Recently, I’ve had several young people ask me about yoni pearls. Are they safe? Do they work? Would I recommend them?
As a health educator, I know all about sexual health—but I hadn’t even heard of yoni pearls. So I did some digging and talked with our adolescent medicine fellow Miranda Loh, DO to find out more. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. What are yoni pearls?
Yoni pearls are usually advertised as a vaginal detox or vaginal cleanse. They contain multiple herbs wrapped in small mesh cloth “gems” or “pearls.” People use them by inserting them into the vagina, sometimes for over 24 hours.
People who sell yoni pearls claim that they treat a variety of health concerns. These include “toxin buildup” from menstrual products or past sexual partners, yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis (BV), and even fibroids and cysts.
Unfortunately, the truth is a bit more complicated.
2. Isn’t cleaning my vagina a good thing?
Dr. Loh emphasized that there is no reason to “detox” your vagina or uterus. In fact, your vagina is self-cleaning!
Trying to change your natural vaginal environment will probably lead to more harm than good. Vaginas naturally have some bacteria in them—and this is a good thing! This bacteria actually protects your vagina from harmful infections and balances the pH.
When you try to “detox” your vagina (like with yoni pearls or vaginal douches), you’re killing this good bacteria. This eliminates your body’s natural defenses and throws your vagina’s bacterial balance out of whack.
3. Are yoni pearls safe?
No. Leaving things in your vagina for long periods of time is dangerous. Bacteria can build up on the objects, leading to a rare but very dangerous medical condition called Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
You’ve probably been warned not to leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours because it could lead to TSS. But people selling yoni pearls recommend leaving them in for 24-72 hours, which is way longer! This is dangerous and could possibly lead to not only TSS, but also pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Plus, the roughness of the mesh cloth might scratch your vaginal wall (ouch!) and could lead to chronic irritation.
4. I’ve seen the photos of the discharge after using the pearls. Isn’t that a sign that they work?
Unfortunately, no. In the photo testimonies for yoni pearls, the thick grey discharge is labeled as a sign that it worked. But in reality, foul-smelling discharge that’s green, grey or yellow can be a sign of an infection. It’s not a sign that the yoni pearls worked, but that they irritated your vagina and may have even led to an infection.
The yoni pearl’s mesh cloth can introduce new bacteria to your vagina. As the yoni pearl sits in your vagina, the new and old bacteria grow. Vaginal discharge may build up. This can cause extra discharge and a foul smell. (If you’ve ever forgotten to take out a tampon for a day or two, you know what we’re talking about.) It can also lead to TSS or PID, as we mentioned above.
Another common side effect is cramping. When there’s something inside your vagina or uterus that your body thinks shouldn’t be there, the uterus contracts and tries to push it out. This is similar to a period, when the uterus is pushing out the blood and tissue. These contractions can cause painful cramps. So, when you leave a yoni pearl inside your vagina for a long time, you may experience cramps as your body tries to push out the yoni pearl.
5. I did my research and the herbs in the ingredients have medicinal uses. What’s the difference?
Natural herbs have been used as medicines for years. Even today, many primary ingredients in medications are made from plants and herbs.
However, just because they work when they’re swallowed or applied in skin creams (in specific, controlled doses) does NOT mean that they’re safe or effective when used in other ways (like inside your vagina).
Plus, yoni pearls have not been approved by the FDA. This means that we can’t be completely sure what’s actually in them.
6. I’m still concerned about my vaginal health. What should I do?
If you’re worried about your vaginal health, talk to a health care provider. They can answer any questions you have about what’s normal and what’s not, and let you know if there’s anything you should be concerned about.
Keep in mind that…
- Your vagina should smell like a vagina, NOT a flower.
- Having some vaginal discharge is completely normal. The color and consistency of it actually tells us about our vaginal health. Discharge that is clear or white and has the consistency of an egg yolk is completely healthy, and the majority of people experience it during ovulation every month.
- To keep your vaginal biome healthy and balanced, don’t use douches or soap inside your vagina. Instead, use unscented soap on your outer labia (the part that grows pubic hair), and let water run over the rest.
If you’re 10-26 years old in NYC, you can call (212) 423-3000 to make an appointment at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for free, confidential health care.
Andrea Carazas is a Clinical Health Educator at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center where she provides health education counseling to patients. She has a bachelor’s in Global Public Health and Sociology from New York University and is passionate about health equity.