Q - How does Vaginal Herbal Steam work?

A - Some plants contain high amounts of volatile oils. Volatile oils are healing and are carried by the herbal steam to the vulva, the vagina, and the uterus. The warmth of the steam opens the pores of the genital tissues. This allows the healing properties of the herbal steam to be carried by tiny capillaries under the skin surface, directly into the bloodstream, and then around the body. All skin is highly absorbent and what you put on it--lotions, steam, cosmetics, etc.-- goes directly into the bloodstream. This is especially true for body parts that are rich in mucous membranes, like the inner labia, and vaginal canal, which makes the vagina one of the most highly absorbent parts of the human body. Vaginal herbal steaming allows for both direct treatment of the lady parts that are requiring attention as well as body-wide therapeutic benefits. Herbal steam is gentle and noninvasive, yet powerfully effective.

The ancient practice of vaginal herbal steaming done by women all over the world has been passed down anecdotally, and from mother to daughter.

Q - Why steam instead of taking a pill?

A - Vaginal steaming bypasses the digestive tract, going directly to the area we want to treat. Pills, whether western pharmaceutical drugs or herbal supplements, are taken orally which means they have to go through the digestive tract first, before being absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually making its way to the female reproductive system. With vaginal herbal steaming, the herbal benefits go directly to the female reproductive tissues and are absorbed into the bloodstream.

Q - Why are these herbs in my blend?

A - All of the herbs in KAPU blends are selected due to their higher volatile oil content, medicinal, and therapeutic properties.

Q - What is a volatile oil?

A - Aromatic plants contain volatile oils, some more than others, which have medicinal and healing properties. Volatile oils, or essential oils as they’re more commonly referred to, are made up of numerous different chemical compounds which cause variation in fragrance and medicinal actions. Volatile oils are highly aromatic (smelly) substances found in specialized cells or glands in the seeds, flowers, fruit, leaves, stems, roots, bark, wood, needles and resins of plants. All volatile oils have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, enhancing the bodies ability to fight off a range of infections. Some volatile oils have:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-spasmodic (helps with cramping)
  • antiseptic (prevents the growth of disease causing organisms i.e. bacteria, fungus, virus)
  • expectorant (helps to expel excess mucus or discharge)
  • enhance circulation (increase blood flow) 
  • immunostimulant (stimulate the immune system) 
  • sedative (calming and sleep inducing effects) 

Q - What’s the connection between herbal steam and volatile oils?

A - Volatile oils, or essential oils, are extracted through plant steam distillation. In the case of vaginal herbal steaming, the volatile oils are carried on the steam to the genital tissue. The amount of volatile oil that the skin comes in contact with through herbal steaming is powerful and effective, yet harmless because it is a small amount and has been diluted by water that has become steam. Herbal steams have long been used in steam rooms, sweat lodges, facial beauty steam treatments, herbal steams for colds and coughs, and herbal steams for female reproductive health.

In contrast, volatile, or essential oil, which is often sold in amber glass essential oil bottles at health stores, is extremely concentrated and is 100% pure essential oil with no dilution. It takes 40 roses to produce one drop of rose essential oil. This is very different from the volatile oils produced from small batch herbal steaming used during KAPU vaginal steaming.

Q - Why herbs?

A - Herbs are compatible with the chemistry of the human body which has adapted over thousands of years to assimilate them. They have less side effects in comparison to pharmaceutical drugs. As of 2012, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 4 billion people, 80 percent of the world population, used herbal medicine for primary health care.

Q - What should I do while I steam?

A - Listen to a 10-15 minute guided meditation, meditate on your own, drink tea, smell essential oils if you are looking to relax. From the nose, essential oils send messages via nerve receptors to the brain and have a rapidly relaxing and soothing effect, calming mental and emotional strain. Some of my favorites: lavender, ylang ylang, clary sage.

Q -  What’s the best time of day to steam?

A - It’s recommended to steam at night just before bed. You’ll likely find vaginal steaming extremely relaxing and soothing and it can make you feel very tired. But, feel free to do it anytime that’s most convenient for you! Make it easy on yourself.

Q - When and how often should I steam throughout the month?

A - In general, it is recommended to steam 1-2 times before your period and 1-2 times after your period ends. Or, you can choose to steam once weekly instead, except for when you’re menstruating. Each steam session can be 15 minutes long.

Q - What are the contraindications for vaginal herbal steaming?

A - Do not steam if: you are pregnant, think you could be pregnant, are currently menstruating, have intermittent bleeding between periods, if you do not handle heat well (i.e. saunas make you feel sick).

Q - Should I talk to my doctor about Vaginal Herbal Steaming?

