An investigation of douching practices in the botánicas of the Bronx

Matthew R. Anderson, Diane Mckee, Jolene Yukes, Adelyn Alvarez, Alison Karasz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Douching is a common practice in women and has been associated with adverse health outcomes. In order to explore douching products and practices we conducted qualitative interviews in ten botánicas (stores that provide healing and spiritual services to immigrant communities) located in New York City. We interviewed 15 people, 14 of whom were botánica owners and employees and ten of whom were women. We found that douching was not easily separated from the more holistic concerns of botánica customers involving health, well-being and spirituality. These issues included abortion, infertility, menopause, the prevention and treatment of infections, sexuality, cleanliness, hygiene and relationship issues. The vagina was seen as a sensitive, even vulnerable part of the body, not clearly distinguished from other female organs. A variety of products were used in the vagina in the form of creams, douches, suppositories, baths and herbal steaming of the urogenital area. Alum, an astringent, was used for the purposes of vaginal tightening to enhance sexual pleasure for the partner, to make the vagina 'younger', or to hide evidence of infidelity. Botánicas are part of a complex healing system with conceptual models different from those of allopathic medicine. These models may not be unique to the botánicas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Botánicas
  • Douching
  • Dry sex
  • Health beliefs
  • Vagina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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