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Sauna Therapy

Sauna Therapy


As a holistic physician, I am ever searching for better ways to heal the body that are safe, inexpensive, and powerful enough to handle today’s health disasters. I receive a flood of new products and machines to test, and I hear about a multitude of techniques and procedures. Over the past two years, I have experimented with an electric light infrared sauna. Rarely have I ever seen such an impressive healing modality.<BR><BR>This type of sauna is used in the orient. In a recent study reported in the American Heart Association Sessions, Nov. 17-20, 2002, the Japanese author, Chuwa Tei, wrote that the saunas used in this study were heated with infrared heat lamps. I discovered the value of the lamps independently by accident after buying a used conventional sauna and replacing the conventional heater with different lamp arrangements. I began using the new sauna on myself with dramatic results.

The electric light sauna is not yet sold by regular sauna companies. However, they are not hard to build for those who are mechanically inclined, and for those who are not, kits are available. This is an introductory article. For a more thorough look at sauna therapy, click here.

NO MEDICAL CLAIMS ARE MADE FOR SAUNAS OR SAUNA THERAPY. I am happy to report findings by myself and other doctors and patients regarding this therapy. Material presented is for educational purposes only. I work as a nutrition consultant, not as a licensed medical doctor.

Infrared Electric Light Sauna Therapy

Everyone is exposed to heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Few safe and effective methods exist to remove them. <SPAN style=”COLOR: blue”>Saunas are one of the best ways to help detoxify and heal the body.</SPAN>

Heating the body powerfully shunts blood toward the skin to dissipate heat. This decongests internal organs and stimulates circulation. Sinuses, joints and many other tissues benefit greatly.

Raising body temperature disables bacteria, fungi and viruses. Saunas help fight acute and chronic sinus, ear, eye, bladder and other common infections. Many adults have a low body temperature, impairing their infection-fighting ability.

Tumors tolerate heat poorly. Weaker than normal cells, raising body temperature hastens their death. Though not a conventional method, hyperthermia is a well-researched therapy for cancer. Heat also kills cells damaged by toxic metals, chemicals and radiation.

Many people rarely sweat. The skin is the largest organ of the body and a major eliminative channel. In most people, it is inactive. Sun exposure, synthetic clothing and hundreds of chemicals damage the skin. Sauna use slowly restores elimination through the skin. Along with improved circulation, sweating assists the cells to eliminate heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

Saunas provide many of the benefits of exercise with much less expenditure of energy. Repeated sauna use can lower elevated blood pressure and improve elasticity of the arteries. Saunas are very helpful for cardiovascular rehabilitation, arthritis, allergies, skin conditions and chemical sensitivity.


Traditional saunas are electric, wood or gas fired. They require preheating to 150?-200? degrees for copious sweating. Intense heat may be difficult to tolerate, especially if one is ill.

Infrared saunas heat the body from the inside, the air remaining cool. Sweating begins faster and detoxification is increased. Preheating is unnecessary, saving time and electricity. Infrared is an antioxidant nutrient with many important benefits. Infrared activates the cells, supports metabolic processes and decouples toxins from water molecules.

Most infrared saunas employ ceramic elements to generate heat. Six to twelve small zirconium ceramic elements are placed in the walls or other areas of the sauna. They emit a limited spectrum of energy in the far-infrared range. Though many claims are made for far infrared, some physicians believe it is a less healthy spectrum. These saunas can also emit electromagnetic fields that may be objectionable for some people.

Another infrared design uses incandescent infrared heat lamps. John Harvey Kellogg, MD, an early proponent of saunas and a careful researcher, believed the electric light sauna was best. Their energy spectrum begins in the yellow, orange and red visible range, peaks in the near infrared range and includes some middle and a little far infrared as well.

The lamps also provide warming and stimulating color therapy.

Red, orange and yellow assist the eliminative organs. Red helps clear the astral or emotional body. Many people carry emotional toxins that are as harmful as physical toxins.

Also available is a halogen infrared lamp for sauna use. I do not think the spectrum is as healthful as the incandescent lamp spectrum.

In my clinical experience, the incandescent electric light sauna is by far the best for healing.

Advantages of the infrared heat lamps are:

1) Much more powerful concentration of energy.  The three 250-watt infrared lamps penetrate deeper inside the body. The ceramic elements are more numerous but each is less powerful.

