Birch twigs in sauna

How to tie birch twigs before sauna

Get your circulation going by whipping yourself lightly across your back. The wonderful scent of birch and sap spreads throughout the sauna. No fragrance in the world could ever replace this.

Midsummer is usually the point in the year where we start enjoying birch twigs. The first birch twigs are what get the summer’s saunas off to a flying start. 

Silver birch (the one with the triangular leaves) is best for tying into bundles, the leaves are less likely to drop off and they leave less mess behind in the sauna. White birch has more of a scent, if the fragrance is what you’re after.

But of course, there’s nothing to stop you mixing the two in your bundle of birch twigs. In Finland, we call birch twig bundles “vasta” or “vihta”, depending on which part of Finland we’re from. There are different ways of tying birch twigs, too.

There’s no right or wrong way, but this is how we go about it

  1. Gather together some twigs about 50 cm in length – ideally silver birch, but if you like you can add a few twigs of white birch as well. Place them together to make a bundle of just the right thickness, with the undersides of the leaves facing outwards.

  2. Place the thinner twigs on the outside of your bundle, with the thicker ones more towards the middle. 

  3. Peel the bark off the bottoms of the twigs so that you have a shaft to hold onto. You then tie the twigs together using thin twigs with the bark removed – these have been twisted and bent to make them softer and more flexible. 

  4. Start by pushing the end of the twig “cord” through the shaft, then wind it round. Apply firm pressure while you’re doing this. Then stick the end of the “cord” back into the bundle. You can repeat this at a number of points on the bundle to make sure it holds firm. Finish off by creating a loop so that you can hang it up to dry. 

If this seems a bit of a long-winded job, you can use natural cord instead. Tie the twigs together tightly and wind the cord around at a number of points to firm up the shaft.

When you come to enjoy your sauna, fill a sauna bucket with boiling hot water and leave the birch twigs to simmer in it for a few moments.  The scent will be heavenly. And just before you use your bundle, put it on the sauna heater, on the rocks, for a short time.  When you’ve been sitting in the sauna for a while, when your skin is warm and a bit sweaty, that’s the best time health-wise to use your birch twigs.

 Health Benefits of bathing in sauna with a birch twig? 

  • Nourish your soul – the best medicine for your soul

  • Peace and quiet

  • Pain relief

  • Naturally antiseptic

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Warms you up on a cold day

  • Relaxing

  • Promotes circulation

  • Cleansing 

 Birch leaves contain essential oil that can help to relieve pain. They’re said to be anti-inflammatory as well. Whipping the skin with birch twigs increases the circulation, and that can help to relieve pain as well. It also acts as a kind of soap and is used to wash grease and dirt off the skin. 

You can guarantee that birch twigs will be available by wrapping some up tightly in clingfilm and putting them in the freezer. Do that the summer before. If you haven’t done that, you’ll just have to be patient and wait for the birch trees to be ready. Remember, frozen birch twigs have to be thawed at normal room temperature, not in the sauna.

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