Water is a necessity for healthy living. Obviously we need water for drinking and washing, but it also has other therapeutic benefits. You can use water in a bath, spa or swimming pool to relieve specific health problems, as well as improve your general wellbeing.
WHAT CAN WATER BE USED FOR
- To wash/cleanse the body
- To hydrate the body
- To improve circulation
- To relax aching muscles
- To relieve inner tension
WHAT TEMPERATURE SHOULD A BATH OR SPA BE?
Cold (15 degrees Celsius) water can be stimulating. Generally these are only short duration dips, perhaps no longer than 30 seconds.
Some people swear by them. A cold footbath of 5–10 seconds is said by some natural therapists to eliminate tiredness in feet and to be good for clearing congestion in the head. A plunge in a cold bath after a spa is favoured by some people.
Rapid cooling of the body can have complications though. With kidney, bladder or heart disorders, do not take a cold bath without seeking advice first.
Temperate (20-25 degrees Celsius) water can be refreshing on a hot day. If you are sitting still though, this type of bath is relatively short unless you have your body half out of the water and the air temperature is high.
Temperate to warm (32-37 degrees Celsius) water can be relaxing. In most cases, this is the ideal temperature for a bath or spa.
A hot bath (over 37 degrees Celsius) can be stimulating for a short period but if the water remains hot, it can lead to enervation of blood vessels and stress both the heart and blood circulation.
These are great if you have infections as the salt sterilises wounds. But beware, heat around 37 degrees C. or greater can bring blood to the surface of a wound. Keep the temperature warm but not too hot.
Scented hot water can have therapeutic effects. By adding a few drops of essential oils (ie. concentrated oils extracted from herbs and other plants with medicinal properties) to hot water, many complaints can be relieved including stress, insomnia and headaches.
The essential oils are commonly inhaled using an oil burner – just fill the bowl with water and add a few drops of oil. As the water heats up, the oil enters the air as steam, which gives the room a pleasant atmosphere and gently imparts the desired benefits.
For more direct relief from colds and sinus congestion, add the essential oil to a bowl of hot water, cover your head with a towel and inhale the steam.
For an allover body relaxant, add the oil to a hot bath. As well as inhaling the aroma, the body absorbs the oil as the warm water opens up the pores in the skin. Ensure that the oil blends with the water by putting the oil first into a carrier that will mix with water. Otherwise, the oils are likely to lay as a cluster on top of the water and will not be absorbed. The essential oils may also cause discomfort if they come into direct contact with the skin (ie. if it is lying on top of the water and not blending in).
Carriers that are ideal for use in the bath include milk (add the drops to ½ cup mild) or vegetable oil. Some aromatherapy oils can be bought already blended and these can be added directly to the bathwater.
Some popular oils and the symptoms they relieve include:
- Eucalyptus – asthma, sinus, headaches, cuts
- Geranium – coughs, colds, skin conditions, rheumatism, insomnia, anxiety
- Juniper – arthritis, eczema, rheumatism, depression
- Lavender – muscular pain, asthma, arthritis, cramps, headache, depression
- Lemon – coughs, colds, bronchitis, arthritis, insomnia, anxiety
- Rose – bronchitis, eczema, dermatitis, cramps, insomnia, anxiety
- Rosemary – acne, bruises, catarrh, cramps, sinus, depression (NB: dangerous if pregnant)
- Sandalwood – asthma, bronchitis, eczema, depression
When you take a sauna, you sweat: water is forced out of the skin and with that water, toxins are removed from inside the body.
Saunas can be good for blood circulation if you alternate it with dips in cool water. It can help reduce high blood pressure.
Saunas are relaxing and they help you sleep better.
How to Use a Sauna
Ideally the sauna is set at 70-100 degrees Celsius and a humidity of no greater than 15% (preferably much lower).
A proper sauna is not a steam bath. If you put too much water on hot rocks, the humidity rises and you feel like you are sweating a lot, but in fact, you will be sweating less than at lower humidity, hence the cleansing effect is reduced.
Don’t go into a sauna dry … shower first so the body is wet, then the sweating is more effective.
Drink pure water to replace what is lost in sweat – you will not be replacing the toxins though.
Use a sauna perhaps once or twice a week … more often is not generally recommended.
You can add small amounts of aromatherapy oils to a sauna to treat various ailments, eg. lavender as a relaxant or eucalyptus to help clear congestion. A few drops might be all that is needed. Too much can be overpowering and even detrimental to health.
EXERCISING IN WATER
Water provides the body with buoyancy, relieving the effects of gravity and cushioning any jarring effects when you move. This makes exercising in water particularly therapeutic.
If you have an injury, moving about in water can be one of the best and safest exercise options possible.
Talk with an aquafitness instructor at any aquatic centre or major health club for more help in this area. Once you know what to do, you can use your own pool for exercise.
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