2) Full spectrum infrared. The ceramic far infrared elements emit a very narrow spectrum – about 4-14 microns. However, the entire infrared spectrum offers health benefits. When one checks the infrared research, the claims of the manufacturers of the ceramic element saunas are not all supported. That is, some of the research was done using full-spectrum infrared, not the limited far infrared only. Yet sauna manufacturers claim the same benefits with the very narrow spectrum of energy the ceramic elements produce.

For example, a recent study from Japan found that saunas benefited congestive heart failure. (Kihara, T. et al., Sauna Therapy Decreases Heart Arrythmias in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure, American Heart Association, Scientific Sessions, Nov.17-20, Chicago, 2002.) The text explained the saunas were heated by infrared lamps. Such studies are often quoted by ceramic element sauna manufacturers, although their saunas will not provide the same benefit.

3) Lamps provide color therapy. This is an excellent added therapy and the sauna is a logical place for it as one is already unclothed. The red color stimulates the lower organs – precisely the ones needed for detoxification including the liver, colon and kidneys. One can add color therapy to any sauna.

4) Ability to focus on one part of the body. One can move a part of the body closer to the lamps to focus more energy on that part. This is excellent for sinus or ear infections, backaches and many other localized conditions. This cannot be done to the same degree in a ceramic element sauna as the individual elements are not powerful enough.

5) No electromagnetic fields. Most ceramic element far infrared saunas emit electromagnetic fields. This will affect sensitive people. Lamps do not emit electromagnetic fields.

6) Less costly and cheaper to operate. Lamps use less power to operate and are less expensive to replace. Lamps will last several years.

7) Emotional Benefits. The red color and full-spectrum infrared affect the emotional body. This is a bit esoteric but reported by patients. The effect is to loosen emotional bonds that can hold one in negative patterns. This in turn helps one release the patterns.

Disadvantages of electric light saunas.

The lamps are very hot and can break. One must sit or lie 20-30 inches from the lamps and rotate the body every few minutes. Always rotate the body 90 degrees if one feels like one is beginning to burn. According to the manufacturer, the feeling of being burned will always come long before any burn occurs. It may be possible to avoid rotating if one were to use less infrared powerful lamps. However, these are not easy to find in hardware stores.

Always use a guard in front of the lamps made of 1/4 or 1/2 inch hardware cloth, which is a wire mesh. This will prevent accidentally touching the lamps. In the rare event of breakage, it also provides some protection from broken glass.


Saunas are quite safe for most people if one follows simple precautions. Avoid drinking alcohol before sauna use. Always move slowly and carefully in and around saunas. Avoid heavy meals two hours before a sauna session. Drink four ounces of water before entering a sauna and eight ounces afterwards. Add sea salt and two tablespoons daily of kelp to one?s diet, especially if one?s water is mineral-free. Remove metal jewelry before entering a sauna, as it may become very hot. Pregnant women and children under five should avoid sauna use, although in Finland pregnant women regularly use hot air saunas during pregnancy with no apparent ill effects.

Before entering a hot air sauna, preheat to 150?. With a far infrared sauna, enter as soon as one turns it on or preheat if desired for 10-15 minutes. A far-infrared sauna need not be hotter than about 130?. When it reaches that temperature, one can open the door slightly to continue receiving the rays without it getting any hotter. An electric light sauna need not be hotter than 115?. When it reaches that temperature, open the door slightly so the sauna stays at this temperature.

Light clothing may be worn in a hot air sauna but is less recommended in one heated by infrared. Use a small towel to wipe off the sweat. Sit on another small towel. Have a third towel on the floor to avoid slipping. Talking or working are not recommended while in a sauna. Meditate or relax.

To enhance the effects of a sauna session, visualize absorbing the heat and energy. Deep, slow breathing and good posture are very helpful. Sound therapy, such as listening to low tones, is also excellent. Aromatherapy is also very effective during a sauna session. Do not place oils on the skin, as they might cause a burn.

If one’s sauna uses infrared lamps, turn every few minutes to heat the body evenly. Sit on a stool or a chair without a back. Face the lamps, turn to the side and around to the back. Avoid touching the hot lamps. Looking at the lamps is not harmful, but is not recommended. Do not let water, a towel or clothing touch the hot lamps. One will not get a tan in an infrared sauna, though the skin may redden for an hour afterwards.

