Hot water therapy is a classic Ayurvedic treatment for digestion, clearing sinuses and the respiratory tract, and more. Here, learn the basics, plus dosha-specific recipes for hot water enhancements.
The Digestive Benefits of Hot Water
One of the classic Ayurvedic hydration, detox and rejuvenation therapies is to regularly consume hot water, or garam pani.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, warm or hot water cleanses and hydrates the digestive tract, and stimulates and scrubs the lymphatic system. Warm or hot water also enhances the quality of ahara rasa, which is the first nutrient fluid in the digestive tract.
Hot water strengthens the digestive fire, or agni, in the stomach (pachaka) and digestive enzymes (ranjaka) in the liver. This allows for a more efficient breakdown and assimilation of nutrients and the removal of toxic material (ama).
Ama is the accumulation of undigested food particles that irritate, inflame, and compromise the function of the intestinal lining as a protective barrier. Ama can find its way into tissues via the circulatory system (srotas). Hot water vasodilates the srotas in the body, supporting better circulation and the removal of cellular ama.
How to Use Hot Water Therapies
Ayurveda suggests boiling water for at least 10 minutes, as this changes the subtle properties of the water making it easier to assimilate into the body.
While beneficial in any season, drinking hot or warm water is particular good in the winter and spring to help balance vata and kapha. The heat balances the coldness of vata as well as the heaviness and congestion of kapha, while cold water would be aggravating. Hot water in the summer surprisingly helps to balance pitta by increased vasodilation of the tissues, supporting dissipation of heat.
Seasonal Hot Water Recipes
To help the hot water remove seasonal ama more effectively, the water can be enhanced with some herbs and spices.
Vata Hot Water : Add Lemon (1/4 lemon per 8 oz after boiling).
Pitta Hot Water: Add Fennel Seeds (1 tsp per 8 oz before boiling).
Kapha Hot Water: Add Ginger (add ½ tsp ginger root per 8 oz before boiling).
Detox Therapy: Take sips every 15-20 minutes for two weeks.
Maintenance Therapy: Sip hot water with meals and every couple of hours throughout the day
NOTE: Heat the water like tea, making sure it’s not scalding. If the water is too hot, it can irritate the cells of the esophagus. Studies suggest hot water is safe under 149 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Science Behind Hot Water Benefits
Relieve Intestinal Pain: One of the benefits of hot water therapy in Ayurveda is that it relieves pain. In a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, consuming warm or hot water was found to relive pain and intestinal spasms during a colonoscopy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
Enhances Digestive Strength: In the journal Animals, warm water was found to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the intestines of rabbits. Researchers gave one group of rabbits cold water and the other warm water during the winter months. They found that the rabbits that drank warm water digested and assimilated their food better and had significantly more good bacteria in their intestines than the cold-water group. This study supports the theory that warm water not only balances vata but enhances digestive strength and a more diverse microbiome.
In an older study, warm water helped the lower esophageal sphincter open more quickly allowing food to be more easily swallowed, Cold water tightened the lower esophageal sphincter and made it more difficult to swallow food.
Better Bowel Function: While there is little research to back up this Ayurvedic claim, in another study, warm water given after a surgery had a favorable effect on intestinal movements and a significant reduction in flatulence.
Relives Sinus Congestion: In a 1978 study in which hot water was compared to cold water for removing mucus from the respiratory tract, hot water along with chicken soup were significantly more effective. Ayurveda has long held that cold water increases mucus (kapha) and aggravates vata in the sinuses and respiratory tract.
In another study with 30 volunteers, a hot drink provided immediate and sustained relief from symptoms of a runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chilliness, and tiredness, whereas the same drink at room temperature only provided relief from symptoms of runny nose, cough, and sneezing.
Try a hot water therapy today and let us know what you notice.