Is it because you experience chronic yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, unusual discharge, or other lasting symptoms?
If so, Gersh recommends seeking out the care of an OB-GYN instead.
Your doctor will be able to prescribe any medicine that can clear up the underlying cause.
“A doctor may also be able to recommend a probiotic that supports the health of your vagina, as well as look at the underwear and sports clothes you’re wearing to suggest less irritating options,” Gersh says.
Is it because you’re worried about the cleanliness of your uterus?
“The uterus is a sterile environment that’s free of bacteria,” Streicher says. “Anything you attempt to put in your uterus could be harmful to that very sterility.”
Is it because you want to help your vagina detox?
“There’s never a need for your vagina to be detoxed,” Gersh says.
It also doesn’t need your help getting clean. You may have heard that the vagina is a self-cleaning machine, and that’s true!
“Attempting to clean or detox the vagina is just going to kill off the good bacteria in the vagina that helps fight off infection,” she says, adding that this, in itself, increases the risk of infection.
Is it because you’re worried about the smell of your vagina?
“In all likelihood, your vagina smells exactly as it should,” Gersh says. “Your vagina isn’t supposed to smell like dandelions and tulips. It’s supposed to smell like vagina.”
The only time to be concerned about the scent of your vag is if you’ve noticed a drastic and persistent (read: longer than 3 days) change in smell.
It’s also concerning if you’re getting wafts of sourdough bread or fish, which may suggest yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, respectively.
To be very clear: These aren’t doctor recommended.
On the contrary, Streicher says, “From a gynecological health standpoint these pearls are downright scary.”
Again, yoni pearls haven’t been researched.
As such, “we cannot say for certain what the side effects are, or long term how bad using these pearls really is,” Gersh says.
Still, there’s reason to believe that yoni pearls can mess with your vaginal microbiome, killing off infection-fighting bacteria and creating a hospitable landing place for yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis, she says.
“In its healthiest state, the vagina is optimized to help you fight off sexually transmitted infections,” Gersh explains. “So there’s reason to believe that, after killing off healthy vaginal bacteria and altering the environment, risk of transmission is higher.”
Another common side effect is gray and green discharge. In fact, many yoni pearls come with panty liners to “collect” this “what comes after” discharge. Red flag, folks!
“If you put something like this in your vagina and begin to get gray discharge after you take it out, it’s a sign that you’re actually destroying the lining in the vaginal walls,” Streicher says.
So, far from a sign that they worked, funky discharge is a sign that your vagina is irritated and potentially even infected.
Other common side effects include:
- vaginal dryness
Nobody should try these under any circumstance.
But they’re especially dangerous for anyone who has allergies to specific herbs.
If, for example, you have a rhubarb allergy and put rhubarb-based product inside your vagina, Gersh says you may experience vaginal burning, itching, swelling, peeling, or even blisters. Yikes!
Yoni pearls should also be avoided by anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Or those, according to some pearl makers, “with an intact hymen.”
“The longer the ingredients are inside you, the more dangerous these pearls are,” Streicher says.
So, if you’re going to use them against doctor recommendations, please, for the love of your vaginal health, do so for as short as possible. Like, really, really, really short!
Keep the tea bags in your tea cups and out of your vagina.
Should you feel your vagina needs something a little ~extra, extra~ ring up a gynecologist.
They’ll be able to offer actual help, should you need it — as well as reassurance that your genitals smell and function just fine.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.