The earliest saunas know made their first appearance in Finland about 2000 years ago. At first they were just pits dug in the earth for protections form the cold. A fire was lit and stones heated in it. These stones were them placed around the pit to provide warmth. As time passed the concept of heating stones for warmth was used to heat the primitive dwellings during the harsh winters of the northern latitudes. At some time it was found that pouring water on the heated stones resented in the production of steam and increased the warmth in the structure. This enabled the inmates to removed much of their warm winter clothing and bask in the heat indoors. As the quality of the dwellings improved and more heat was retained with in the structure, temperatures rose so high that people began to sweat indoors, even during the harshest winter. Since this sweating made them feel much more relaxed and also energized, the concept of heating a room with steam just for the beneficial effects of being able to spend time in a hot room became so important that separate structures were built for this purpose. And that came into existence the sauna as we know it today.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body. The sweat it produces not only helps to keep the body cool by evaporation, it also carries away toxins that have accumulated in the body. The liver and kidneys are the main organs for the removal of toxins from the system, but the more that is removed by perspiration the less load there is on these organisms and the more efficiently they can function. Because of the heat they produce, saunas makes the body perspire and increase the amount of toxin removal by this route.
The world we live in is full of pollutants, many of which get absorbed in the body. Among the most common of these are PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, phthalates (plasticizers) and dioxins. PCB's, one of the most persistent poisons, are a leading cause of cancer and are found in every human body. Experts say that the sauna is the only known way of riding the body of these toxins. The sauna is a form of hyperthermic (or sweat) that therapy not only increases the release of toxins form the body but also asserts the autonomous nervous system in relaxing the muscles. It has beneficial effects on the digestive system and reduces blood pressure. Using a sauna to raise the core temperature of the body is also known to have long term effects in boosting the ability of the immune system to fight of diseases.
Those who have suffered high levels of toxic exposure such as farmers, pilots of pesticide spraying planes, drug addicts, fire fighters and veterans of the Vietnam War who were exposed to neurological chemicals such as Agent Orange have all been known to benefit from sauna treatment. Saunas are also suitable for people who can not tolerate medicines for toxin removal or have adverse reaction to medications given for other medical problems.
The paradox of sauna treatment is that the high heat exposure it involves is often makes it unsuitable for many of the people for which it could be the most beneficial. Heart patients and those who have been exposed to high levels of toxicity are not able to tolerate the heat of the sauna and if they force themselves to do it, other medical complications could, and probably would, arise. Luckily technology has found a solution to this problem.
The solution to raising the body's core temperature without excessively heating the atmosphere in which the body is in lies in the use of infrared technology. Infrared is what is called radiant heat. Very little of the energy emanating form the infrared sources is absorbed by the atmosphere – normally only about 20 percent. The rest of the energy is absorbed by the human tissue in the sauna. This means that the internal heat of the body rises, causing it to sweat, but the external temperature remains at more comfortable levels. An infrared sauna operates at an ambient temperature of 110 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, as against the temperature of 108 to 230 degrees of conventional saunas. This makes it far safer for those for whom the high temperatures of the conventional system would have been dangerous. Infrared energy also penetrates deeper, so that the body produces two to three times more sweat in an infrared sauna, despite the lower ambient temperature.
Infrared saunas have been successfully used by people suffering from a variety of painful and often chronic ailments such as fibromyalgia (a condition of severe muscular pain) sports injuries, arthritis, and chronic fatigue. The heat generated within the tissue by the infrared sauna accelerates the removal of chemicals and toxic metal from the fatty tissue in which it is deposited and where it remains until transported away by the perspiration. This alleviates the both the immediate pain as well as reduces the causes of it.
Beside the benefits of generating internal heat in the body, infrared saunas are known to benefit people with skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, acne and cellulite deposits. The deep heat generated by the infrared radiation causes the shedding of dead skin cells and improvements the elasticity and the tone of the skin. The deep heat also helps to melt cellulite and weight loss is caused by the increase in the growth hormone production that infrared heat causes. In standard conditions, 30 minutes spent in an infrared sauna can result in the burning of up to 600 calories.
While conventional saunas offer a range of health benefits, the infrared sauna is, theoretically speaking, more efficient and produces better results, especially in the matter of removing toxins from the body. The detoxification has an energizing effect on the sauna users, making them feel more energetic.
While the sauna is not a magic bullet that can cure all physical ailments, it has been proved, through history, to be of great benefit to those who use it. If you have any medical problems or doubts about the suitability of saunas as a course of therapeutic treatment for you, please consult a medical practitioner before using one.