The science behind a sauna makes all the difference in terms of its therapeutic benefits. But many of us don’t know much about “infrared energy,” let alone what it means for our health. To help educate consumers, we’re launching a series of blog posts that will address the characteristics and benefits of each infrared wavelength. This post focuses on far infrared energy, and in subsequent posts we’ll go in-depth and explore the benefits of mid and near infrared.

Let’s start with the basics:

What is Far Infrared Energy?

Energy produced by the sun travels to Earth as electromagnetic waves of various lengths. The complete range of wavelengths is referred to as the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared, or thermal, radiation is a specific band of energy within this spectrum. All living creatures experience the effects – both good and bad – of natural electromagnetic radiation every day. The full spectrum includes:

  • Short ultraviolet waves, which are dangerous to living things
  • Mid-length visible waves, which we recognize as the colors of the rainbow
  • Still longer infrared waves, whose energy permeates the body although they may or may not produce heat
  • A number of longer waves, such as microwaves and radio waves

Infrared waves are further categorized as far infrared (FIR), mid infrared (MIR), and near infrared (NIR).

A recent paper by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) notes that, although FIR is invisible, “the body experiences its energy as a gentle radiant heat which can penetrate up to 1.5 inches (almost 4 cm) beneath the skin.” As a result, FIR can affect the formation of molecular bonds and improve health at the cellular level.

People have used infrared radiation to relieve discomfort and illness for millennia. Dr. Edward Group of the Global Healing Center points out that our hands constantly emit FIR energy, and that in ancient China and India, palm healing was an established practice (it’s now more commonly known as reiki). Today, infrared saunas provide an advanced method of delivering infrared energy in a convenient and controlled way.

How is Far Infrared Used in Saunas?

A far infrared sauna uses a heater to emit invisible infrared light, which is experienced as radiant heat and absorbed immediately by the skin. Radiant heat doesn’t warm the air like traditional heaters do. Instead, objects in the path of the infrared rays absorb their energy directly.

The most effective infrared heaters use large carbon panels to evenly distribute far infrared heat at a relatively low, constant temperature throughout the sauna. This creates the optimal conditions for detoxification, blood pressure reduction, and relief from chronic illness. While every sauna will heat the body, not all of them provide the full therapeutic benefits of far infrared light. In a study conducted with UMKC, the patented Solocarbon® panels here at ºdegree Wellness were shown to reduce blood pressure and increase circulation at a statistically significant level. Solocarbon far infrared delivers the highest quality and quantity of infrared possible because of a highly emissive coating, which is proven 95-99% effective.

What are the Health Benefits of Far Infrared Exposure?

Some far infrared saunas have been clinically shown to raise core body temperature nearly 3 degrees, which:

  • Leads to a truly detoxifying sweat
  • Lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • Supports weight loss through waistline reduction

Numerous studies also have examined the benefits of far infrared radiation for medical conditions such as chronic heart failure, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Since 2009, FIR saunas have been shown to:

  • Improve cardiac and vascular function and reduce oxidative stress in patients with chronic heart failure
  • Enhance physical and general health, social functioning, stress, and fatigue in patients suffering from type II diabetes
  • Reduce pain, stiffness, and fatigue

Additional information on each of these studies is available from the NCBI. Degree Wellness saunas deliver the health benefits of near, mid, and far infrared wavelengths, so to learn more you’ll want to watch for our upcoming posts on the unique benefits of mid infrared and near infrared radiation!