Debunking pseudoscience – ladies only edition

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My long time readers are aware of my complete distain for pseudoscience. I’ve talked about it in the past. If there is one thing I loathe about the Internet, it is how easily and quickly junk “science” is passed off as legitimist science. Anyone can create a website, post suspect articles and call it a “news” site. Far too many people fall prey to carefully constructed crap, designed to do nothing more than bolster support for personal opinions. Take the site, “Natural News” for example. When we hear the word news, we assume the information given has been researched and fact checked. “News”, to casual readers is something that is reliable and legitimate. But a careful review of the authors of” Natural News” exposes the dirty truth. They are average people making outrages claims.

The author of “The amazing benefits of drinking raw milk“ is no scientist, though she does a good job of constructing what looks like a scientific article on raw milk. Unfortunately she fails to consider these “benefits” are the same as pasteurized milk, minus the possible contaminates found in raw milk. Her credentials? Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach.
Yes, a woman who homeschooled her kids, is writing “news” articles and handing out medical advice.

Normally I shy away from pseudoscience. A good eye roll usually shrugs off my displeasure at yet another “science” based claim. I just sigh and move on. But at some point we have to stop ignoring all of this. As Carl Sagan points out over and over in his book, The Demon-Hunted World, the more we allow ourselves to be deluded by pseudoscience, the closer we move back into the dark ages. It is not stupidity that will kill us, it is our ignorance of ourselves.

So with that in mind, it’s time to take a stand against pseudoscience. It’s time to call out BS for what it is. The more ridicules the claim, the more pushback it deserves. This one is for the ladies. Men, I suggest you stop reading now. Seriously, stop. We are going to talk about lady parts and the “cure” for monthly problems. Still here? Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Yesterday, as I scrolled through my Twitter feed I saw a title and link that caught my breath. At first I thought I read it incorrectly. Then, as it dawned on me what I read was accurate I couldn’t help but clink on the link. Surely this was a joke, or a parody on Cosmo. “Steaming Your Vagina” is the title of the link to an article written by someone who obviously has no idea how the body works, or how volatile oil extraction works. Here’s the claim:

When the herbs are placed in the hot water, their medicinal properties, including volatile oils, are released and carried to the surface of your skin, and to the inside of the vagina, where they are absorbed into the bloodstream and into to the uterus. The herbal steam increases circulation, thins mucus, and cleanses the entire reproductive system, allowing it to shed unnecessary membranes and build-up. The results are varied, and amazing.

Picture it ladies. You’re at a loss as to what to do about your monthly cramps, craving for chocolate and binge-watching the Lifetime Network. Oh, if only there was a natural way to cure this! Well you are in luck because the author of “Steaming your Vagina” has uncovered an ancient cure. It’s like a facial for your most sacred parts. All you have to do is squat lady-like over a steamy bowl of herbs. Oh joyous day!

There is so much BS in this article, I’m almost at loss as where to begin. It would take pages to explain how oil extraction works, and even more pages to explain how chemistry works and why steam is not at all a viable means of getting anything into your blood stream, so I will cover only the most obvious points and then share links for further reading.

Here is a link to how oils are extracted. There are several ways, but the one to keep in mind does mention steam. This must be the method the author was thinking of as she wrote her article. Too bad she did not fully research this method, because in order to capture the oil, a closed system is required. The oil must change its molecular structure a couple times before it becomes true “essential” oil. In order to do this, the herbs must reach the boiling point, and stay boiling for the extraction to work. So ladies, get out a hotplate, pour some water and herbs into a pan, wait for the concoction to boil, and then squat over the boiling pan. Yes, you read correctly. In order to “capture” any and all essential oils, you must be over a boiling pan of water. Once the water begins to cool, the oil no longer breaks free of the plant’s membranes, making the process pointless, and your afternoon of personal papering a waste of time.

Now, let’s suppose you grin and bear it, all in the name of science. Now let us suppose some of the oil molecules break down so that they are light enough to travel by steam up to the targeted area and reconstitutes as oil as it hits the targeted area. Is there a chance the oil will make it into your bloodstream? Ah, no.

Here is an article from the CDC on what it takes for chemicals to be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. Bottom line, it is very rare for a chemical, or in our case oil molecules, to be absorbed into the bloodstream. If it were as simple as rubbing something onto our skin, just think of how unnecessary hypodermic needles would be! Doctors could simply rub a vaccination in. Our skin has built in defense mechanisms that keep chemicals out of our bodies. In fact, in order for anything to reach our bloodstream science is involved. This includes transdermal medication patches.  These types of medicine require formulation specifically for this purpose, requiring chemical engineering to create a molecule that is soluble in skin, and small enough to penetrate and absorb into the body.

But, let’s imagine, the oil as steam, reconstitutes itself as oil and wiggles its way past the skin’s three barriers and enters the bloodstream, and just for giggles, gets past the white blood cells, whose main function is to kill off foreign bodies. We are talking super oil at this point! You might want to start asking yourself what exactly you put into that pot of boiling water, and if it’s really a good idea to have it floating around in your bloodstream?

Now here comes the real magic. Once the oil reaches the vaginal bloodstream it will be taken to the uterus vein. Once in the vein, the oil must know to release itself into the uterus walls in order to for its medicinal properties to take effect. What medical properties, you might ask? Well, that’s just the thing pseudoscience does not want you asking. There are no explanations as to what herbs work best and why. There are no medicinal mentions of any kind. This is, forgive the pun, smoke steam and mirrors. Oh the benefits are given, but no science. In fact, you may use the herb or flower of your choosing; apparently they are all the same. As it is with all pseudoscience, all BS and not a thought is given as to how real science works.

 

So the next time someone offers you a “medical” tip, take care that you are not being sold snake oil. Your lady parts will thank you.

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

5 thoughts on “Debunking pseudoscience – ladies only edition”

    1. Ah, my faithful friend stuck it out. Sadly, many women apparently believe this tripe. If the articles on the Internet are true, some spas now offer this steam bath. Just goes to show Barnum or whoever really said it was right. There is a sucker born every minute. Better science education is the key to debunking humbuggery.

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  1. No doubt somewhere in the world there are “his” and her” saunas, each with the appropriate herbs to properly cleanse and stimulate one’s men’s parts or ladies’ parts. I wonder if the TV commercials for such a place would be even more wretched than those for Viagra or “feminine hygiene” products.

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