Sweating is an
effective traditional way to remove all kinds of toxins.
Many cultures have a
tradition of sweat baths, and as in fasting, I wonder how much of the
rite was for physical, and how much for spiritual, gain.
In the northern reaches of
Europe the progression of hot sweat baths, switching (beating) the body
with branches, and then plunging into cold water, was definitely a
detoxification procedure. In the Americas, the sweat lodges
of Indian tribes were mostly for ritual ceremonies.
The end effect would have
been the same for both, however, since the benefits claimed for sweating
would have been enhanced rather than negated by the spiritual benefits.
It would have been a two for one gain!
A sweat bath is the most
natural, effective and convenient way possible to open clogged
pores and flush the body. Opening the pores allows liquids carrying body
wastes to be effectively expelled.
Some Sauna manufacturers
claim to have measured the toxin content of the sweat, and to have found
high levels of some of the more dangerous chemicals that pollute our
environment as well as heavy metals such as lead and mercury.
Other negative substances
which are removed from the body, according to the same sources, are
excess salt, lactic acid and urea. A minor build-up of urea in the
body can lead to a host of chronic complaints, such as headaches and
nausea. A major build-up can be dangerous.
Sauna heat dilates capillaries;
this increases blood flow to the skin. The heart beats faster and
impurities in vital organs are flushed out by the flow of fluids.
Finnish and German doctors cite studies indicating sweat baths help
persons with high blood pressure and heart problems; many American
doctors, however, continue to recommend against sweat baths for such
Lungs benefit, too. Clogged respiratory passages are opened by
heat; this gives relief from colds or minor respiratory problems. Sweat
baths are not recommended for persons with pneumonia and major
respiratory problems. The heat of a sweat bath and the often rapid
cooling afterwards, conditions the body. A well-tuned body is more
resistant to colds, disease and infection. In cold weather, a warm
glowing feeling often lingers for hours following a sweat bath. In hot
weather, the body seems cooler afterwards.
Recent Finnish tests validate the practice of splashing water on
superheated rocks as a means to produce an abundance of negative
ions. This seems especially true if the rocks are heated by a
wood fire and not electricity. Too few negative ions and too many
positive ions have been linked to heart attacks, aggravated asthma,
migraines, insomnia, rheumatism, arthritis, hay fever and allergies.
Some major causes of unhealthy ionic conditions are:
weather disturbances, central air conditioning, smog and driving too
long in a closed automobile.
cleansing ritual of Panchakarma employs sweat - SWEDANA -
as an important part of the treatment.
Cleansing with Steam
Ayurveda believes that simply the process of living a life which is
not perfectly designed to sustain health, will cause the accumulation of
a toxin called AMA in the body. This is defined as a sticky substance
that in effect clogs the organs and cells throughout our system.
The stages of Panchakarma
are designed to loosen, mobilize and expel this toxin.
In summary first, the diet
is designed to begin the process, a hot oil massage follows, and the
steam treatment is the third procedure whereby Ama is moved into the
digestive tract for expulsion, and is also expelled though the skin.
Medicated oils and special herbs such as ginger root, castor oil plant,
sesame and others herbs are added for extra efficacy and to encourage
the production of sweat. The body is relaxed, tension is released.
The therapy is said to:
- Cleanse the organs of elimination
- Increase the softness and brilliance of the
- Increase digestive capacity.
- Restore appetite
- Remove lethargy
- Improve stiff joints.
It need not be too expensive to purchase a
method to do one's own sweat bath, depending on the system chosen, but
Ayurveda administers the Sudana in a number of ways, some of which might
be simple to adapt to the home setting:
- Sankara - Application of a hot herbal bolus to a
clothed or unclothed patient.
- Prasthara - The patient lies on a bed of leaves of
Ricinus communis and Calotropis gigantea, corn, pulse, pippali,
ginger, maricha, and ghee. Paayasa (a milk preparation) or krushara
is also added. The patient is covered with silk or wool blankets.
- Nadi - Medicated steam is directed through a hose
or tube (nadi) to the entire body or to specific areas of the body.
- Parisheka - Hot herbal decoction is showered over
the body from a pitcher, pot, or pipe which has many small holes in
- Jentaaka - The patient enters a circular room built
near a pond or small lake which has an oven burning special herbs to
heat it; similar in some respects to an Indian "sweat
My feeling is that for optimal health, adding a
sauna experience in some form or another is going to be a worthwhile
Do not consider this therapy if you are pregnant or
have a serious medical condition. Go cautiously if you are weakened by