There's no shortage of products and treatments promising to be the magical silver bullet to a plethora of vaginal health concerns (which, to clarify, are often socially conditioned into us and unfounded to begin with). Now, there's another to add to the list. The Jamu Stick is being debunked by exasperated gynaecologists for its potentially dangerous consequences.
The Jamu Stick – a 12 cm-long and 2.5 cm-wide stick made from mysterious herbs, designed to be inserted into the vagina every three to four days – exfoliates the vagina "by removing the dead skin cells of the surface layers of the vaginal epithelial skin", to allegedly solve ailments as varied as a loose vagina, discharge, odour and a low libido. (That's the vagina it's designed to exfoliate – not the external skin of the vulva.)
Results of the Jamu Stick are said to be immediate – "return to your former tightness in seconds", the website claims – and, like clinics which peddle 'vaginal rejuvenation' (a supposed 'cure' for symptoms as varied as looseness, dryness, pain and incontinence), sellers of the Jamu Stick make some extraordinary (and linguistically confusing) guarantees.
The stick, which is sold online for $24-28 (£18-21), is "a 100% natural product... manufactured according to a secret recipe" that is "intended for vaginal cleansing, balancing urovaginal microflora, elimination of vaginal discharge and odour, tightening of the vagina, increase of libido and intensification of sexual feelings," says the seller.
In a Facebook post last week advertising the product, Jamu Stick said it treats the 'callus' inside the vagina, a term that sparked uproar among gynaecologists and medically clued-up social media users alike. The post has since been removed by the brand but there is a screenshot below.
Oh my god please do not believe the lies that @jamu_stick spreads. You do not need to “tighten” your vagina. You do not need to wash the inside or your vagina, it is self cleaning, you do not need to exfoliate your vagina (yeah they said that), your vagina balances it’s own ph— cheyenne (@cheygraciela) March 1, 2019
Jamu Stick, which originates from Bali, Indonesia, isn't the only company selling vagina 'sticks', however. A search for 'vagina stick' on marketplaces including Amazon and Etsy returns similar products, which hail from countries including the US and Japan. (The makers of Jamu Stick warn against cheaper 'imitation' sticks sold around the world, which come "mainly from China" and "can be harmful due to the use of incorrect ingredients".)
Calluses are not possible. Anyone who thinks this doesn't understand even the basics of vaginal biology.
Dr Jen Gunter, gynaecologist
Dr Jen Gunter, the gynaecologist, obstetrician and vaginal health expert famous for discrediting Goop's most suspect claims and author of upcoming The Vagina Bible, called out a Japanese vagina stick on her blog as far back as 2016 – yet they are still being bought and sold online. Speaking to Refinery29, she was adamant that women should not insert abrasive objects into their vagina under any circumstances.
We asked if vaginal 'calluses' that require 'exfoliation' are even possible. Dr Gunter was clear: "NO! The vaginal epithelium sheds very regularly. Calluses are not possible. Anyone who thinks this doesn't understand even the basics of vaginal biology." The skin inside the vagina sheds by itself roughly every 96 hours, she says.
Is a vagina stick, such as Jamu Stick, in any way safe? "NO! The vagina is like a self-cleaning oven. None of the ingredients in the Jamu Stick can help in any way and will likely cause harm," Dr Gunter added.
She told Refinery29 she had strong words for Jamu Stick and other companies selling such gadgets aimed at 'curing' vaginal ailments. "You should be ashamed of yourselves [for] preying on insecurities to sell a completely unnecessary and potentially harmful product."
Refinery29 put the allegation that its product was unsafe to Jamu Stick. A spokesperson said any such claim was "not true". They continued: "Because Jamu Stick has been used since thousands [of] years ago in Indonesia and until now its [sic] proven that [it is] safe to use for vagina."
We asked if there were any comprehensive and valid studies to support its use. The spokesperson continued: "Jamu Stick [is] made based on the traditional recipes in home industry, no one will share and find the link of studies that support Jamu Stick."
The spokesperson said the people criticising the product likely haven't used it themselves. "[Critics] do not know the effect of it and they not use it... Women who used it never complain about it and all of them [are] happy with Jamu Stick."
Like Dr Gunter, NHS guidelines are clear on what's necessary to maintain a healthy vagina – and it doesn't involve inserting rough objects. "The vagina is designed to keep itself clean with the help of natural secretions (discharge)." A healthy diet, exercise and perhaps some pelvic floor exercises will suffice.
For more news and reporting on cosmetic and non-cosmetic procedures targeted at women's vaginas, visit our #YourVaginasFine microsite.