One of the main questions surrounding far infrared saunas is that while they look good and feel good – do they really deliver on promised health benefits? From professional athletes to fibromyalgia patients, countless people stand by far infrared therapy as an effective means to ease medical symptoms and enhance overall wellness. Today, luxury infrared saunas not only provide a private sanctuary and gateway to relaxation, but also incorporate eco-friendly features to create the ultimate therapeutic experience.
What is a Far Infrared (FIR) Sauna?
Using a wavelength of warmth directly absorbed into the body, FIR saunas provide heat therapy with the healthy benefits of natural sunlight – but without the harmful repercussions of solar radiation. Far infrared saunas differ from the traditional models found at most gyms, hotels, and swimming facilities. Instead of heating the surrounding air, infrared saunas concentrate on warming the body.
Basic Points of Interest
Consumers interested in outfitting their home with a far infrared sauna often express common concerns that include:
*Price: Desirable qualities for far infrared saunas include first-rate craftsmanship, reliable production, and luxury features, which often add to the overall cost of a model. Standard features may include ergonomic backrests and magazine racks, while some saunas incorporate DVD/MP3 systems, chromotherapy lights (for Color Light Therapy), and oxygen ionization (which purifies the air) for a fee. The average cost of a far infrared sauna is $1,000 to $5,000. To sweeten your purchase, some companies offer lifetime warranties [http://www.infraredsauna.com/warranty.html].
*Wood: From aromatic Canadian cedar to hypoallergenic basswood, eco-friendly FIR saunas not only meet assembly standards, but are also aesthetically pleasing with inviting shades of red, blonde, and brown to match any décor. While aromatic cedar tends to last longer than other woods, it can also affect a small percentage of people with chemical sensitivities. Research the origin of wood. While Canadian basswood is 100% hypoallergenic, European or Asian sources can fall victim to insecticides used during international shipping.
*Heaters: Infrared saunas are generally built with carbon, steel incoloy, aluminum, or ceramic heaters, which produce varying amounts and strengths of infrared light. The majority of infrared saunas sold in the United States and Canada feature carbon heaters (which generally produce high quality, long wave infrared heat) or ceramic heaters, which emit more infrared heat than carbon models, but do so with a shorter wavelength that produces less therapeutic results.
According to Andy Kaps, Vice President, Sauna Works, Inc., "Health benefits and price are generally the biggest concerns. Customers want the most therapeutic sauna at a fair price. If shopping by price alone, customers will not be getting the most therapeutic sauna as there are a lot of low quality saunas on the market."
Health Benefits of Far Infrared Saunas
Many studies and research provide evidence that the high heat conditions and elevated body temperature associated with infrared saunas contribute to a wide range of health benefits. "Infrared saunas are wonderful tools for preventative health, especially to maintain heart health. The American Journal of Cardiology  reports that infrared treatment significantly improves endothelial (heart muscle) function in patients with coronary risk factors," says Aaron Zack, CFO and owner of Sunlighten Saunas.
Far infrared saunas not only speak to the heart, but also release endorphins that relieve stress and deliver a calming effect to painful body parts. Providing a deeply penetrating experience, FIR saunas encourage circulation, reduce muscle tension, and jumpstart the body's natural healing process. The deep sweating effects of FIR saunas can also cleanse the skin, flush body waste, relieve sinus congestion, and assist in burning calories.
Sauna use is often linked to weight loss, as the sweating process itself demands a certain amount of energy to sustain an increase in heart activity. High amounts of calories are typically burned during initial sauna sessions, with long-term use contributing to an average burn of 300 to 500 calories per 30-minute session. A sauna also accommodates users unable to participate in physical exercise, as 10 to 20 minutes can increase a heart rate by 50 to 75% and provide the same metabolic results .
Earth-friendly glues, organic materials, sustainable woods, and energy efficient heaters are just some of the ways the following companies are setting an example for the rest of the world:
* Clearlight Infrared Saunas: Using "Eco-Certified" cedar wood and 100% hypoallergenic basswood – Andy Kaps of Sauna Works, Inc states, "All glues used are "food grade" and are actually edible."
* Sunlighten Saunas (formerly Sunlight Saunas): Uses pure organic black carbon in energy-efficient heating systems – tested and approved by APEX Environmental Consultants.
* East Coast Saunas: Uses water-based glue, which eliminates off-gassing that occurs with adhesives containing toxins and chemicals.
* Saunatec: Timber comes from sustainable forests in the United States, Canada and Scandinavia to build energy efficient infrared units.
* Precision Therapy: Manufactures outdoor infrared sauna with ceramic heaters, comprised of hemlock and bamboo – an endless renewable resource that requires no replanting.
* Health Mate Sauna: Certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).
Test Out a Far Infrared Sauna
To quell any doubt or apprehension, conduct hands-on research to learn if an infrared sauna will make a luxuriously effective addition to your home.
"When people are skeptical, I first send them the infrared studies published in peer reviewed scientific journals, and then I ask them to try the saunas for themselves at a local spa, gym or doctor's office," says Aaron Zack of Sunlighten Saunas. "Many of our customers mail in copies of their 'before and after' medical reports, showing signs of lowered cholesterol, decreased toxins, weight loss, etc. It is very gratifying to offer a product that really works, and makes people feel better."
 Study: Repeated Thermal Therapy Improves Impaired Vascular Endothelial Function in Patients With Coronary Risk Factors by Dr. Imamura, et.al, Kagoshima Japan; Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2001
 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
By Yona Williams