Vaginal Detox Pearls—Why Doctors Say They're Dangerous

Remember: Your vagina does a great job of cleaning itself.

It's something that women and people with female reproductive organs are told time and again by healthcare providers: The vagina is self-cleaning—despite a myriad of products out there marketed to cleanse it, the vagina already does a great job of keeping itself clean via natural secretions and its own specific pH.

Vaginal Cleansing Dangers

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the body's natural estrogen helps keep the vagina healthy and also promotes beneficial bacteria in the vagina, as well as a pH level that protects the vagina from infections.

Research

Research published in the journal PLoS One in 2018 found that almost half of the women in the study reported using intravaginal products within the month prior to the study. Their reasons included controlling odor, lubricating the vagina, preparing for sex, cleaning up after sex, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Products used included douching devices, sexual lubricants, petroleum jelly, body lotions, oils, and wet wipes.

The researchers stated that these practices were associated with injuries, bleeding, and infections, and they emphasized the need to educate women about the potential harms of using intravaginal products.

Another research study, published in 2021 in the journal Nursing Research, examined the use of intravaginal products used to cleanse the vagina or enhance sexual pleasure. The researchers stated that these products "may be associated with unhealthy changes in the vaginal microbiome," which is a term used to describe the natural bacteria present in the vagina.

And yet, new products and practices still emerge all the time promising to do what the vagina already does naturally. Goddess Vaginal Detox Pearls is a product by Goddess Detox Inc., that promises, as the name suggests, to detox your vagina.

While there is no research specifically examining the effects or safety of this product, quite a few ob-gyns are pretty wary over detox products in general—especially these. Here's why.

Goddess-Detox-Piece
Goddess Detox

How Vaginal Detox Pearls Work

According to the company's website, the Goddess Vaginal Detox Pearls are actually "all-natural herbal vaginal suppositories that are spiritually helping women reconnect with themselves, their yoni, and detoxing their exes." Essentially, the website reads, the pearls will "change your life," and women in the reviews say they've used the pearls for a range of reasons, including "detoxing" after a breakup, trying to conceive, and reducing cramps.

The product isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it's hard to know exactly what's in it. But the main ingredients in the pearls, according to the company's website, are as follows:

  • Cnidium (a flowering plant)
  • Stemona (a shrub)
  • Fructose kochiae (a fruit)
  • Motherwort (an herb similar to mint)
  • Angelica rhizome (a plant)
  • Borneol (an organic compound derived from a tree in the teak family)
  • Linguisticum wallichii (a flowering plant in the carrot family)

"These are a lot of botanical ingredients," Lauren Streicher, M.D., a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told Health. "The idea is that, if it's botanical and organic, it's healthy, but that's not true. Arsenic is natural, but you don't want to put it in your vagina," added Dr. Streicher.

How They Are Used

To use the pearls, you insert one into your vagina via an applicator and let it sit there for 24 hours, per the website. After you remove that pearl, you insert a second pearl and leave that one in for 48 hours.

Once those additional two days are up, you remove the second pearl and wait three to five more days—that's when the "purging process" will occur, in which "dead vaginal cells, mucus, yeast, old blood clots" and "other components" are "expelled" from your vagina, according to the company's website.

Vaginal Detox Pearls Are Not Beneficial

At best, doctors say it's unnecessary. "Your vagina is self-cleaning and is amazingly designed to not need other items like those ingredients," Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies in Orlando, Florida, told Health.

Jessica Shepherd, MD, an ob-gyn in Texas, agreed. "The vaginal canal is so cleansing," Dr. Shepherd told Health, and added, "it does not need extraneous help."

Not only is a vaginal detox unnecessary, but "the idea that women need this is offensive," Dr. Streicher said. "This is yet another example of someone taking advantage of the fact that women think that their vagina needs some kind of treatment," cautioned Dr. Streicher.

Safety Issues

Even more, doctors we interviewed said that there's a risk of harm when you use a product like this.

"This can actually cause problems for women," Dr. Streicher said. The "purging process" is a huge red flag, Dr. Streicher warned.

Based on photos on the website of the "purged" materials, provided by women who've done the detox, Dr. Streicher said that it seems to cause the epithelial tissue—or the top layer of tissue—in the vagina to slough off. "That's not good," Dr. Streicher said.

Dr. Greves agreed, saying, "that's not normal." Dr. Greves cautioned that this kind of treatment can damage the vaginal mucosa, which is the mucus membrane in the vagina that helps keep it moist, among other things. "It defends us from germs and pathogens, and therefore infections," Dr. Greves explained. "If that barrier is affected and damaged, undesirable things can happen."

Jennifer Gunter, MD, an ob-gyn and author of The Vagina Bible, also warned about the detox after someone brought it to her attention on Twitter. "This is a sign of vaginal injury," Dr. Gunter said of the "purging process" the detox includes. "These products literally damage the vaginal mucosa and microbiome and that is the 'result'—[desquamated] inflamed cells and dead bacteria and mucus. Not good," explained Dr. Gunter.

Putting something like this in your vagina also has the ability to mess with your vagina's natural pH, which helps protect it from issues, Dr. Streicher said. As a result, you could end up with a host of issues, including yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, general discomfort, and even an increased risk of STIs, explained Dr. Streicher.

"This is a bad thing to use in a healthy vagina," Dr. Streicher said, and added, "but if someone is already having problems—and that seems to be who they're going for with this—they could take an area that's already having issues and potentially make things much worse."

Regulation

The FDA doesn't regulate this kind of product, and Dr. Streicher emphasized that's a major issue. "It's one thing to put face cream out there with false claims that it can make you look 10 years younger," Dr. Streicher said. "But this is actually damaging tissue and making it slough off."

Dr. Streicher was particularly concerned about the implications that the product is promoted for treating medical problems, including infertility.

In 2020, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Goddess Detox Inc.—asserting that the company's claims that the product can treat infertility are unlawful because infertility is a medical condition, which means that treatment for the condition must be approved by the FDA.

Getting Advice From a Healthcare Provider

If you have a recurring problem—any problem—involving your vagina, Dr. Shepherd said it's really best to talk to your ob-gyn about it. And, whatever you do, Dr. Streicher stressed the importance of not buying so-called vaginal detoxes off the internet. "This is so bad," Dr. Streicher said. "This is doing nothing good for you."

Keep up with your regular gynecology appointments with a healthcare provider. That's the best way to talk about any concerns you have, get the preventative tests you need, and discuss your healthcare habits with someone you can trust.

Health reached out to Goddess Detox Inc. for comment on their Goddess Vaginal Detox Pearls and is still awaiting a response. We will post updates as they're available.

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