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“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea” –Isak Dinesen

Turkish hammams, Roman baths, Finnish saunas, Native American sweat lodges, Russian banyas --sweating has long been associated with wellness practices. The Sushruta Samhita (ca. 600 BCE) and Charaka Samhita (ca. 400-200 BCE), some of the oldest known medical documents, prescribe the elimination of toxins through oil and sweating therapies. The ancients knew that inducing perspiration generates detoxification, but modern findings also indicate stress-reduction and promotion of healthy skin.

It’s unavoidable. Over time, food additives, pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, and other environmental contaminants can accumulate in your body’s fat cells. Sauna detoxification allows your body to flush them out through the pores, purifying from the inside out. This process also aids kidney and liver functions. Normally, these two organs filter toxins on their own, but sweating reduces the burden on them by enhancing toxin elimination through a third organ, your skin.

Visit a sauna before or after a massage. It will loosen up your muscles, making it easier for the massage therapist to work the areas that need the most attention, and if you prefer to have a sauna after a massage, it provides the perfect medium for eliminating toxins released by the soft tissue manipulation.

Another form of detoxification is the result of fighting infection. As a defense mechanism, the body attempts to become inhospitable to infectious bacteria and viruses by raising its temperature (fever), activating the immune system, and increasing white blood cell activity, which kills bacteria. Sauna therapy works in a similar fashion--it creates an artificial fever.

Woefully underrated and often neglected, stress raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases risk of heart disease and strokes, speeds up the aging process, and leaves you vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Although there are several methods for stress reduction, heat bathing in a sauna decreases it two ways: First, it provides a warm, quiet place that’s free of distractions. Second, it relaxes muscles and stimulates the release of endorphins, which provides a mild tranquilizing effect. Later, around bedtime, the slow decline of endorphins facilitates deep, restful sleep.

Promotion of Healthy skin
Clean skin makes for beautiful skin. When the body produces perspiration, it cleanses the skin by rinsing bacteria out of the epidermal layer and sweat ducts. This improves capillary circulation and plumps up the skin, reducing the appearance of tiny wrinkles. While sweat is mainly water, it also contains minerals and a natural antibiotic. These beneficial ingredients naturally nourish and protect the skin.

Safety Precautions
As beneficial as sauna therapy is, however, it isn’t without safety precautions. Sauna therapy is not advised for everyone, especially those with the following medical conditions:

  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Clotting or bleeding disorders
  • Acute injury (hinders the reduction of inflammation)
  • Metal prosthesis, pins, or implants
  • Silicone implants
  • Menstruation (could increase flow)
  • Prescription drugs (check with your physician)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heart Disease

If you’re in doubt, check with your physician beforehand, and remember that you should never drink alcohol before or during sauna therapy.

According to Travel + Leisure, the number one reason why people visit spas is to “relax and reduce anxiety”. Sauna therapy provides a conduit to help achieve this, plus it offers so many other healthful benefits. So, the next time you visit your favorite spa, plan some additional time for the sauna, and experience this exceptionally therapeutic treatment for yourself.