The invisible waves of heat energy provided by infrared rays have the ability to permeate all layers of the body, penetrating into tissues, muscles and bone. When used as a part of medical treatment, far infrared therapy elevates the surface temperature of the body, which is believed to enhance body functioning on multiple levels. Far infrared heat lamps are often used in saunas and in hot yoga studios.
An Ancient Tradition
In 1922, a Japanese Buddhist Monk named Mikao Usui developed a technique called palm healing or reiki, as a form of complementary oriental medicine. Reiki practitioners believe that they can use internal infrared heat to transfer healing energy from one person to another. However, in 2008, a systematic review of randomized clinical trials failed to come up with sufficient evidence to prove claims of benefit from Reiki for conditions such as depression, pain or anxiety.
Melting Away Chronic Illness
Modern day use of infrared heat includes the use of far infrared heat lamps. These lamps provide all the healing components of natural infrared light without any of the negative effects of sun exposure. The subtle heating of far infrared rays has been shown to offer support to the immune system by increasing white blood cells and killer T-cells. Penetrating into the body, these healing rays have been shown to provide optimal conditioning to the cardiovascular system and provide an energy boost to the metabolic system. Boosting metabolism breaks down fat, cellulite, waste and other toxic substances. One hour of far infrared therapy has been shown to burn up to 900 metabolic calories while the sweating induced from its heat is believed to help the excretion of modern pollution levels in the body. "The Journal of the American College of Cardiology" has done studies that indicate that infrared sauna therapy improves blood vessel functioning significantly in high-cholesterol, smoking and diabetes patients because of lowered blood pressure, increased circulation, reduced blood sugars and weight loss.
Benefits to the Blood
Through expansion of capillaries that carry life giving blood, far infrared therapy increases oxygenation and regeneration of blood for improved functioning of the body’s major organs. This deep detoxification may allow hidden toxins in the body’s tissues to be immobilized or dissolved; heavy metals, poisons and carcinogenic material is thereby believed to be released from the body to enable optimal health.
Theories and Benefits for Mental Health
The availability of far infrared heat in saunas, clubs and hot yoga studios allows people to access the benefits of infrared heat easily. Along with the physical and physiological benefits of infrared heat are claims that far infrared heat may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Advocates believe that the reduction in mental health symptoms may be related to increased vitamin D production caused by regular exposure to far infrared heat which is beneficial in elevating and stabilizing the emotions, limbic and nervous system.
Though infrared heat is being shown to have documented health benefits for many, caution should always be exercised when exposing the body to excessive heat during pregnancy, infancy, childhood and in the senior years to avoid dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and heat stroke. Contact your health care provider before beginning a regime of infrared exposure to assess if it is right for you.