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Sitting over hot mixture of scent leaves and salt won’t cure fibroids – or anything else

A post shared on Facebook in Nigeria claims sitting over a hot mixture of salt and scent leaf will cure a list of ailments – “pussy odour, fibroid, toilet infections, fat belle” and “menstrual pains”. 

It describes how to steep scent leaf or Ocimum gratissimum, a fragrant herb also known as African basil, in boiling water and salt. It advises women to “Undress and sit on the Vapour” and “Open your legs that the Vapour can penetrate in deeply” and suggests this should be done monthly after menstruation. 

Is there any benefit to steaming your genitals with salt and scent leaf, particularly to cure fibroids? We checked. 

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Don’t steam your vagina!

Vaginal steaming is the process of sitting or squatting over a container of hot water containing herbs. Claims that vaginal steaming is beneficial have spread in recent years, but there is no scientific evidence to support any of them. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a professional organisation in the US, previously told Africa Check that it does not recommend vaginal steaming. It said: “In fact, we do not recommend intervening with the vagina unnecessarily, as that can actually cause complications.”

(Note: While “vagina” is often used to refer to the female genitalia as a whole, it is, strictly speaking, the muscular tube connecting the cervix to the vulva or external genitalia.)

Medical interventions available to treat fibroids

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that form in the uterus or on walls of the uterus of women. What causes fibroids is not entirely clear, but they may develop due to high levels of the oestrogen hormone.  

Most fibroids do not need treatment, but they can cause heavy or prolonged periods and, in extreme cases, infertility or miscarriage.  

We asked Olabisi Loto, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Obafemi Awolowo University in western Nigeria, about the claim that steaming would cure fibroids. 

He said: “This is not true, this will not work. I will not advise women to do this, because there is no scientific basis for the claim.”

Loto explained that fibroids could be treated with medicines and in some cases, surgery. 

“There are some special drugs that can shrink fibroids. The drugs can also be given to women with very big fibroids so that they shrink before surgery is done.”

Loto told Africa Check that a laparoscopy, a type of less invasive surgery, or interventional radiology, which involved the use of ultrasounds, was also used to treat fibroids.  

There is no evidence vaginal steaming is a cure for fibroids, and it could be dangerous. Africa Check has previously debunked similar false claims about vaginal steaming.

 

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