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Salt baths - wellness and therapy
Salt baths, also called brine baths, are full baths in warm water with a salt content of up to six percent. First of all, they are used for relaxation, but they also have a positive effect on the skin and joints. That is why they are used to support therapies against allergies, skin problems and rheumatism.
In addition, supporters of brine baths attribute a wide range of healing effects to them, from detoxifying the body to combating cancer - however, there is no scientific evidence of such success.
Salt baths - the most important facts
You can find the most important facts about salt baths in our short overview.
- Salt baths are baths in a water-salt solution, the salt content of which usually corresponds to that of seawater and is only concentrated in special cases.
- Salt baths can help with skin diseases, colds, allergies and indigestion.
- They support therapy for stress, anxiety disorders and sleep problems.
- As part of a medically effective therapy, you should not carry out brine baths in acute ailments without consulting with medical experts.
- In healthy people, brine baths strengthen the body's defenses, are a method of mental training and have a relaxing effect.
- Salt baths have both a scientifically proven medical effect and their status in the wellness area. This bridging position of the salt baths - since they do not have to be prescribed by recognized doctors - makes them attractive for dubious providers who promise "miracle cures".
An overview of thermal baths that offer brine baths in Germany can help you find a suitable facility.
What do brine baths work against?
Salt baths can
- Skin diseases,
- Digestive problems,
- Lack of concentration,
- Sleep problems
- and provide relief from stress.
A positive influence of salt baths with insomnia depends on the cause of the symptoms.
Salt is necessary
The human body needs salt for blood pressure as well as for the water and nutrient balance. It is therefore neither coincidence nor superstition that salt has had a firm place in medicine for thousands of years - also in the form of baths in warm salt water, which were already known in ancient Rome.
The World Health Organization WHO recommends reducing sodium intake to no more than two grams per day. This corresponds to an amount of around five grams of salt.
What is brine?
Brine means salty water. Today, the term is used particularly for water that contains many mineral salts - including iodine, sulfur or radon. It is (not only, but also) a recognized medicine. A water-salt solution can be used
- for taking a bath,
- in envelopes and washes,
- to drink,
- for rinsing the mouth and nose
- or for inhalation.
The white gold
Salt is not only vital for keeping the body's circulation stable, it also spices up food and makes it durable. In addition to drying and pickling, salting fish or meat was one of the few ways to preserve food for people who did not live in regions with permafrost.
That is why salt was nicknamed "white gold" in the Middle Ages, and the salt trade made cities like Lüneburg as rich as residents of the coasts on the North and Baltic Seas. Cures by the sea, in which those affected bathed in salt water and inhaled the salt air, also served to alleviate diseases in ancient times.
Protection and cleaning
The enormous importance of salt for nutrition and medicine has led salt to take a firm place in religions and myths - as a symbol for protection and cleaning, at birth, baptism, wedding, when moving, when dying and during funeral rites. The same was true for salt water: in ancient Greece and Rome, evil spirits were driven away and salt was used for protective magic.
Germanic tribes considered natural springs with salt water to be sacred places where requests to the gods were particularly well heard and the sick could be cured. In the Christian Middle Ages, the religious symbolism of salt went hand in hand with real effectiveness. Healers used salt for full baths and foot baths, used to rub or wash the bodies of sick people and disinfected wounds (without a scientific explanation for disinfection at the time).
Healing skin diseases
Brine baths are effective against skin ailments. Envelopes soaked in salt help with acne because they are antibacterial and allow the pus to drain. Salt water also helps with chronic diseases that manifest on the skin, such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis. But regular brine baths are not enough here - the salt content should be significantly higher than six percent; the treatment should also be combined with UV radiation.
Complaints of motor skills
Brine baths have a positive influence on diseases of the bones and joints; Rheumatism, arthrosis and diseases of the spine can be significantly alleviated by salt water. Brine baths containing at least four percent salt or envelopes with such a solution are the order of the day. The salt dilates the vessels, relaxing the muscles and relieving the joints. As a result, those affected can move better and feel less pain. The salt water reduces the symptoms, but does not fight the causes.
