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In recent years, there has been a massive revival of interest in the ancient Mayan practice of steam baths, with many hotels and spas throughout Mexico offering the ritual for tourists. Held in a stone, igloo-like structure, temazcal ceremonies are designed to cleanse the body and mind of negativities and impurities. If that sounds a little far-out and new age, you should read through this list of proven benefits of this mysterious ancient ritual.
Temazcal rituals are designed to cleanse the body of unwanted toxins and impurities. There is significant scientific evidence that increasing the heat load on the body can be effective in removing toxins through sweating. One study found that frequent sauna use helped reduce levels of mercury in patients suffering from mercury poisoning.
The steamy ritual can temporarily relieve the symptoms of the common cold. But another study which focused on sauna bathing even suggested that regular sauna use could reduce the incidence of colds. When 25 volunteers took regular saunas over a six-month period they had a far lower rate of common cold infection than a control group who did not take them.
Researchers have found that repeated thermal therapy can help patients suffering from mild depression, as well as reduce symptoms such as insomnia, appetite loss, and anxiety.
The Ancient Mayans often carried out temazcal rituals for warriors returning from battle, and new scientific studies suggest that they had the right idea. Thermal therapy increases blood circulation, thereby delivering vital hormones to areas of the body that most need them for recovery.
Elevated heat levels such as those found in a temazcal have also been found to be effective for patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. One study demonstrated that repeated exposure to high temperatures was able to significantly improve symptoms of fatigue, pain and sleep disturbance in patients.
Exposure to heat can help reduce pain in patients with arthritis because it stimulates the release of endorphins and hormones such as adrenaline. One investigation suggested that heat therapy could help reduce arthritic symptoms when combined with other therapies such as electro-acupuncture, massage and mud therapy.
Heat therapies such as the temazcal or sauna can help improve athletic endurance. One study of long-distance runners found that sauna bathing after exercise had a significant positive impact on performance.
Regular exposure to elevated temperature levels can substantially increase the production of norepinepherine, a hormone which increases attention span.
Heat also promotes the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of new brain cells.
Given the last paragraph, perhaps it is not surprising that regular use of thermal therapies have also been linked to a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Heat stress has been shown to reduce anxiety levels in patients. Regular exposure to heat can lower cortisol levels, thereby relaxing and rejuvenating the body.