Of course! It's always important to educate yourself and make your own informed decisions about anything you put into or on your body-- be it pharmaceuticals or herbs. Please feel free to talk to your doctor about vaginal herbal steaming to hear his/her thoughts and medical explanations of why you may or may not want to try vaginal herbal steaming.

Be aware though that members of the western medical community have never been taught about vaginal herbal steaming in medical textbooks. They may dismiss it as being unnecessary, as the vagina is a self-cleansing mechanism. Although the vagina is a self-cleansing mechanism, so is the colon, and doctors sometimes prescribe laxatives to help the colon function efficiently. Eyes are self-cleansing and produce tears to help clean out dirt, etc., but sometimes tear ducts get clogged or stop functioning properly for whatever reason. Doctors prescribe medication or even perform surgeries to help with that.

Vaginal steaming is a simple, non-invasive, and an ancient form of reproductive self-care. It is not used to take-over or manipulate the self-cleansing aspect of the vagina and the uterus. It is available to us to try as an alternative of using pharmaceuticals to treat infections and support other reproductive ailments of all sorts.

The bottom line, ask your doctor. Do your own research. Listen to your intuition and do what feel best to you.

Q - What does Kapu mean?

Kapu, pronounced kah-poo, is a Hawaiian word, meaning Taboo or Sacred among its much broader history and meaning. Kapu were rules that guided the Hawaiians in their way of life, but ended in 1819 as it did not treat women fairly. I’m not native to Hawaii, yet I chose Kapu to represent the essence of this company. I do this with respect for the indigenous Polynesian people who created this word in their language, respect for the people who have Hawaiian ancestry, and respect for Hawaii Herself. As a woman born in California in the 1980’s, I’ll never fully grasp the concept of Kapu as I did not live in the time nor place where the law of the land was Kapu. But, I value the word in this capacity: it recognizes that something can be sacred, and still taboo, much like the vagina has been throughout the world’s most modern history. I seek to keep the vagina every bit as sacred as it always has been, with less of the taboo quality. These are my own thoughts, and have no bearing on what Kapu actually meant for Hawaiian people-- Kapu clearly had nothing to do with vaginas. This all brings me to my next point, cultural appropriation.

Q - What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation?

I can't run this business without addressing Cultural Appropriation, meaning the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not one’s own, especially without showing an understanding or respect for this culture. Cultural appropriation happens all over the world, but I’d say especially in the United States. As a melting pot with diverse ethnicities, ease of travel, and globalization, we often take other people’s customs and adopt them as our own. Many everyday items-- the clothing styles in our closet, the foods we cook, alternative medicines, etc.--stem from other cultures’ customs. I think this is actually wonderful and makes living that much more colorful and exciting, but only when respect and credit is given to the culture where for example, your new favorite tea, spice, body-movement, etc., originated from. This opens the door for better cross-cultural understanding, more opportunities to learn, and dare I say-- world peace?! So whenever I introduce a new product or service, when relevant, I will always talk about the country and culture it originated from.

Q - Who is the kapu chair intended for? The word "women" has many meanings.... 

When asked by a business mentor, “Who are your products and services for?” I answered, “Women of course!” She replied, “Well, is it only for women who have vaginas and identify as a woman? Or for women who have vaginas, but identify with the masculine gender? Or for women who only call their reproductive parts vaginas?” This line of questioning continued further; Her point being that there are many people all over the world that identify as being a woman, but may not have been born with the reproductive system in which vaginal steaming is intended for. She said I needed to be clear about who my exact audience is. I replied, “I started this business because I just want women to feel good about themselves. Can’t it just be that simple?” She said, “Well, that’s the premise of privilege in the first place, is that it can be that simple for you, but it’s not that simple for everyone.” I understood what she meant. It’s simple for me because I’ve never had to think twice about it. I was born with a vagina, I identify with the female gender, and these two facts fit in to society’s expectations of “normal.” But it is not this way for everyone, and I need and want to be inclusive and understanding of everyone’s unique life experiences. With that being said, the KAPU chair is intended for people who have vulvas and vaginas as it is an extremely absorbent part of the human body, which is what makes herbal steam effective. 

More questions? Please send them via the contact page of this website and I'll do my best to research and answer them quickly.


Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.

McIntyre, Anne. The Complete Woman's Herbal: a Manual of Healing Herbs and Nutrition for Personal Well-Being and Family Care. H. Holt, 1995.

Pathare, Yogayata s, and Vijay D Wagh. “Herbal Medicines and Nutritional Supplements Used in the Treatment of Glaucoma: A Review.” Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences, vol. 3, no. 1, Jan. 2012, pp. 331–333.

Sarah Bearden, Aromatherapist. An Introduction to Therapeutic Aromatherapy. 3/29/2017

© 2018, Kapu

    All rights reserved. All content on this site or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the site owner except for the use of brief quotations in an appropriately linked review.