Natural Healing: Healing Saunas

| September/October 2002

There’s probably no quicker way to feel cleansed and rejuvenated than to spend time in a sauna. The deep, penetrating heat of a sauna relieves muscle tension, eases joint stiffness, alleviates respiratory congestion, and stimulates detoxification. Many toxins, including pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals, are eliminated through the skin. The regular use of saunas—once or twice a week—can help your body’s efforts to get rid of such noxious chemicals. On a lighter note, the heat of a sauna is also conducive to self-massage, skin polishing, facials, and hair-conditioning treatments. With a bit of advance preparation to gather essential oils, prepare herbal teas, and put together beauty treatments, you can turn your sauna time into a mini spa session. Saunas are generally safe for most people, but check with your doctor first if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are pregnant. To get the most out of a sauna, follow these suggestions.

Sauna basics

Prior to entering the sauna, take a quick, warm shower to remove surface oils and perspiration. For optimal results, a sauna should be moderately hot, between approximately 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it possible to stay in the sauna for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, which best stimulates detoxification. If you’re up for it, try two rounds of sauna sessions, with a brief, cool shower in between. Following your sauna, shower thoroughly to remove perspiration and toxins, and finish with a cool rinse.

Stay hydrated. While in the sauna, drink plenty of water to replace the fluids that you are losing through perspiration. Sip at least 16 ounces of water during a fifteen-minute sauna. To make the water more refreshing, add slices of lemon, lime, or orange, and a few sprigs of fresh mint.

Add healing aromas. Essential oils are a wonderful addition to a sauna. Add five to ten drops of essential oil (or a combination of oils) to a bucket of water and throw a ladleful at a time onto the hot rocks. If your sauna is not equipped with a heat source onto which you can throw water, you can use a spray bottle filled with 16 ounces of water and 20 drops of essential oil. Shake well, and spray into the air, keeping the mist away from your eyes. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and peppermint (Mentha ¥piperita) have potent antimicrobial and decongestant action; lemon (Citrus ¥limon) and grapefruit (Citrus ¥paradisi) are uplifting and purifying; and frankincense (Boswellia spp.) has calming, soothing properties.

Purify with herbs. To enhance purification, sip a cup or two of herbal tea prior to entering the sauna or while in the sauna. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and peppermint both stimulate perspiration. To make a tea, simmer 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh ginger in 1 cup of water in a covered pot for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint, cover, and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain, add sweetener if desired, and drink.

Polish your skin. While you’re soaking up the heat, brush your body with a loofah or a soft-bristled natural body brush. A brush with a long handle enables you to easily brush your back and shoulders. This increases lymphatic circulation and helps to slough off dry, dead skin cells. Brush vigorously, but use care not to irritate your skin. Always brush toward your heart, which is the natural direction of lymph flow. Avoid your face and any areas with irritated or broken skin.

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