Water aerobics in the brine thermal bath intensify the healing effect. As the salt water promotes buoyancy, those with restricted movement can perform movement therapies better and suffer less pain - in addition to the healing effects of the brine water itself. Even people who cannot move on land due to their illness can use the therapy start in salt water.
How do salt baths work in general?
Salt baths stretch the skin and make it more elastic. Salt inhibits inflammation and reduces allergies. It strengthens the body's defenses. A brine bath releases minerals which are then inhaled, which prevents respiratory diseases and combats existing complaints in this area.
Who are salt baths suitable for?
Salt baths are suitable for every healthy person to strengthen the body's defenses and prevent diseases of the skin or respiratory tract. To counteract existing diseases, brine baths are particularly suitable for
- and allergies.
Warm baths in salt water have proven particularly useful for people who suffer from high blood pressure because the blood vessels dilate.
Who should avoid salt baths?
You should avoid brine baths if you suffer from kidney problems or cardiovascular problems. Brine baths challenge the body and are not for people with low blood pressure - the brine bath dilates the blood vessels, which can further lower blood pressure.
If your skin is exceptionally dry, you should rub a lot of moisturizer after salt baths, because salt removes moisture from the body.
Thermal baths and spas offer brine baths throughout Germany. But you can also take a salt bath at home. You can buy sea salt from drugstores or pharmacies. The packaging usually contains information about the dosage, the water temperature and how often you should carry out such baths.
Attention: If you suffer from an acute illness and want to use salt water for self-help, please discuss this in advance with your family doctor or a dermatologist. Water temperature, salinity and frequency of the baths depend on the respective disease and an over or under dosage can be counterproductive.
Table salt is sufficient for home use
If you do not suffer from acute illnesses, "normal" table salt, which you pour into the warm bathtub, is also sufficient. For a full bath, you should count several kilograms of salt (about ten to 30 grams per liter lead to a salinity of one to three and a half percent) and bathe at least twice a week, for a period of at least one month. This strengthens the immune system and leads to better blood circulation to the skin. Especially in the cold season, when the cold pathogens are particularly active, you arm yourself against the annoying cough and runny nose. At the same time, you clean the skin, counteract pimples and blackheads as well as flaky skin.
This is how it's done
They only go into the water when the salt has completely dissolved and initially do not bathe for longer than ten minutes. After a few baths, you can increase the bathing time to 20 minutes. A salt bath would be pointless if you shower off completely afterwards. So just dry yourself carefully and then lie on a sofa with a light blanket for half an hour to relax.
How warm should it be?
In the case of direct therapy against diseases, please discuss the temperature and salt concentration of the brine bath exactly with the medical staff. However, if you are healthy and bathe in salt to promote your general health, the rule of thumb is: the water temperature should be the same as your body temperature so that you do not consume any energy for temperature compensation - this usually means just under 37 degrees Celsius.
Beware of eczema
Atopic dermatitis is one of the diseases in which affected people should only undertake salt baths with a doctor's consultation and adhere exactly to the instructions. In this case, the line between harm and benefit is very narrow.
Short salt baths counteract inflammation of the skin. However, the longer the salt acts, the more skin sebum dissolves. The result: the skin dries out and the symptoms of neurodermatitis worsen instead of improving.
Home remedies - salt wrap and salt washing
Not only full baths with salt water are suitable as home remedies, but also wraps and washes. Especially if you want to treat certain muscles or joints, they serve the same purpose and are less expensive than a full bath.
- For the salt wrap, put a cloth (made of linen, cotton or similar material) in water with three to four percent salt content and soak it. You then wring it out so that it is still moist but no longer drips and place it on the appropriate part of the body. Place a second dry cloth on the cloth and a wool blanket over it.
- For a wash, dip a washcloth in a three to four percent brine and dab or wipe it over the affected area. Then place a cloth and a woolen blanket on damp skin.
What does science say?
Brine baths are part of the therapy in various medical specialties. The applications and their effects can be shown more precisely from the perspective of the respective areas.
Brine baths from the perspective of dermatology
Brine baths alleviate skin diseases and play a not inconsiderable role in dermatology. Especially with skin problems, medication often does not improve and many sufferers only have the brine bath to relieve the symptoms.