Finishing Up

How long one remains inside a sauna depends on one’s condition. Body temperature should not increase more than four degrees. The pulse should not increase more than 50% of the resting pulse. Begin with 15 minutes if one is ill. If the heart begins to race, sweating stops or one feels very faint, end the session immediately. Sixty minutes is a maximum time.

When finished, take a shower, warm or cool but not hot. Avoid soap if possible as one should be very clean. Soap leaves a film and clogs the pores. Clean the body with a skin brush or loofa. Brush all over, even face and hair. Painful at first, it soon feels wonderful. Brushing enhances the cleansing effect of the sauna. Use shampoo and conditioner only if needed. Most contain chemicals toxic to the body. Also skip most oils, lotions and creams. These also contain chemicals that may clog the pores. Rinse out the towels used in the sauna and hang them to dry.

After the sauna drink eight ounces of water. Sit for at least 15 minutes. These simple steps allow the body to reap the full benefit of the sauna experience.

Supervision and Safety. Saunas are very safe for most people providing one follows the rules described above. Supervision is best if one has a chronic condition. If debilitated or very heat-sensitive, begin with less time in the sauna. The presence of an attendant or friend is also most helpful. Consult a health professional if one has multiple sclerosis or a serious heart condition. Those who have used LSD or other psychotropic drugs require an attendant close by, as removal of drugs from tissue storage may cause flashbacks and even full-blown LSD trips. Continue prescribed medication while taking saunas unless directed otherwise.

Use a sauna twice a week to twice a day. If one is very debilitated, begin with once a week. Work up to daily use as one is able. When beginning, many people do not easily sweat. Instead, their bodies overheat and they tolerate less time in the sauna. In a few weeks to a few months, one acclimates to sweating and is more able to regulate one’s temperature. Sweating generally increases over a few months. Also, the more one relaxes, the more one will sweat.

Healing Reactions. Healing reactions are temporary symptoms that occur as toxic substances are eliminated and chronic infections heal. Symptoms vary from mild odors, tastes or rashes to periods of fatigue, bowel changes, aches, pains or headaches.

Many people have chronic infections, often treated with antibiotics that killed most of the bacteria but did not eliminate bad tissue and all the organisms. These may flare up as they are healed due to repeated sauna use. Most healing symptoms are benign. Consult a knowledgeable practitioner if any cause concern.

Emotional healing also takes place. Memories may arise consciously or in dreams. Temporary anxiety or other emotional states may occur and usually pass quickly. Some are directly related to elimination of toxic substances. Others are associated with emotional clearing.

An Integrated Health Program. Results are enhanced by following a total health program. Eat natural foods, breathe deeply, rest plenty and exercise a little each day. Nutritional supplements can be very helpful. Take excellent care of oneself.

Reduce one?s exposure to toxic chemicals at home and at work. Toxic products range from pesticides and insecticides to solvents, body care products, paints, cleaners, new carpeting and toxic building materials. Ventilate one?s house and where one works.

Electric Light Sauna Plans

The electric light sauna described here performs very well and is inexpensive. One mounts the lamps on a piece of wood and places the unit in a small closet or other enclosure. The ceiling needs to be 6 foot or less and the area about 4 foot x 4 foot, small enough to contain the heat.

If the area is larger, one will need more lamps or a small space heater to make sure the space heats up to about 115 degrees. One can easily add a false ceiling of cardboard, plywood or even cloth to a closet and partition the closet if needed. </FONT><A href=”” target=_new>Click here to view a photo of an electrical unit that can be mounted in a small closet or bathroom area.

Materials. The piece of wood can be veneer, plywood, masonite or solid wood about 12 inches high and 24 inches wide. If it is necessary to absolutely avoid all outgassing, use a 12 inch wide shelf board of pine, birch or some other wood. One could also use sheet metal.

One will need three 250-watt, red infrared heat lamps. I prefer General Electric, Phillips, Westinghouse or SLi lamps. Sylvania and Feit recently changed the filament design on their lamps, and they focus energy excessively for some people. Lamps are sold at hardware stores. The lamps must be the red type. Do not use clear heat lamps as their spectrum is not correct.

Also needed are three flush-mount bulb sockets. Large plastic or porcelain sockets can only be wired from the back. Drilling the holes will be more work. Smaller flush mount sockets are available that can be wired from the front.

