“Tervasauna” Tar Sauna: What Is This Amazing Tradition?

tervasauna tar sauna

The word “tervasauna” combines “terva,” which means tar, and “sauna,” the Finnish word for sauna. Tar sauna refers to a sauna that uses tar, usually pine tar, in its heating process or as part of its construction.

What is Tervasauna?

Tervasauna, tar sauna, is part of the Finnish sauna tradition, which values the sensory experience of sauna-going, including the feel of the heat, the sound of sizzling water on hot stones, and the smell of natural wood or tar. The tervasauna is especially appreciated by those who enjoy a more intense and rustic sauna experience.

In a tervasauna, the pine tar is often applied to the wood of the sauna itself, serving both as a protective agent and for its distinct, pleasant aroma. When the sauna heats up, the warm air releases the scent of the tar, creating a unique and immersive experience. The aroma is deep, smoky, and woody, and is thought to add to the relaxation and health benefits of the sauna.

Brief History Of Tar Sauna

The history of the tar sauna, or “tervasauna” in Finnish, is an intriguing blend of practicality and tradition. Here’s a brief overview:

The Early Use of Tar in a Nordics

Tar has been used in the Nordic countries for centuries. Historically, it was vital in preserving and waterproofing wooden ships, a crucial industry in maritime Scandinavia. Pine tar was particularly favored due to its availability from the vast coniferous forests of the region.

Introduction of Tar into Saunas

The integration of tar into the sauna experience is believed to have originated from its use in wood preservation. As saunas were primarily constructed of wood, applying tar was a practical method to protect these structures from moisture and decay.

Over time, the aromatic properties of heated tar became appreciated as part of the sauna experience.

Cultural and Therapeutic Aspects of Tervasauna

The tervasauna became known not just for its practical benefits but also for its unique aroma and the therapeutic experience it offered. The scent of tar was thought to enhance the relaxation and purification processes associated with traditional sauna use.

Modern Adaptations of Tar in a Sauna

While the use of actual tar in constructing saunas has decreased due to modern building materials and methods, the tradition continues through the use of tar scents or essential oils. These products allow sauna users to enjoy the distinctive tar aroma in a more convenient and accessible way.

How To Extract Tar

Pine tar is a traditional wood preservative made from the resin of pine trees. In the context of a tervasauna, the pine tar can be used in several ways.

Pine tar for sauna
Pine tar for sauna

It might be applied to the wood of the sauna to protect it and give it a distinctive aroma, or pine tar might be added to the water thrown onto the sauna’s hot stones, producing a unique and pleasant smell as it vaporizes.

This kind of sauna is appreciated for the unique scent and the atmosphere it creates, which is considered relaxing and beneficial for health by many. The aroma of the pine tar is thought to add to the overall therapeutic and immersive experience of the sauna.

Tar Essential Oil For a Great Sauna Experience

There are tar essential oils that can be used to enhance the sauna experience, particularly for those who appreciate the distinctive aroma of a traditional Finnish tervasauna. These oils are typically derived from pine tar or other wood tars and are specifically formulated for use in saunas.

When using tar essential oil in a sauna, a few drops are typically added to the water that is poured over the hot stones. This creates steam infused with the tar’s aroma, replicating the traditional tervasauna experience. The scent is known for its deep, smoky, and woody notes, which many find soothing and invigorating.

However, it’s important to ensure that the tar essential oil you choose is safe for use in saunas and does not contain any additives that could be harmful when heated or inhaled. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the amount to use and any safety precautions.

Mellis Pine Tar Sauna Scent
Mellis Pine Tar Sauna Scent. Find it in the Touch of Finland Store.

These products are usually available at sauna supply stores, online wellness shops, or stores specializing in natural and therapeutic oils.

Frequently Asked About Tervasauna

What is a Tervasauna?

A tervasauna is a traditional Finnish sauna that incorporates the use of tar, typically pine tar, in its heating process or construction. The word “tervasauna” combines “terva” (tar) and “sauna.” In these saunas, pine tar is applied to the wood or added to the water thrown onto the hot stones, releasing a unique smoky and woody aroma that enhances the sauna experience.

How Does Tar Enhance the Sauna Experience?

Tar, particularly pine tar, adds a distinct, smoky, and woody aroma to the sauna when heated. This aroma is considered relaxing and adds a rustic, traditional feel to the sauna experience. Many believe that the scent of tar also offers therapeutic benefits, such as improved relaxation and respiratory relief.

What are the Health Benefits of a Tar Sauna?

While empirical research on the specific health benefits of tar saunas is limited, users often report enhanced relaxation, stress reduction, and an overall sense of well-being. The warm, tar-infused air is also believed to help with respiratory issues and skin health, although these benefits largely stem from anecdotal evidence.

Can Tar Essential Oils Be Used in Modern Saunas?

Yes, tar essential oils can be used in modern saunas to mimic the experience of a traditional tervasauna. A few drops of these oils are added to the water that is poured over the sauna’s hot stones, creating steam with a tar-like aroma. It’s important to ensure that the oils are safe for this use and to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Is the Tervasauna Practice Unique to Finland?

While the tervasauna is closely associated with Finnish sauna culture, the use of tar in heat and steam treatments is not exclusive to Finland. However, the specific practice of using pine tar in saunas is deeply rooted in Finnish traditions and is a distinct part of their cultural heritage.

How Has the Tervasauna Evolved Over Time?

Originally, tervasaunas involved the actual application of tar to the wooden structures of the sauna. Over time, as construction techniques and materials have evolved, the direct use of tar has become less common. Instead, the tradition now lives on through the use of tar scents or essential oils, allowing for a similar sensory experience in a more convenient and accessible form.

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