The steam bath or Turkish bath (hamam) is a room dedicated to relaxation and care for the body. It has a temperature of almost fifty degrees and an atmosphere that is saturated in humidity. In this sense, it is very different from the Finnish sauna, which has a humidity of between 10 and 15%.
The Turkish bath is also known as vaporarium. In fact, it was a Roman invention, which became popular among the people they conquered. In Catalonia a 2nd century vaporarium has been preserved in the Balneari Broquetes, in Caldes de Montbui.
The name of Turkish bath is due to the huge expansion of this custom during the Ottoman Empire, after the Sultan of Constantinople deciding to build one imitating the Roman baths.
In Caldes de Boí and in other spas there is a type of steam bath that is called estufas (heaters), which obtain their heat and humidity directly from the subsoil. These natural steam baths have been dug out of the rock, from which the vapour emanates without the need of any additional mechanism.
The steam bath is very beneficial to the skin, particularly if it uses thermal water. It opens the pores and helps to eliminate toxins and to reduce acne. It also loosens muscles and promotes a general sensation of relaxation. In a vaporarium the microdrops of water that are in the air are also inhaled together with the mineral salts diluted in them. This cleans the respiratory tract and helps cure colds and other problems of this system.
However, remaining for more than ten minutes in the steam bath is not recommended. People with low blood pressure or varicose veins are also requested not to take steam baths.
Therapists recommend showering and drying oneself well in order to improve the skin’s breathing, before the steam bath and taking another shower afterwards to eliminate the sweat. The Ottomans of the 18th century passed through two rooms, one tepid and one hot, and afterwards they bathed in a cold water pool, relaxed with a massage and to finish off, rested for a while.