The Health Benefits of Japanese Onsen Bath Salts
"Bathing once, the visitor was made fair of face and figure; bathing twice, all diseases were healed."
-Izumo regional chronicles
The Japanese bathing culture is famous and unique. It includes bathing rituals at home, in public bathhouses, or in one of the famous Japanese Onsen (温泉).
An Onsen is a Japanese hot spring with a water temperature that tempered anywhere between 104 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most Japanese hot springs are located within or close to a volcanic area, and it is estimated that there are more than 2,500 hot springs in Japan.
Some sources state that the Japanese Onsen culture dates back more than a thousand years, and many myths are associated with this part of the Japanese culture. However, the interest in hot spring experiences has gained significant popularity since the Edo period (1603–1868). And the study of therapeutic bathing (balneotherapy) has formally been established in 1931.
An Onsen can be located indoors or outdoors. Open-air baths are called Roten-buro (露天風呂) and are often embedded in beautiful landscapes. You can visit Onsen all year round, but it can be a unique experience to enjoy the hot outdoor bath while being surrounded by snow.
While visiting Japanese hot springs is a great experience in itself, it also offers many benefits for your body, mind, soul, and beauty.
This article will explain why you can benefit from Japanese baths physically and mentally.
Physical health benefits of Japanese Onsen:
The exposure to high water temperatures can help you to relax your muscles, flush out toxins, decrease inflammation, and promote sleep.
A study conducted by the National Aquatics and Sports Medicine Institute suggests that hot baths increase circulation. This can aid the healing process of muscles, joints, bone, and connective tissue injuries as well as help the recovery from intense workouts.
And according to recent research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, soaking in hot water can also accelerate the metabolism and thus aid weight loss.
However, the health benefits of Onsen don’t stop there.
Japanese Onsen naturally contains up to 19 different minerals such as calcium, sodium bicarbonate, sulfur, and iron. During the hot spring bath, these minerals are absorbed through the skin. This not only improves circulation and oxygen flow but also provides many health benefits.
According to the Japanese Association of Secluded Hot Spring Inns, bathing in Onsens can improve many conditions, which vary by the type of mineral.
Here just some examples of health benefits associated with specific minerals:
• Hot springs with high sulfur content are said to be especially beneficial for skin conditions such as dry skin, chronic dermatitis (eczema), or psoriasis. They also can improve the healing process of wounds and cuts. Besides, sulfur-based baths can help to reduce Hypertension (high blood pressure) and help Arteriosclerosis.
• Onsen high in copper and iron can help to improve anemia and menstrual disorders.
• Radium hot springs are supposed to alleviate pain-related issues such as joint pain, muscle pain, or Neuralgia (nerve pain).
• Carbon dioxide springs are said to aid chronic constipation, high blood pressure, or burns.
• The minerals sodium bicarbonate and chloride are beneficial for chronic dermatitis, wound healing, or gastrointestinal disorders.
• Silica can help to alleviate and soften dry skin.
The health benefits that can be attributed to the natural ingredients of hot springs are also referred to as the pharmacological effects of Onsen.
Apart from the health benefits that occur due to the heat and the mineral content of Japanese Onsen, the water pressure that occurs during bathing can improve blood flow and activate the lymphatic system.
Mental health benefits of Japanese Onsen
Next to the physical health benefits of hot springs, taking baths or visiting hot springs is also beneficial for your mental health:
For example, the ritual of bathing can help to combat stress due to the following reasons:
• Taking a bath or soaking in an Onsen allows you to escape your day-to-day life by creating a change of scenery.
• As you can’t be disturbed by your mobile phone or tablet while indulging in the hot spring experience, bathing is a perfect opportunity for a digital detox.
• Studies have shown that taking baths can activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s relaxation response.
• Taking time for a bath is perfect for intense self-care, which can help to decrease the risk of depression or burnout.
Apart from that, visiting a Japanese Onsen or taking a Japanese style bath, in general, is not only limited to the hot bath itself. Before entering the hot spring, it is crucial to thoroughly clean yourself, which – according to Buddhism beliefs - can help you to purify your mind and soul.
How to create an Onsen experience at home
If you don’t have the chance to visit a Japanese hot spring, you can try to create your Onsen experience in the privacy of your own home. Japanese bath salts are becoming popular around the world.
You can upgrade your at-home spa with bath products that contain minerals from the original Japanese Onsen to enjoy the mineral-specific health benefits.
The Yunohana Onsen Powder listed below is extracted directly from the mineral deposit on Mt. Yakedake in the northern Japanese Alps.
Unwind from a stressful day and enjoy this 100% all-natural Yunohana Onsen Powder in your bathtub. $12
There are also bath salts that combine both onsen minerals and herbal medicine. Matsuda pharmaceuticals has been continually researching for 40 years to pick the herbal medicine and onsen ingredients for this bath soak. See below.
From the distinct fragrance and antibacterial property, Japanese Cypress (Hinoki) is another important part of Onsen culture. It used structurally as well as additives to the bath water.
Numerous studies have shown that Japanese Cypress can help to alleviate various skin conditions such as acne and combat stress. Research suggests that Cypress has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal benefits, which can help to improve cuts, wounds, and infections.
We offer several different Hinoki, Japanese Cypress, products. From bath flakes to bath mats, the scent will take you right back to Japan. See below.
Tips and tricks to make the most out of your hot spring experience:
• Take enough time. Visiting an Onsen or bathing at home is meant for relaxation. Enjoying the preparation and resting after soaking is an essential part of the experience.
• Leave your phone or any digital device outside – this is your time for a digital detox.
• Turn your bath time in a mindful ritual: use all your senses to improve the experience and try to focus on the present.
A word of warning: if you suffer from any chronic health condition, please consult with your healthcare professional before visiting an Onsen or any other hot spring.