6 Reasons To Avoid Herbal Tampons

An ob-gyn tells Health why people should avoid using herbal tampons.

Herbal tampons, also known as womb pearls, are mesh bags stuffed with herbs that some vendors suggest inserting into your vagina. These vendors claim that herbs like motherwort and angelica in these tampons "detoxify" your vagina, helping you flush out harmful microbes and other toxins.

To get a professional opinion, Health spoke to Jennifer Gunter, MD, an ob-gyn based in San Francisco. Learn more about why you should not use herbal tampons.

Herbal Tampons Do Not Detox Your Body

Though many products claim to detox your body, you do not need to use these products to keep your body healthy. According to Dr. Gunter, none of these products are legitimate. If toxins or bacteria get into our bodies, we are equipped to dispose of them naturally. Our liver, spleen, kidneys, and colon are all detoxifying organs.

The best thing you can do to help your body "cleanse," Dr. Gunter said, is to eat a balanced diet with enough fiber so your colon can do its job effectively. Also, make sure to drink enough water, eat enough calories, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly.

Herbal Tampons Can Harm the Good Bacteria in Your Vagina

Dr. Gunter compares womb pearls to feminine cleansers. "Just like douching damages the good bacteria in the vagina, these [tampons] are likely to do the same," Dr. Gunter said. According to the Office on Women's Health, those bacteria keep your vagina acidic, preventing bad bacteria from growing. However, once you kill off that good bacteria, it can be hard for your body to replace them. "You could be left with a long-term change in your vaginal discharge, which could increase your risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases or vaginosis."

Another potential danger of these tampons is toxic shock syndrome, Dr. Gunter said. Retailers instruct you to place this product in your vagina for anywhere from 24 hours to three days. However, tampons carry outside bacteria into your vagina. Leaving tampons in for more than the recommended four to six hours can increase your risk of infection.

Using Herbal Tampons Can Harm Your Vaginal Tissue

Some vendors state that their products will cause you to release vaginal skin cells, yeast, blood clots, and mucus. They claim that this is evidence the herbal tampons are "detoxing." But, according to Dr. Gunter, this excess mucus is actually a sign of infection or irritation. "Discharge is caused by an irritant that's brought in, in this case, the mesh bag."

By causing layers of skin to fall off, the tampons may actually damage your vaginal mucosa. Your vagina uses discharge from your mucosa to clean itself, so using these tampons could make it harder for your vagina to fight infections and keep itself healthy.

Herbal Tampons Are Not Proven to Cure Anything

Herbal tampons are being falsely touted as a natural remedy for all sorts of health problems, including vaginosis, fibroids, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis. These claims are totally unfounded, Dr. Gunter said. "None of these things have been studied, and you can't even use herbal products to treat most of the conditions they're talking about."

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued advisory letters against retailers who suggest these "womb pearls" can treat endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. There is no scientific evidence that herbal tampons provide any health benefits.

Being "All-Natural" Does Not Make Herbal Tampons Healthy

Some natural products can actually cause more harm than good. Many herbs are irritants, Dr. Gunter points out, and some are even poisonous. "Anyone who has seasonal allergies will tell you plants can be very unfriendly," she adds.

If you are sensitive or allergic to any of the components of the tampon, inserting the herbs can be even more harmful than skin contact. Your vaginal tissue absorbs materials easily, so you can have vaginal reactions to even small amounts.

The Contents Could Be a Mystery

You run a risk when you purchase herbal tampons from an independent retailer online, Dr. Gunter said. The packaging might list specific herbs, but you cannot be certain about what's inside.

The Bottom Line: Avoid Herbal Tampons

Avoid using herbal tampons or any "detox" products in your vagina. These are not proven to have any benefits and can even harm your health by making your vagina irritated and more prone to allergies. If you are having concerning vaginal issues, talk to a healthcare provider about treatments. On the other hand, if you want to make your periods less painful, try changing your diet, reducing stress, and other lifestyle changes instead.

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