For hundreds of years humans have used the power of steam and water to cure aches and pains and stimulate wellness. Cultures all over the world have understood how valuable warmth and steam can be when it comes to health and wellbeing. But what does the history of the steam room look like and how does this benefit modern users?
Who got there first?
It’s difficult to pinpoint with total accuracy which civilisation was responsible for the first ever steam room. There is a clear line of descent between the saunas that we know and love today and the Finnish sauna or American Indian sweat lodge. However, when it comes to the use of humid heat there are two clear leaders in the field: the Romans and the Turks.
The Romans are renowned for their love of a bathhouse, whether large and public (Thermae) or small and private (Balneae). For this ancient civilisation, bathhouses were not just somewhere to get clean but a place to do business, to socialise and to follow regimented wellness routines that they believed would help prolong health and long life.
Sweat bathing was an important part of this and the Romans were responsible for pioneering the architecture to enable this, including using a furnace and hollow walls. Like many of the modern spas we know and love today, traditional Roman bathhouses would also have massage and treatment rooms, as well as the contrast of an ice cold Frigidarium.
The Turkish Hammam was originally designed to be part of a mosque. However, as the popularity of these bathhouses increased, they became standalone destinations that were frequented both for practical purposes and also so that people could meet and chat. The first Turkish bath opened in the UK in 1850, using the process of sweat bathing to give patrons the opportunity to enjoy a range of health and wellness benefits.
The modern steam room
Thanks to the early pioneers of steam and sweat bathing, today there is no need to leave the comfort of your home to enjoy an experience worthy of the best Thermae or Hammam. The benefits of steam treatments are now well established, from helping to soothe sinus issues through to the relief that can be provided from aches and pains.
Both the Turks and the Romans understood well the detoxifying effect of steam and sweat on the body, as well as the improvement in circulation that can be delivered as a result of time in a steamy environment. In the modern steam room these benefits are easy to enjoy at home whether your motivation for doing so is to improve health or feel better.
Steam rooms and treatments have a long and rich history when it comes to making humans feel better. From therapeutic muscle relief to improving mood and lowering stress levels, the use of steam can significantly improve wellbeing.