Temazcales – Traditional Mesoamerican Medicine
Temazcal translates as house, or temple of steam, and is a steam bath used in traditional Mesoamerican medicine and religion; indeed the Temazcal is as much about ritual as it is about the steam bath. Temazcales are usually dome shaped but some rectangular ones have been discovered and the structures can vary from brick and mortar to a mud hut.
To enter a Temazcal you must crawl through the low doorway and once inside a guide will throw water over hot volcanic rocks along with any mix of medicinal plants that he intends to use, the guide will then fan the steam around the temazcal, and the sweating begins!
The main use of temazcales is therapeutic and the use of the temazcal has survived in Oaxaca thanks to the actions of a few independent communities, and presently the temazcal is becoming a popular way to relax and seek spiritual experiences.
The benefits of temazcales are aledgedly numerous. Spiritually a temazcal bath creates a link to the earth and gives the bather a sensation of peace. Physically they are alleged to stimulate the lymph system, expel toxins from the body through sweating, tone up the skin, clear the airways, improve digestion, tone the nervous system, and help with muscle pain.
The temperature inside the temazcal is controlled by the guide and needs to be above body temperature, and during a temazcal session it is possible to lose up to 3kg of body weight (water and toxins). If medicinal plants are used during the temazcal these are chosen by the guide prior to the session and will depend on the ailment being targeted, there are also records of temazcales being used to assist childbirth.
Photos of Temazcales
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