Everything You Wanted to Know about Steam Therapy

If you’re just starting the process of researching the benefits of steam therapy, you probably have a lot of questions. What is steam therapy, exactly? And, why should you have a daily steam ritual anyway? Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. As a steam industry pioneer since 1958, ThermaSol is an expert on all things steam. We have compiled more than six decades of research to answer your most pressing questions about steam.

What is steam therapy?

For centuries, cultures around the world — from the ancient Romans and Greeks to the Turks – have used steam therapy to promote cleanliness, health, wellness, and relaxation. With the advent of the steam generator, steam rooms and steam showers have become the amenity of choice for the luxury home spa. Steam showers provide a relaxing atmosphere of moist heat that induces sweating, which is thought to open up pores and help cleanse the outer skin.

How is moist heat different from dry heat, like you’d find in a sauna?

Steam rooms and saunas differ in two key ways: degree of heat and humidity. Steam rooms use moist heat and are usually warmed to roughly 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. They have humidity levels at or near 100 percent. Saunas use a dry heat. They’re typically heated between 180 and 195°F with very low humidity, heated by wood, gas, electric, or infrared technology.

What are some of the health benefits of steam?

Steam shower fans claim that it checks off a laundry list of wellness benefits: muscle relaxation, improved respiratory health, skin rejuvenation, detoxification, stress relief, better sleep, improved immunity, etc. There have been a number of scientific studies that support this point of view. For instance:

  • A 2012 Medical Science Monitor study is often cited as showing moist heat’s positive impact on skin circulation.
  • The Common Cold Unit at Harvard Hospital study that found that steam inhalation alleviated the symptoms of cold and nasal congestion.
  • A study performed at the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Balneology and Climatology found that steam therapy is useful to those with asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
  • I. Robins’ study at the University of Wisconsin, which found that the mood states of cancer patients showed significant improvement following whole-body hyperthermia (thought to be due to the increase in B-endorphins – the same endorphins released with exercise).
  • Researchers at the Department of Internal Medicine and Biocenter at the University of Oulu in Finland, concluded that long-term steam room use may also help lower blood pressure and improve heart function.

While these studies help shed light on steam’s therapeutic benefits for the muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, there is much more that scientists are still learning about steam.

How and when should you steam?

Some experts maintain that steam sessions are best left for after workouts (rather than before), when you can benefit most from some relaxation. But many people prefer to jumpstart their day with a morning steam ritual. Experts advise new steam bathers to start small with five or 10-minute increments and increase to 30 minutes as it feels good to you.

Everyone’s steam ritual is different. Some people meditate. Some people perform breath work. Some people add music, aromatherapy or colored lights, known as chromatherapy (thought to heal certain energy chakras in the body). Regardless of how you like to take your steam, the goal is to leave your steam shower feeling better than when you walked in.

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