A steam bath is a holistic health treatment, geared toward extracting impurities from the body using heat. It differs from a sauna, in that its effect is brought about by the use of wet heat as opposed to dry. The ceiling of a steam room is intentionally made to a point that allows condensed moisture to flow down the walls instead of dripping onto patrons. Traditionally, steam room walls have been constructed using some type of ceramic or stone. However, the porous nature of these materials provides a breeding ground for bacteria, mildew, mold and various parasitic organisms. For this reason, hybrid models have been developed. The hybrids are fashioned from less permeable materials, and can self-sanitize at the end of each day.
Steam therapy reinvigorates the skin, offering a natural alternative to chemical treatments. Dr. Reinhard R. Bergel, in a special report extolling the restorative benefits of steam, said: “A great advantage of the steam bath lies in its highly beneficial effect on the skin, a feature particularly appreciated by women. The moist heat stimulates the subcutaneous blood flow and cleanses the skin intensively, opening the pores, removing dead skin and impurities and leaving the skin feeling soft, clean, and silky smooth.” By opening the pores through perspiration, steam induces the expulsion of toxins, rectifying exercise-related skin problems.
For centuries, the inhalation of steam has been prescribed to treat various disorders of the lung. A study conducted at the Common Cold Unit at Harvard Hospital reported that "Nasal hyperthermia can improve the course of a common cold and also give immediate relief of symptoms." Also, steam has been shown to have positive effects on the symptoms of sinusitis, bronchitis and allergic responses.
During a steam bath, blood vessels enlarge in response to heat. This action translates into an increased flow of blood throughout the body. More blood means more oxygen and nutrients delivered to the cells, which accelerates the repair of tissue damaged through exercise.
Hyperthermia is defined by Merriam-Webster's online dictionary as an "exceptionally high fever, especially induced artificially for therapeutic purposes." Many invasive organisms cannot survive once the body exceeds its normal temperature. Dr. Zane Gard, board-certified applied kinesiologist, said that "The only detoxification program that has proven successful in removing fat stored toxins from the body is hyperthermia, or heat stress detoxification."