Saunas are often referred to as “poor man’s pharmacies,” because of their many health benefits. Using one is safe for most people, but it’s important to talk with your doctor before you try one. This is especially true if you’re pregnant, have heart disease or high blood pressure, are taking medication, or are recovering from surgery.
In a traditional Finnish sauna, the heat is generated by burning wood or stones in an enclosed room. The steam produced rises, allowing the bathers to sit or lie down. As the steam dissipates, it leaves behind a moist coating on the skin. After the bathers exit the sauna, they rinse off with water to wash away the toxins and excess salt from their bodies.
The hot, dry air in a sauna these saunas causes heavy sweating, which helps to cleanse the body and remove impurities and harmful substances. In addition, the sweating stimulates the sebaceous glands to produce more fatty oils, which help moisturize the skin and give it a healthy glow. Many sauna users notice that their acne, eczema, and psoriasis improve after several sessions.
Those who suffer from high blood pressure will probably be pleased to hear that regular sauna use helps to lower the number of blood clots in the arteries, thereby reducing blood pressure and heart attack risk. In fact, a study published in The American Journal of Cardiology found that people who regularly used saunas experienced cardiovascular improvements that were similar to those of moderate exercise.
Regular sauna use can also boost circulation, since the heat from the sweating body helps to relax and expand blood vessels. In turn, this can improve stamina and enhance athletic performance. It also helps to relieve aches and pains by loosening tight muscles. In addition, the calming effects of the sweating process can relieve stress and anxiety and encourage the release of endorphins, those feel good hormones.
Another benefit of a sauna is that it can help to clear the skin by opening up the pores and removing the oil and toxins that can cause blemishes. In some cultures, a sauna has been believed to have a guardian spirit called a tonttu, or a banya elf, who can be invoked to cleanse the sauna when it’s dirty or punish those who don’t behave properly in it.
There are now a wide range of saunas available for purchase that are more sophisticated than the original ones. Some of these have technology that uses far- or near-infrared radiation, which penetrates the body more deeply and offers unique health benefits. Others are simply saunas built into a home that can be controlled with the touch of a button. Some even come equipped with a massage chair, and some have the option to add music and aromatherapy for an extra treat.