Ions occur around us all the time whenever atoms and molecules have a net negative or positive charge. The charge changes when the atom or molecule gains or looses electrons.
Incredibly, the ratio of positive or negative ions around us has been shown in multiple studies to have physical and emotional affects, and even decrease depression. There are over 50 studies dating back almost 100 years that show negative ions can have a positive impact on your mood.
Through rapid evaporation, traditional saunas with rocks, high temperatures, and steam (ie. NOT infrared saunas) naturally create an environment of negative ions that have similarly been shown to boost the physical and mental affects of sauna bathing.
What role do negative ions play in the sauna, and is it possible that some of the health benefits of sauna use comes from exposure to negative ions?
Negative Ions Effects on Mood
The psychological effects of ions have been reported and studies for over 90 years.
Researchers at BMC Psychiatry analyzed 33 studies and concluded negative ions were strongly associated with lower depression ratings.
It’s widely believed that the negative ion environment that naturally occurs near waterfalls, and hot-spring areas contributes to the feeling “of refreshment that people experience.”
The problem with negative ion air purifiers is they often have a harmful biporduct of ozone. When tested in the laboratory, the ozone levels can reach harmful levels as shown in the video below:
It’s usually overlooked that traditional (wet) saunas create a rich environment of negative ions without creating ozone. The refreshing experience of negative ions in nature is remarkably similar to what people experience in the sauna known as Löyly.
Effects of Negative Ions in Sauna
“Implacable dry heat interrupted by waves of löyly is the essence of sauna” — Michael Nordskog, The Opposite of Cold (buy here)
Löyly is the heat and feeling derived from dropping water on hot sauna stones in a traditional Finnish sauna.
Löyly just happens to coincide with the highest number of negative ions in the sauna. The feeling of rejuvenation that is associated with negative ions at waterfalls creates a similar mental state.
This could explain why many Finns insist that wood burning saunas are superior to electric saunas. The temperature difference between the rocks and air is far greater in wood burning saunas, and thus they create far more negative ions.
In addition, sauna builders will tell you that ventilation is vitally important to good loyly and a proper sauna. Researchers looking at the relationship between negative ions and saunas have confirmed that inadequate ventilation in moder saunas actually creates a buildup of positive ions (the ones we don’t want).
“Scientists have found that if the air is not charged with enough negative ions and there are too many positive ones, humans become exhausted, anxious, and tense.” The oversupply of positive ions is a condition in cities associated with smog.