Doctors (and common sense) are warning against a pseudoscientific practice that involves eating and putting mushed up oak galls into the vagina, claiming it's an “organic” way to clean, heal, and tighten the vagina.
The product was being peddled by a Malaysian “health shop” on the e-commerce site Etsy. The instructions advise customers to boil the oak galls and then use them as a feminine hygiene wash around the time of their period. It also advises drinking one boiled oak gall for 40 days to “restore elasticity of the uterine wall.”
Oak galls (aka oak apples) are small spheres, usually 2 to 4 centimeters (1 to 2 inches) in diameter, that are formed by gall wasps. The larvae of the wasps live within these galls, which they create by inducing the tree to produce abnormal growths.
The shop's listing, which has since been removed, explains: “The galls, which contain tannin and small amounts of gallic acid and ellagic acid have antimicrobial qualities and are used in South East Asia, Malaysia, and Indonesia by women after childbirth to restore the elasticity of the uterine wall."
“Some women take mankanni [oak galls] to improve their sex life; some say that it can tighten vagina, so they say.”
Don’t be fooled by this pseudoscientific spiel, there’s zero evidence to suggest it works and it's potentially dangerous. On top of that, it also highlights many popular misconceptions about sexual health and the vagina. Namely, the myth that only tight and dry vaginas are desirable and healthy.
Dr Jen Gunter, a certified gynecologist, dispelled the practice in a blog post called: “Don’t put ground up wasp nest in your vagina.” Dr Gunter explains that the product will dry out the vagina and mess with its natural pH and healthy bacteria.
“Drying the vaginal mucosa increases the risk of abrasions during sex (not good) and destroys the protective mucous layer (not good). It could also wreak havoc with the good bacteria. In addition to causing pain during sex it can increase the risk of HIV transmission... This is a dangerous practice with real potential to harm,” writes Dr Gunter.
“Here’s a pro-tip, if something burns when you apply it to the vagina it is generally bad for the vagina,” concludes Dr Gunter.
This isn’t the first bizarre alternative medicine for vaginas found on the corners of the Internet. Last year, there were reports of an equally dangerous trend of “herbal tampons” used to freshen and purify the vagina. The teabag-like product contains a mix of perfumed herbs such as motherwort, angelica, borneol, rhizoma, and Cnidium monnieri. Much like this oak gall, it was a load of unscientific bullsh*t.