Alchemy has since split off the clinic menu from the cafe menu, which is probably a good thing. A lemon squash based on vegan kefir tastes yeasty enough—with top notes of old socks and lemongrass—before you try to understand why on earth anyone would pipe a recognized pollutant up their genitalia (or, for that matter, their rectum, or into their ear). Still, in the interests of research, eschewing the charms of ear candling, an ozone colonic, or an intuitive reading, I head upstairs to establish what a vaginal ozone is. Though the treatment is described as "great… for all kinds of problems from endometriosis to thrush," you don't need to have anything wrong with you to benefit. The magic of ozone can help protect even a healthy vaginal area, I'm assured.
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"As with all charlatanism, it gives the claim that it cures everything," Professor Martin Dyer, a cancer specialist at the University of Leicester in the UK, tells me the day after my visit to Alchemy. "Ozone is one of the most powerful oxidizing agents known to man, and people have been looking to exploit this very powerful antioxidant action right since its discovery. But it's never amounted to anything."
I am both glad and a little unnerved that I conducted this interview after undergoing the procedure. Up I head to a waiting area that feels like a yoga studio, with rattan matting on the floor, semi-open walls with glimpses of palm thatch, a little reception desk, and an impressive amount of birdsong for an area whose rice fields are rapidly turning to villas.My therapist, a registered nurse who does mornings at a hospital and afternoons and Sundays here, leads me to a small, slightly grim room that contains a medical-looking bed, a ceiling that's starting to peel, and a gray box on the wall attached to a terrifyingly large blue cylinder. It is here, in the gray box with laminated dosage instructions pinned up next to it, that the magic happens.
Won't having gas blown up one's vagina be rather drying?
Up comes the towel. She parts my labia and inserts the tube. There's a buzz as the machine switches on, and the air starts to fill with the distinctive burnt-static scent of ozone, the smell of thunderstorms. I try not to think about my survival chances if the giant cylinder explodes.The flow is reassuringly light. No symphony of queefs. No unnerving tingling. No uncomfortable fullness. At the end, the therapist shows me a small quantity of mucus that has gathered in the tube: Removal of "slime" is allegedly an additional benefit of vaginal ozone therapy, especially before or after menstruation.Roughly $25 poorer, I hop aboard my scooter, wondering whether the incipient tingling down below is psychosomatic or a sign of ozone-induced infection. But most of all I'm wondering how a clientele so obsessed with the natural, organic, and spiritual could subscribe to something so artificial that it comes from what is clearly a machine.