The body only absorbs a small amount of water, but the salt penetrates deep into the cornea. It causes cell division in the skin to increase. This speeds up the regeneration of the cells. If magnesium is contained in the brine, desquamation is additionally increased.
However, high-percentage brine baths should be precisely coordinated with the treating doctor. Basically, you should never stay longer than 30 minutes. The chloride can otherwise irritate the skin and trigger corresponding symptoms such as reddening of the skin or itching.
Salt baths in orthopedics
From an orthopedic point of view, baths in highly enriched brine have a unique selling point: the body floats, which cannot be achieved with any other lying position. This relieves the pressure on the ligaments, as well as the joints, bones, spine and intervertebral discs - a huge advantage for people who are undergoing orthopedic treatment because of such ailments.
Regular brine baths not only relieve, but promote the healing of
- Herniated discs,
- Joint diseases
- and sciatica pain.
Brine in rehab
Brine baths have an important function in rehabilitation medicine. Floating in the brine relieves stress on bones and joints that are particularly stressed and extremely irritated after an operation. Brine baths accelerate healing. In the case of sprains, bruises and strains, salt baths promote self-healing by relieving the nervous system of stimuli. Those affected also experience less pain because more endorphins form in the brain.
Brine and mental disorders
Salt baths are effective in relieving stress. The relaxation during the baths leads to the reduction of the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Brine baths, for example, can complement therapy for anxiety disorders (but not replace it!). Brine baths are suitable in hospitals to relieve patients of the fear of upcoming operations.
Brine baths are also possible as an accompanying practice to deal with chronic nightmares, to alleviate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, and with all mental illnesses that are associated with increased stress, such as:
- lack of impulse control
- or ADHD.
Salt baths and relaxation
Beyond pathological problems, many people use brine baths to sharpen their perception. Because relaxation can also lead to looking at everyday conflicts from a different perspective and thus being able to solve them better. Salt baths are also a good option for mental training. However, this is of course also possible with any other bath additive and does not describe any peculiarity of brine baths.
Relaxation / wellness
For the majority of fans of brine baths, the focus is not on healing, but wellness. This means that these people visit brine baths to promote their well-being and not to combat acute or chronic illnesses. You should note a few points when choosing the provider.
What should you look out for?
Brine baths have the medical effects described here. However, they are not single cures, but a building block of holistic therapies. Brine baths generally do not fight the causes of diseases, but alleviate the symptoms and activate the body's self-healing powers. Salt baths are also excellent for healthy people because they strengthen the immune system so that the body can defend itself against infections.
In any case, you should make sure that a brine bath is suitable for you and if so, in what form (salinity, water temperature, bathing duration and frequency). If necessary, ask your doctor for advice.
Serious or untrustworthy?
Brine baths are medically effective, but not a “miracle cure”. They are also an integral part of the wellness market. At this interface between medicine and wellness, caution is sometimes advisable: dubious brine bath companies sometimes suggest that their brine baths can wash heavy metals out of the body or cure cancer, for which there is no scientific evidence. Vigilance is also indicated for formulations such as "detox", "let energies flow" or "restore harmony to the body". Such phrases usually do not describe therapies with a medically demonstrable effect.
Reputable providers, on the other hand, inform themselves that the salt baths are primarily used for relaxation and that they have a supportive effect in curing the disease. If it is not a question of doctors or clinics that use brine baths within medical therapies, serious operators also point out that their wellness offer is not a medical treatment and does not replace it. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Altmeyer, Peter: Dermatology and allergology therapy dictionary: Compact therapy from A-Z, Springer-Verlag, 2015
- Nissen, Hans-Peter et. al: "Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin", in: International Journal of Dermatology, Volume 44, Issue 2, February 2005, Wiley Online Library
- Antje Zimmermann: Stay healthy of course: the most successful natural therapies at a glance, Schlütersche Verlagsgesellschaft 2008
- B. Vogtherr, M. Berliner, K.L. Schmidt: On the effect of temperature-increasing freshwater and brine baths on the functional microcirculation of the skin in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, Thieme Verlag 1995, thieme-connect.com
- Chr. Gutenbrunner, G. Hildebrandt: Immediate and long-term effects of brine baths on the histamine sensitivity of the skin, Thieme Verlag, thieme-connect.de