Also needed is fifteen feet of heavy lamp cord, a medium duty male wall plug, 12 3/4-inch wood screws and 4 large washers, an electrical box for the switch, a SPST switch and switch cover plate. Optional is a switch-timer instead of a switch. Also needed is a 7-amp fuse and fuse holder, and a piece of 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth about 15 x 32 inches. This will form a protective screen so that nothing touches the hot bulbs.

Construction. Mount the sockets to the board or enclosure in a triangle shape. The top socket is centered while the two bottom sockets are 8 inches below and 9.5-10 inches apart. When you mount the electrical unit, the lower sockets are to be at abdomen height when sitting down, about 28 inches from the floor. The top socket is centered at chest height, about 36″ from the floor. <A href=”” target=_new>Click here to view a diagram of the basic lamp layout.

The preferred location of the switch is in one of the upper corners above the bulbs if one places the sockets on a board. If one builds an enclosure, the switch can go on another wall, away from the bulbs.

Wire the sockets in parallel or the unit will not work correctly. This is most important. This means wires do not go from one socket to the next. Two power wires must go to each socket individually.

For the protective screen, the hardware cloth will be bent into a C shape with 1inch flanges at each end. Bend the 32-inch piece of mesh 90 degrees at 1 inch. Make another 90 degree bend at 9 inches, another at 23 inches and another at 31inches. This should form a C shape with 1 inch flanges at each end for fastening to the wood with four wood screws and large washers, two on the bottom and two on top.

Mounting and Ventilation. Secure the unit it so it will not fall over. Ventilating the sauna is helpful. If building an enclosure, leave a 1-2 inch opening across the top at the front and back.

Enclosures. These can be of wood, glass or even cardboard. No special materials are required because the temperature stays mild. Build the enclosure about 4 feet by 4 feet by 5 or 6 feet high. The heat will dissipate if the space is too large. A sauna cabinet where one?s head remains outside is helpful for claustrophobics but less effective. Exposing the head to far-infrared radiation is most desirable.

Siding made of cedar or fir is a popular sauna material. Tongue-and-groove siding slides into a frame and few nails are required. Walls can be built as modules, then screwed together. Cedar gives off terpenes that may affect chemically sensitive individuals. Redwood may also outgas.

Plywood will work, since the enclosure stays relatively cool. It is less recommended for the chemically sensitive due to the glue it contains. One may use glass for one wall. Glass reflects far infrared energy and avoids a claustrophobic feeling but single-pane glass is a poor insulator. Less expensive enclosure options are cardboard boxes or blankets. Tape or staple together two refrigerator boxes. To use blankets, build a frame of wood, PVC pipe or light weight stainless steel and hang blankets over the frame.

Cautions. Observe all cautions as with any electrical appliance exposed to heat and moisture. Do not touch bulbs during use, or let water, sweat, towels or anything touch them. Accidents can happen in saunas. Always move slowly and carefully. Never allow young children to play in or use the sauna unaccompanied. I cannot be responsible for misuse of the sauna or poor construction. <A href=”” target=_new>For more information, see the 125-page Manual of Sauna Therapy</a>.

Sauna Frame Enclosure Plans

An excellent inexpensive enclosure suitable for apartments and portable use consists of a frame over which one places blankets, a cloth drop cloth or fabric. The following design requires no special skills or tools. The frame parts cost less than .00. <A href=”” target=_new>Click here to view a photo of the enclosure frame.

Materials. The frame requires five 10-foot sticks of the thicker (SCH 40, 480 PSI) 3/4-inch white PVC pipe. Also required are four 3/4-inch PVC T-connectors and eight 3/4-inch PVC elbows. One will need four 3/4-inch pipe clamps and eight machine screws and nuts to fasten the clamps to the lamp unit. PVC cement is not needed.

If you are chemically sensitive and are concerned about using PVC pipe, building supply stores sell long pieces of L-shaped, thin stainless steel used for stucco walls. It is very inexpensive and already has holes in it along its length. It is cut with tin ships and could be used to make an excellent frame.

The Frame Cover. One may cover the frame with two queen or king-size blankets, fabric such as fleece, flannel or velour, quilts, comforters or canvas. A cloth painter’s drop cloth that is 14? x 24? is sold at Home Depot and works beautifully as long as the width of the frame is reduced to three-foot wide instead of 4-foot wide. I do not recommend an aluminum-coated material.

