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Yoni pearls won’t improve your vagina or cure anything – and can be dangerous

IN SHORT: Yoni pearls – cloth-wrapped balls of herbs inserted into the vagina – are sold online as a way to clean and tighten the vagina, and to cure a huge array of sexual ailments. But they don’t work and could lead to serious health problems.

A recent report by the Kenya-based Fumbua media collective details how sales of bogus sexual health “treatments” for women flourish online, including on social media.

One such treatment is yoni pearls. These are small cloth mesh bags filled with herbs, inserted into the vagina for up to 72 hours. A range of health and sexual benefits are promised. (Yoni as it is used here refers to the vagina, taken from the Sanskrit language.)

Africa Check found numerous posts on Facebook and Instagram selling yoni pearls. Websites advertising the pearls appear in many Google searches. They are everywhere – not just in Kenya.

But yoni pearls don’t work as promised and could be dangerous.

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Yoni pearls sold on social media

On Facebook, pages advertising yoni pearls in African countries include:

Posts on these and other pages claim that yoni pearls “detox” and clean the vagina, stop vaginal odour and tighten the vagina and regulate the menstrual cycle. They are also sold as a treatment for blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and much more.

Similar claims can be seen on Instagram here, here and here.

How yoni pearls are supposed to work

The online ads for yoni pearls are long on their list of supposed benefits – and prices. But they’re short on what’s actually inside the mesh bag other than “herbs”.

One ad for what seems to be a popular brand does list 14 ingredients, mostly by the plants’ scientific names. They include saffron, mint, ginseng and frankincense. Other ingredients can be seen in other lists.

“These are a lot of botanical ingredients,” Dr Lauren Streicher, a clinical obstetrics and gynaecology professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine in the US, told the website 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.”

But most ads don’t give any ingredients at all, which should be even more worrying.

Equally vague is exactly how yoni pearls are supposed to achieve so many health benefits. Here’s one explanation, from a US site:

EmpressBody pearls work by the specially selected herbs creating a pulling effect that draws toxins, bad bacteria, dead cells, old bloodclots, mucus and more from your yoni, while at the same time tightening your yoni and deterring vaginal dryness and other ailments.

A “pulling effect” is not a sufficient explanation.

Why yoni pearls don’t work

There is no scientific evidence that yoni pearls have any health benefit.

Less extravagant claims about the pearls are that they “cure” nonexistent health conditions that don’t need to be treated.

First, there’s no need to detox or “clean” the vagina. The vagina naturally keeps itself clean and healthy. Trying to clean your vagina with any product could lead to infection.

Second, the vagina has a natural scent that is normal and healthy. An abnormal vaginal smell may be a sign of an infection, or even cancer or a rare condition known as fistula. These would need medical attention from a doctor.

Third, it’s a myth that any normal vagina needs to be “tightened”. As the World Health Organization says: “The vagina is a dynamic muscular canal that varies widely in size and shape, depending on individual, pubertal, or developmental stage, physical position and various hormonal factors such as sexual arousal and stress.”

The muscles of the vagina are extremely elastic. They stretch during childbirth but soon return to normal. Aging may affect the elasticity of the vagina. But herbs won’t change this.

(Read Africa Check’s health check debunking four common myths about the vagina here.)

Finally, ovarian cysts – sacs of fluid inside the ovaries – are mostly a normal part of a woman’s monthly cycle. Functional cysts are painless and harmless, and go away by themselves. On rare occasions a cyst may burst, get twisted or become cancerous. If this happens, see a doctor.

Serious conditions need qualified medical attention

These ads also make claims about serious medical conditions that yoni pearls simply could not cure.

Endometriosis is when tissue like the lining of the womb grows outside the womb. It can be very painful, but has no cure. Endometriosis can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. Sometimes surgery is used.

Fibroids are non-cancerous growths inside the womb. They can cause pain, heavy periods and sometimes infertility. In severe cases they can be treated with drugs to shrink the fibroids, or surgery to remove them.

Fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the womb, and are where a woman’s egg is fertilised by a man’s sperm. Normally, the egg then travels to the womb. The tubes can get blocked by infection, inflammation or scarring, making it difficult to fall pregnant. The most effective treatment is surgery.

But herbs inserted into the vagina cannot cure these conditions.

The dangers of using yoni pearls

The most serious risk posed by yoni pearls is toxic shock syndrome or TSS. This can be life-threatening.

TSS is often associated with using tampons. Harmful bacteria become trapped by the tampon, causing an infection in the vagina and creating poisons or toxins. The toxins then enter the bloodstream and spread to the rest of your body, including vital organs like the heart, liver and kidneys.

The risk of TSS increases the longer a tampon is left in the vagina. This is why experts agree that tampons should be changed every four to eight hours, and should never stay in the vagina for longer than eight hours.

But online sellers of yoni pearls advise women to leave them in the vagina for anything from 24 to 72 hours, or one to three days. Some say a second pearl should be inserted after 24 hours.

This not only puts women at risk of TSS, but also of infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

As the Mount Sinai Medical Center in the US points out, yoni pearls can lead to other health complications. These include infection caused by bacteria on the cloth mesh, irritation of the vaginal wall, and cramping as the body tries to push the pearl out.

On 7 August 2023 Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board banned the “distribution, supply, sale or use” of yoni pearls.

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