Chapter 26 - Bathing - Russian, Turkish, Vapor and Other Baths
Bathing - Russian, Turkish, Vapor, and Other Baths

26.1 Bathing - Russian, Turkish, Vapor, and Other Baths

BATHING, WITH ESPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE TURKISH AND RUSSIAN BATHS AND THEIR USE AT HOME. BATHING as practiced both for pleasure and cleanliness, has been the instinctive custom of every nation. Records date to the bathing in the Nile and Ganges. Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, and Assyrians were all lovers of the bath. The Romans surpassed all others in the variety and luxury of their baths, but to an excess of them may be ascribed much of the final effeminacy and physical degeneration of the Roman people. The Roman bather first entered the warm air room or , “tepidarium," where he sweated with his clothes on; here be was anointed, after which he passed into the “calidarium " or hot room, in one end of which was a bath; here he sweated more freely, and afterwards had plenty of cold water thrown over him from above his head: first warm, then tepid, and after, cold. Succeeding the bath, he was scraped and rubbed most briskly and again anointed. The popularity of these baths caused structures to be erected in every part of the city, and in a style of architecture which surpassed all other art buildings. The immensity of these buildings may be imagined from the fact that ruins of the baths of Titus and Caracalla extend one fourth mile on each side, while one room of the bath of Diocletian has been converted into a church of imposing proportions. The baths of Diocletian contained 3,200 seats for bathers. To such a pitch of luxury did the Romans reach in their bathhouses, that Seneca said they were dissatisfied unless they trod on gems in their bath. These structures finally were also equipped for all literary pursuits, for sports and games. These facts show how a simple custom of bathing became a national system of luxurious living. The Roman hour for bathing was one o'clock (before dinner), as it was supposed to promote the appetite, as it does. But these baths which gave such invigoration to the body, and which were synonyms of the highest art and culture, finally were one great means of Roman degeneracy. To such excess did they carry their hot baths, that the nation finally exchanged its manly vigor for Eastern effeminacy. Unbounded license in social evils took the place of gymnastic training and philosophical study. I mention these facts at length to show how bathing may be a most healthful practice and a most injurious custom. Modern baths are more or less the outcome of the old Roman bath, through the agency of the Mahometans, Turks, Russians, and Crusaders. The Turkish bath is a modified Roman bath, while the Russian bath, so far as its vapor is concerned, was practiced among the Indians. The Russian bath is essentially a vapor bath. In the centre of the building is an open space where one undresses. Around this space are doors opening into small rooms filled with vapor. In the centre of each room is a series of steps leading nearly to the ceiling. The bather lies on the lowest one of these steps and gradually ascends to higher and hotter ones. The first sensation is that of suffocation, the breathing is difficult, but soon perspiration bursts through the pores and breathing is easy and agreeable. These steps vary in heat from 96 to 110' F., and in olden times the temperature ranged very much higher than this. Bath attendants then flog the bather with birchen twigs or coarse towels, lather well with soap, and rinsing the latter off, the bather is rubbed down and put under a shower bath of ice cold water. The shock is great, but the sensation is pleasant after a few moments. In olden times the bather was made to rush out, steaming hot, and roll in the snow. Milder customs, of course, prevail to day, yet the Russian bath is not to be indulged in by all people at all times with impunity. When there is any tendency to heart disease, palpitation, vertigo, or fullness of the head, the vapor bath should be indulged in with caution or not at all. The Turkish bath differs from the Russian bath in that the atmosphere is dry. The bather first enters the ,”frigidarium," or cooling room, where he undresses and passes into the “tepidarium," or warm room, the temperature of which ranges from 110' to 140 F. The object of this room is to bring on a gentle perspiration, and to prepare the system for exposure to a still higher temperature. This is attained in the "calidarium," the temperature of which varies from 140 0 to 200' F. In this room the bather undergoes the operation of kneading or shampooing. To get the full benefit of this bath this process should never be omitted; the bands alone being the sole means of friction. After sweating, shampooing, and soaping, the bather passes into the 1, lavatorium " or wash room. In this room he begins with a warm shower bath, which is gradually changed to cool, and then to cold. This not only washes off perspiration and soap, but also closes the pores and causes a vigorous reaction. The feeblest people react readily. The bather then returns to the cooling room, where he lounges, wrapped in a sheet, to await the secondary perspiration. The Turkish bath is one of the most invigorating and refreshing institutions we have. It is devoid of danger almost to all, ff used in moderation. Very hot air rooms, as well as very hot baths, are unnecessary and dangerous to many, as the heart begins to labor and the blood vessels rapidly dilate. Fear is often expressed about passing from the hot air room to the cold water bath. There is absolutely no danger in pawing into cold water while in a state of profuse perspiration. Adverse changes are brought about through the nervous system of the skin; when this is elevated above the normal condition, cold water causes no shook; but when the power of the nervous system is depressed by being chilled, weary or by disease, then it is that ill results are apt to ensue. Precautions must always be taken in indulging in any bath. Never take a bath on a hungry stomach, as did the Roman, nor immediately after meals no more should a bath be taken when one is very weary or exhausted.

Warm baths simply relax and cleanse; but after all others, whether hot air, vapor, or sea bath, a good glow of the skin should follow. Elderly people should use tepid baths and mild Turkish baths; cold bathing chills the skin and depresses the nervous system. Cold ,sponge bathing is a useful adjunct to other health measures in the young and middle aged, often being the best preventive against catching cold. The duration of a bath may last from fifteen minutes to two hours. Too much bathing, especially with soap, deteriorates the skin by depriving it of its oily matters. The continued sweating of many water cures causes bad eruptions and boils, which are difficult of cure. These “humors," so called by many hydropathists, are not evidences that bad blood thus escapes from the body, but that the system has been much debilitated by too frequent bathing, or too prolonged sweating. Parts exposed like the face and hands must be frequently scraped and bathed, while the rest of the body needs soap and bath much less frequently. Sea, bathing should not be indulged in by the very old or young; by those whose circulation is languid; by persons who have head disease, chronic lung disorders, brain trouble or local congestions. A full reaction and a good glow must ensue, and not much time spent in the water. Don't cool off before plunging in the water; all the body warmth is needed for a full reaction; no hesitancy should be harbored about plunging in at once, as less heat is thus lost from the body, and the consequent shock to the nervous system is thereby much diminished. For home use both the Turkish and Russian bath may be much simplified.

The vapor for the Russian bath may be improvised as follows: The person sits on an open work chair, preferably a stool made for the purpose, and is surrounded by a water proof sheet fitting closely about the neck. Hot water is then poured over heated bricks placed underneath the chair. For more prolonged steaming, a hose may be run to the top of a boiler, on the stove, from whose tin cover projects a tin pipe, to which the hose may be attached. (Fig. 195.) The shampooing and soaping and cold douche may then be taken. For Turkish bath, hot air may be obtained by burning an alcohol lamp under the chair and using the covering mentioned above, or alcohol may be mixed with salt in a pan. (Fig. 196.) The shampooing and kneading of the muscles should be done by an assistant. Rubber tubing attached to the hot and cold water faucets of the bath room will readily furnish the requisite shower bath of warm, tepid, and cold water, as one or both of the rubber tubing are used. The essential features of both baths may thus very easily be procured by almost every household.

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