To fasten fabric or blankets to the frame, an excellent way is to buy large (2?) paper clasps, sometimes called butterfly clips, at an office supply store. These work very well. One could also use large safety pins or clothespins to hold the blankets or fabric in place.

You will also need a small stool or chair without a back to sit on. The stool or chair may be of metal, wood or even plastic. The bottom part of the sauna does not get too hot, so outgassing is usually not a problem. A painted surface is also okay.

Tools required are a hack saw or pipe cutter to cut PVC pipe, tape measure and a rubber hammer to tap pieces together if they are stiff. No PVC glue is needed.

The enclosure is designed to be connected to a board made of solid wood, plywood, masonite or other material about 24 inches wide and 12 inches high. The board has the lamp sockets and switch mounted as described in Appendix I. One forces the PVC frame to narrow where it connects to the board. It will flare out and become wider as one moves away from the board. The design shown is five feet high, high enough for most people.

Enclosure Assembly. Cut the PVC pipe into four 5-foot sections, six 4-foot sections and four 3-inch sections. Assemble as shown in the photo of the completed unit. Push pipe sections into the connectors and use a rubber hammer to gently tap the pipe firmly into the connectors. Assembling the unit on a hard floor will help, as one can place the pipe on the floor when tapping them with a hammer. No cement should be necessary unless pipe is very loose in the connectors. The order of assembly of the sections does not matter.

Secure a board about 24 inches wide containing the lamp sockets to the PVC frame with four 3/4-inch pipe clamps. The frame will bend to accommodate the size of the board. This in fact adds rigidity to the structure. The lamp height will be adjustable by moving the board up or down along the vertical PVC pipe sections. The upper lamp should be at chest height when sitting and the lower lamps at abdomen height.

When assembly is complete, cover with two or more large blankets, fleece, quilts, comforters or heavy fabric overlapping at the far end to create a convenient entrance. Add a bench to sit on, a towel or two to cover the floor, screw in the three lamps and the sauna should be ready for use.

Warnings: Be sure to have a guard in front of the lamps and that fabric or blankets are 12 inches or more from the heat lamps to avoid a fire hazard. Pull blankets or fabric tight near the lamps so it does not hang loosely near the lamps. Avoid leaving the lamps on when no one is present.

Infrared Electric Light Sauna Kits

I am unaware of anyone manufacturing electric light saunas. Until they are manufactured commercially.

I am offering two ways to create one:

1) an assembled electrical unit ready for mounting in an enclosure

2) an almost complete sauna. This includes the assembled electrical unit and a PVC pipe frame kit. All you have to add is several blankets or heavy fabric like flannel to cover the frame and a stool to sit on to have a complete sauna.

Here is more detail about the units:

1) Assembled and Wired Electrical Unit. This consists of a board 12 inches high and 24 inches wide. On it are mounted three heavy-duty lamp sockets and an on-off switch. A wire mesh guard covers the area where the lamps are placed. A twelve-foot heavy-duty lamp cord plugs into any 110-volt outlet. The three lamps draw under 7 amps. The unit includes an internal 7-amp fuse. The board is thin oak veneer plywood that does not contain formaldehyde.<BR>Also included are three 250-watt red infrared heat lamps, a thermometer, mounting instructions, basic sauna protocol and cautions for use. This unit is designed to be mounted in a small closet, small bathroom or an enclosure you build. It has pre-drilled mounting holes for wall mounting and for attaching pipe straps to mount to a PVC frame. No assembly or wiring are required. The unit is not UL approved. The price including regular shipping and handling is 9.00.
Almost Complete Sauna. This consists of an assembled and wired electrical unit as described above. It also includes all the precut parts for a frame sauna enclosure. The frame is 5 feet high, 4 feet long and between 2 and 4 feet wide. It is designed for one person. The frame members are made of PVC pipe that assembles without tools in about 30 minutes. No glue is required. Just push the pieces together or tap together lightly with a hammer.

It is called an almost complete sauna because you will need to supply blankets, heavy fabric such as flannel or fleece, or a painter?s drop cloth to cover the frame and create the enclosure. You also supply a small stool or chair without a back to sit on inside the enclosure. The unit does not include the fabric covering or the stool.

The unit comes with assembly instructions and diagrams, and basic sauna instructions and protocol. The frame comes apart in 20 minutes if the unit has to be moved or transported. The price including regular shipping and handling is 9.00.

For questions about light sauna kits or complete units, construction or operation contact me at


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