The origins of steam baths date back to centuries ago and nobody is sure of where they originated first. The ancient Greeks used steam rooms and so did ancient Romans, who perfected the art of building spas with their sophisticated thermae, an example of which can still be found in Bath, UK.
The Turkish also have steam rooms, called hammam, which are still widely used today and for this reason steam baths are often referred to as Turkish bath. In northern Russia steam rooms are very popular as well and they are called banja, while the Aztec also had their own version of steam baths and these are called temazcal.
Steam baths differ from dry saunas in that they use steam to convey heat and they are filled with steam. While dry saunas are heated up to a temperature of 80 – 100 degrees Celsius but with no humidity, steam rooms only reach a temperature that ranges between 40 and 46 degrees Celsius. However, humidity inside a steam room is 100%, so being inside a steam room feels as hot as being in a dry sauna as, because of the steam, the sweat does not evaporate and carry away heat from the body.
Steam rooms are heated with steam generators and they are almost airtight, thus stopping the steam from escaping. Steam baths are usually built with materials that do not absorb humidity, such as ceramic tiles and they have slanted ceilings, to prevent steam condensation from dripping onto bathers.
The health benefits of steam baths are mostly the same as dry sauna’s benefits (improve blood circulation,
clean the skin, relax, detox, improve immune system defences). However, steam rooms have added benefits for those suffering from respiratory problems, such as asthma, allergies, sinusitis and bronchitis because of the steam they contain. A possible downside of Turkish sauna is that it can be a breeding ground for germs, because of heat and humidity combined together. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting the steam room can overcome this problem.
It is possible to go from dry sauna to steam room and vice versa for as many times as one feels like it, as long as you cool down properly between sessions and listen to your body and stop if you do not feel too well.
There are several options on the market if you want to purchase your own steam bath: