If you’ve ever spent time in a steam room, you know how great you feel afterwards. Your muscles are relaxed, your sinuses are clear and your skin feels smooth and hydrated. Since ancient times, steam therapy has been used by traditional healing systems around the world to improve and maintain good health and beauty. Turkish baths, Indian sweat lodges, Finnish saunas, and Japanese steam rooms are just a few examples of cultures that harness the power of steam. Even Hippocrates recognized that by creating an ‘artificial fever’ he could cure many illnesses.
Today, most Western health practitioners are unfamiliar with the benefits of steam therapy. Contrast that to Japan where steam bathing is recognized as an effective treatment for a wide variety of conditions such as mild depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, nicotine addiction, hypertension, chronic pain, respiratory conditions, and cardiovascular disease. Some other health benefits include weight loss, detoxification, beautiful skin, stress relief, cellulite reduction, joint pain relief, eases sore muscles, relieves allergies and asthma, improves circulation, reduces inflammation, and boosts the immune system.
How does steam therapy do all this?
Steam baths and other hyperthermic therapies induce “artificial fevers”. Although artificial fevers aren’t as effective as natural fevers, they still benefit a great many bodily processes. As your temperature rises, your body’s natural response is to perspire. As perspiration evaporates, the body cools down again. However, in a steam bath, the increased humidity blocks evaporation. You still sweat and as your pores open, the body purges itself of toxins and other wastes. When your body temperature reaches from 101-103 degree, it’s a signal to your immune system to swing into action. Most pathogens that enter the body can’t withstand the high temperatures so your elevated body temperature either destroys or weakens them. Your pulse rate speeds up from 75 beats a minute to up to 150 beats a minute, resulting in increased blood circulation. However, your blood pressure remains stable since the heat also causes blood vessels to expand, making way for increased blood flow. Your bloodstream carries nutrients to your skin that both enhance and revitalize it.
Individuals who have heart disease, high blood pressure, or other cardiovascular problems should consult with their health care practitioner before using a steam room or sauna. In addition, steam baths are not recommended for pregnant women, small children, or the elderly.