Wellness dictionary

Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...

In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.


The sauna has been around the world for thousands of years in different variations. In Germany the sauna only became established after the 2nd World War. The form of the sauna, which is used most frequently, was made famous by the Finns in Central Europe. It is therefore also called the "Finnish sauna".  While the first decades were primarily concerned with physical well-being, nowadays the focus is on holistic relaxation for body, mind and soul. In addition to the classic Finnish sauna, visitors today often find a hammam, a rassoul, a herbal sauna or an infrared cabin in the wellness departments or sauna landscapes of many thermal spas. 

How does a visit to the sauna affect the body?

A classic sauna session is divided into two phases:

  • the heating phase and 
  • the cooling phase

In the heat-up phase, the skin comes into contact with the extreme heat immediately after entering the sauna through the heated air. However, as air is a poor conductor of heat, the actual heat transfer occurs through skin contact with the wood in the sauna. The wood charges up to 100° Celsius and evenly releases the heat to the air in the room in the form of radiant energy and heats the body accordingly. In order for the body to be able to tolerate the extreme temperature in the sauna, a lot of blood is pumped into the peripheral zones of the body

  • Arms
  • legs and the
  • Skin

pumped. This is because after just a few minutes in the sauna cabin, the temperature on the skin surface rises to 42° Celsius. The core temperature of the body also rises slowly to 38.5° Celsius. In order to prevent circulation problems at such a temperature, the organism works at full speed and does everything possible to ensure that the temperature drops back to 37° Celsius:

  • the heartbeat is increased and 
  • dilates the airways.

This means that the blood is supplied with plenty of oxygen via the lungs and the blood supply to the brain and heart is increased. The body begins to sweat and a protective insulating layer spreads over the entire surface of the skin. This air cushion shields the heat up to a certain point. This cools down the skin surface and the body temperature drops back to 37° Celsius. The stimulating effect of the sauna is therefore that the entire organism works at full speed to cope with the heat. In addition to the stimulation, there is also a feeling of relaxation, as the muscles are overheated in the sauna. This almost completely stops the muscle work, as the body stops any muscle work that could produce additional heat. 

How a visit to the sauna is structured?

After taking a sauna, cooling off in the fresh air and under a cold shower is just as important as the sauna itself. In the fresh air, the respiratory tract cools down and the lungs receive fresh oxygen. However, as air is a poor conductor of heat, you cannot do without a cold shower. Only under a cold water jet does the body release 20 times more heat than in the air.  Therefore, cold water applications such as a cold water bucket, a cold shower or an ice-cold plunge pool are absolutely necessary after every sauna session in order to normalise the body temperature as quickly as possible. The extreme cold after the sauna is both stimulation and relaxation. First of all, there is tension as the muscles contract and the blood vessels suddenly constrict. As in the sauna, the heart beats faster again for a short time, and the blood supply to the brain and heart is once again increased. 

After a cold shower, you should definitely take a warm foot bath. A warm footbath after the sauna will cause the constricted vessels to dilate again and the excess residual heat will be conducted out of the body's core. The body can now relax completely. The footbath after the sauna should last about 10 to 15 minutes, with the temperature slowly rising to 40° Celsius. It is advisable to go to a rest room afterwards to relax. It is important that the body does not cool down. Each resting phase should be twice as long as the sauna session itself. However, a visit to the sauna has not only a relaxing but also a healing effect. Numerous studies have proven this. 

How is a sauna infusion correctly practised and what kind of infusions are there?

During a sauna session there are usually three infusions. You should be in the sauna at least five minutes before the first infusion in order to sweat a little and relax.

The infusion is also made in peace and quiet. To do this, you take some water from the bucket with a ladle and slowly pour it over the hot sauna stones of the sauna oven. In this way, the water and fragrance can be optimally distributed in the sauna. How many ladles are used depends on the size of the sauna and your personal preferences. In a sauna for two people, one or two ladles are sufficient. In a large sauna with many people, such as those found in large sauna worlds, a whole infusion bucket can also be used.

After the infusion has been spread on the stones, wait about a minute until the fragrance has reached all visitors. Then the sauna master takes a towel and distributes the air in the upper part of the sauna. In doing so, he swings the towel in a circular motion, similar to a lasso. He then takes the towel at two ends, brings it over his head and guides it abruptly downwards, creating a strong air current. Every guest in the sauna should receive three blasts of air.

The second and third infusion is the same as the first. However, you can already use a different fragrance for the second infusion and, if you wish, add a little more water and a stronger fragrance for the third infusion. In the saunas of the large sauna landscapes and sauna worlds, a wide variety of infusions are available.

These include, for example:

  • flavoured infusions with essential oils
  • salt infusions or
  • Honey infusions.

What are the health benefits of a visit to the sauna?

The following healing aspects make a regular visit to the sauna worthwhile:

  1. Strengthening the immune system:
    Due to the strong blood circulation in the tissue and the respiratory tract, the physical defences increase dramatically. Regular visits to the sauna prevent colds and strengthen the immune system.

  2. Increase in performance:
    Regular sauna sessions increase the general performance capacity, as the extreme alternation of heat and cold releases a multitude of hormones that boost the fat metabolism, inhibit allergy and suppress inflammatory processes.
  3. Improvement of respiration:
    In the sauna not only the mind relaxes, but also the respiratory muscles and the bronchial passages dilate by about 15%. In addition, the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract are supplied with up to 7 times more blood than normal. This has a particularly beneficial effect on asthma.
  4. Detoxification of the body:
    Acidosis of the body is responsible for a variety of diseases. In the sauna, these harmful substances are broken down and disposed of by sweating through the skin and kidneys.
  5. Relief for heart and circulation:
    A regular visit to the sauna is an ideal support for the blood vessels and the circulation, as regular sweating regenerates the blood vessels and the circulation. The risk of heart attacks decreases.

How often can I go to the sauna?

How often you can go to the sauna per week depends on your personal well-being, but you should adjust the number of sauna sessions accordingly. The following rule of thumb applies:

  • 1 x per week sauna = 3 sauna sessions
  • 2 x per week sauna = 2 sauna sessions
  • Daily sauna = 1 course.

How am I optimally prepared for a visit to the sauna?

To take advantage of the healing effect of the sauna, you should pay attention to the following when visiting a sauna:

  • Never go to the sauna in a hurry, exhausted, hungry, alcoholic or ill
  • Never enter the sauna cabin wet
  • Do not cool down and go to the sauna with cold feet
  • Never sauna in swimwear
  • No loud conversations or sports during the sauna session
  • No more than 15 minutes per sauna session
  • Do not take more than 3 sauna sessions per day
  • Do not fall asleep during the sauna
  • Do not take a hot shower directly after the sauna
  • Do not let out the fresh air phase
  • Do not jump into a whirlpool or swimming pool immediately after a sauna session
  • No sports or strenuous activities directly after the sauna
  • Always take a break between sauna sessions
  • Do not rest undressed or uncovered during the cooling phase

When is a visit to the sauna harmful?

You should avoid a visit to the sauna if you suffer from the following illnesses:

  • Acute inflammations
  • febrile diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • unhealed wounds
  • flu-like infection
  • pathological dilatation of the vessels, especially in the face (couperose)
  • Advanced cancer
  • Circulatory disorders in the brain
  • glands or heart disease

Since when have saunas been around and where does the term come from?

Saunas or sweat baths were already an essential component for physical and mental cleansing many thousands of years ago. Archaeologists found in the Asian steppe probably the oldest saunas in history. These were merely small holes in the ground or an earth pit covered with branches and leaves and filled with red-hot stones. The descendants of the steppe inhabitants, who migrated as nomadic groups of people across the Bering Street to North America, took the tradition of sweating with them and later contributed to the spread of the sauna over the entire American continent.

The North American natives developed the tradition of the sweat lodge, the "Inipi", from the simple sweat bath. Originally, the sweat lodge was always the preparatory ritual for larger ceremonies. For several days people fasted and sweated again and again to get in contact with the higher powers. According to Indian belief, fasting and sweating led to a deep cleansing not only on the physical but also on the spiritual level.

But not only the original inhabitants, but also other cultures such as the Finns used the cleansing power of the sauna for themselves. The term sauna originally comes from the Finnish and refers to an earth or snow pit in which a fire was lit in order to sweat. Winters in Finland were long and harsh and the extensive forests provided enough fuel for the sauna stoves. But the sauna was also always a place where people gathered around the stove to get through the long and cold winters together. For a long time, the sauna was not only a sweat room for the Finns, but also a combination of living room, bathing room and multi-purpose room. The sauna was not only used for sweating, but also for smoking meat, baking bread and drying fruit. Even sick people were brought into the sauna, which was not fully heated. Marriages were made in the bridal sauna and children were born in the maternity sauna.

The Greeks and Romans were also famous for their bathing culture. In the centuries before our era, bathing was perfected by the Romans. Many famous and technically sophisticated thermal baths were built. They were fed by water pipes, had underfloor heating and various bathing and sweating rooms with different temperature levels.

What is the difference between a caldarium and the classic Finnish sauna?

A caldarium belonged to the Classical Roman thermal baths and is a mild steam sauna with moist warm air. With a temperature of between 40°C and 50°C, it is not nearly as warm as in a Finnish sauna. Heated are the floor and often also walls and benches.

The air humidity in the caldarium is almost 100% and is often used as preparation for a visit to the dry and hot sauna. The Caldarium is particularly suitable for people with a cardiovascular disease and elderly people, but is also popular with families with children. Although it doesn't get as warm in a caldarium as in a classical sauna, the muscles relax, tensions are released and the blood circulation is stimulated. Essential oils and herbal mixtures such as lavender, eucalyptus and camomile are often added to the mist bath. These essences care for and free the upper respiratory tract.

Related topics: Banja sauna - The Russian sauna Bio sauna Caldarium Steam bath – aromatherapy steam bath Detoxing Ice Fountain Finnish sauna Footbath Hamam Infrared sauna Laconium Sauna Maa Sauna Ruusu Sauna Sanarium Snow-treading Serail Bath Tecaldarium Tepidarium