Sweating Therapy (also known as Diaphoresis)  

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'Better out than in'

People intuitively understand how valuable it can be to sweat-out the bad stuff. Raising a person’s temperature to the point of a profuse sweat has been, since ancient times, a vital healing practice in the many great traditional cultures of medicine including Native-American, Japanese and Scandinavian peoples, amongst others. Diaphoresis, or 'sweating therapy' was used to help speed healing from all kinds of illness, plus it was extensively used as a method to purify both the mind and the body.

Diaphoresis is a tough therapy in terms of comfort levels but it is entirely safe and In modern herbal medicine practice, we especially use this process to:

1) deepen and accelerate detoxification for a person undergoing a cleansing program

2) activate the immune system for a person who is

a) fighting an infection
b) afflicted with an auto-immune condition
c) become stuck in the post-viral syndrome.

The only practical difference between cleansing and activating immunity is that when using sweating therapy for cleansing it doesn't matter whether you use a bath or a sauna whereas most people will need to use a bath, or perhaps a very hot steam room, to get their temperature up to the level that it simulates the 'fever mechanism'. A significantly raised and sustained high temperature, such as you would get if you had a fever, is the whole point of the process because this is one of our body's main ways of rapidly activating and mobilising our immune systems.

Another practical matter relates to the 'cold & flu' tea described further on. If you can find a good herbalist or herb supplier, then do go to some trouble to get a similar mixture of herbs made up for you, some advice on how you might go about that is found in a short article here. However, if this is not possible then be assured that a strong infusion of the universally obtainable Chamomile will still achieve the desired action of 'diaphoresis' i.e. helping open up the circulation to bring about a therapeutic sweat.

Matricaria recutita (Chamomile)

Cold & flu tea recipe

For your reference or if you have access to more herbs, the 'Cold & Flu' tea we use is

  Chamomile 1 part
  Elder flower 1 part
  Yarrow 1 part
  Limeflowers 1 part
  Boneset ½ part

The ‘part’ means the proportions; which means we use the same amount of all of them by weight except for the boneset where we use half the weight of the others. Patients of the clinic are given a small jar of this tea when we need to do this therapy.

The dose, say you were using just chamomile, must be much stronger than a usual cup of herbal tea. If you were using average chamomile tea bags, I would put no less than 6 bags into a pot or plunger! For the cold & flu tea we use 3 heaped tsps to at least one large cup of freshly boiled water.

Whether it be chamomile or a combination such as the above, the tea needs to soak for at least 10-15 minutes, longer is ok too, and whatever you use to put the tea in you must make sure you keep it hot until you are ready to drink it. Putting a thick towel over the tea-pot, saucepan or plunger will easily achieve this.
Once the tea is prepared there are three stages, all equally important:


Stage 1: Heat Yourself Up

If you are doing sweating therapy to cleanse, then feel free to use a sauna if you prefer but be assured a bath will work just as well and it may well be closer to home! If you are doing the sweating therapy for your immune system, then as mentioned, a bath is preferred over a sauna.

Saunas get their temperature up by keeping the door shut and adding water to the hot rocks, if a bath needs to get hotter, then simply add more hot water when you have sufficiently adjusted to the initial heat.

Particularly because of their constitutional make-up, people are naturally hotter or cooler and at the same time dryer or damper, so they will significantly vary in terms of how long they need to stay in the bath or sauna as well as how hot they need to have it. So, rather than working with an expectation of minutes or degrees the best measure for you will be able to be seen in your skin and felt in your pulse.

Ideally you should already have a good sweat running from your exposed skin whilst still in the bath or sauna. You should also feel your pulse getting noticeably stronger and faster, even to the point of pounding, but people will experience this to different degrees according to their fitness and their constitution so again don’t get caught up in how fast it should go in terms of beats per minute.

Suffice to say that your pulse rate should be well and truly raised before you get out of the bath or sauna. This is the stage of the treatment that can be the most challenging and you may even feel some anxiety when your pulse rate significantly increases. Try to keep your breathing slow and steady when this happens and stay just a little longer. Try to breathe through the natural discomfort of becoming over-heated and remember that this process will soon pass.


Stage 2: Keep hot!

If you are a person who gets very low blood pressure you must be careful when you get out of the bath. Hold on to a hand rail or sit on the side of the bath until you are ready to stand unaided, It is vital that, as soon as you get out of the bath or sauna you keep the heat from rapidly escaping from your skin and thereby cooling you down too quickly so you need to have some combination of robes, towels or blankets readily to hand to trap in enough heat to ensure a sustained sweat.

How do you know how much to wrap up and for how long? Wrap up enough to put yourself into a kind of tent where you have little to no skin exposed. You want to get a sustained sweat going, if this is not naturally easy for you, then you will need plenty of keeping hot to do it. There is a point of overdoing it where you will feel distinctly uncomfortable and simply too hot, the pulse is usually really racing at this stage, and in that case just open a vent in your ‘tent’ and let out some heat - but try to tough it out as well as you can...

As the water evaporates from your skin in sweat you will release a lot of heat from your body. People will vary with how long it takes them to have a good sweat-out but I think you should aim to be having a profuse sweat for at least 5 minutes but if it goes for a lot longer then I suggest you go with the flow and don't watch the clock! Drink your tea and try to relax…


Stage 3: The tea

The tea stage of the sweating therapy is essential to open up the circulation in ways that the first two stages would not achieve by themselves. You should have the tea ready to pour next to wherever you are going to be sitting for stage 2.

You then stick your arm out of your 'tent' to push down the plunger or pour the tea and then bring the cup back inside. Remember that you need to be sipping the tea whilst it is still hot so again make sure the coffee plunger, tea pot or saucepan has been well-covered and kept hot whilst you are in the bath;

This is a treatment that can be repeated as needed. If a person is using it to help get over a bad cold or to break the fever of a flu, then once will likely be enough. If they are doing it to treat an auto-immune condition or the post-viral syndrome, then a series of sweating therapy sessions once a week or so may be required. With a cleansing program, we will typically aim for my patient to do the sweating therapy twice, the first time within a few days of starting their herbs and the second time within a week of the first.

The tea that we provide will stay fresh and potent for at least one year if kept in a cool, dark place and, if desired as most people find it quite pleasant tasting, any remainder can be beneficially drunk as a health-giving tea without having to break out into a sweat first!

Make sure you have plenty of fluids after doing the treatment including the day after. People typically feel literally washed-out after doing the sweating therapy so the best time to do it is in the evening when you can relax afterwards and go to bed after a while; expect a deep sleep!


Constitutional Health Note:

Lastly you might want to learn about your constitution to help better understand how toxicity or your immune system may have become an issue in your health as well as more about what kinds of foods, herbs, exercise etc. may best help you.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and, as an example to demonstrate how it works, it is obvious how much easier the damper constitutions (Tigers & Bears) get a sweat going compared with the dryer constitutions (Eagles or EBs) who may have to really stay heating up hard to truly do a sweat. There is a brief introduction to this subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!





© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd