Heat has been used therapeutically for centuries, perhaps longer. Even holding an injury with our own hands is a form of healing with heat. One of the most developed protocols for healing with heat is the svedhana therapy as found in the vast science of Ayurveda. Svedhana therapy comes from the Ayurvedic tradition, and offers a wide range of specific uses.
Why Heat Works So Well
According to Ayurveda, when vata (flow) is blocked, it can cause pain and dysfunction. The application of heat reduces vata to some extent, and dilates srotas (channels) to support normal flow. Heat also breaks up ama (congestion) that may be blocking vata, and thus supports long term therapeutic changes.
This is very similar to Western medicine's use of heat therapy:
Heat Supports Vasodilation (Widening of Blood Vessels)
- Expand channels and allow flow which decreases pain
- Expand channels and allow waste and congestion to be removed
- Expand channels and allow nutrients, blood and oxygen to enter the scenario and accelerate healing
Heat Supports Kinetics (Movement)
- Increase movement which increases metabolism and accelerates healing
- Increase movement which allows congestion to be removed easier
- Increase movement which reduces cytokine reactivity and thus modulates inflammatory response, tissue swelling and pain sensations
Optimizing Heat Therapies
Moist .vs. Dry
Moist heat tends to be more effective than dry heat because it penetrates the tissue more deeply. Wet saunas, herb steams and and even hot wet towels are more effective in many ways.
Short .vs. Long
Usually apply heat for 10-25 minutes at a time.
When Heat is Contraindicated
In Ayurveda you always take care when applying heat:
- To the head, chest and pelvic region as heating the brain, heart and genitals is forbidden
- To the abdomen and non-genital pelvic regions
- To the lower back in women who are menstruating or pregnant
- Over lesions, broken skin or healing fractures as seldom is this best but it can be
- Around the eyes
- Over any areas with plastic implants
- Over or near malignant tumors
- Over areas with impaired sensations or blood flow
- To very recent injuries that are still inflamed, which require ice
Using Herbs and Heat together Radically Accelerates Wellness
Herbs and heat work synergistically to support deep wellness. Heat can open channels that will accelerate the flow of the herbs into the tissue, which relaxes the tissue and increases blood flow. Heat and herbs is simply a really great team, especially when you consume the herbs orally with warm Tulsi Tea.