It can truly be said that Venik is symbolic of the Russian banya. Veniks are carefully prepared bundles of leafy twigs from various trees. These are used to bring steam to the skin and massage the body during Parenie treatment. This treatment has profound therapeutic value thanks to the medicinal compounds in the Veniks. Banya No.1 offers Parenie with leafy bundles of Birch, Oak and Eucalyptus, all medicinal plants in their own right.
Let’s have a closer look at the therapeutic value of each of them.
In the banya: mainly used for inhalation, steam infusion, body wash, occasionally parenie
The phytotherapeutic benefits of birch in the bathhouse setting rely mostly on volatile oils and flavonoids. Birch volatile oils (containing over 50 constituents) have antibacterial, antispasmodic, astringent and anti-fungal properties. Hyperoside, the most abundant flavonoid in birch, has anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-oxidative properties. Both volatile oils and flavonoids give birch its pleasant fragrance, and both exert their therapeutic effects when in direct contact with hot water or hot moist air.
This makes birch leafy bundle beneficial for:
- toning, strengthening and tightening the skin
- preventing bacterial and viral infections
- contributing to the reduction of inflammation in the body
- reducing pain in achy joints and muscles
Birch leaf extract is diuretic and anti-inflammatory when used internally. It helps to eliminate excess water from the body. It is an effective remedy for infections of the urinary system, and is also used to treat gout, mild rheumatic and muscle pain. Birch bark can also be used externally for muscle pain, when the fresh, wet internal side of the bark is placed against the skin.
In vitro studies done on betulin and betullinic acid (found in birch bark and birch sap) have shown the potential of these phytochemicals as anti-tumour agents.
In the banya: mainly used for parenie as it’s lite and its wide leaves shift steam well
High amounts of tannins in oak leaves provide astringent, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. Because tannins are water soluble, the use of oak leafy bundle is beneficial for:
- toning, strengthening and tightening the skin (especially good for oily skin)
- helping to relieve any skin inflammation
Oak leaves are prized for their rich forestry smell, which can be therapeutic in itself.
Small frequent doses of oak bark extract taken internally are effective against diarrhoea. Strong water extracts can be taken as a gargle for sore throats, tonsillitis, pharyngitis and laryngitis. Strong water extracts or diluted alcohol extracts can also be applied externally for any skin abrasions, for example, wheeping eczema or gingivitis.
In the banya: mainly used for inhalation, steam infusion
Eucalyptus leaves have a wonderfully strong scent thanks to their high content of volatile oils. Alpha-pipene (also found in conifer trees and responsible for the strong pine aroma) has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and sedative properties. Another compound of eucalyptus volatile oil d-limonene can help to reduce appetite and decrease stress and anxiety. Polyphenolic acids and flavonoids have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-oxidative properties. Eucalyptus oil is widely used as a medicated steam inhalation for treating infection and congestion of the lungs.
This makes eucalyptus leafy bundle beneficial for:
- relaxation of the body and mind, letting go
- prevention of bacterial or viral infections
- keeping lungs healthy and free from infection
- relieving sinusitis
- combatting the first signs of colds and coughs
- healthy skin, due to antimicrobial dermal effects
Eucalyptus leaf is taken internally as a lung decongestant and used for bronchitis, asthma and sinusitis. It has an expectorant quality, and thins mucus to help the lungs expel it. Eucalyptus leaf is used externally as an antimicrobial.
Now, that you know a bit more about each venik, why not experience their benefits in Banya No.1?
THE SCIENTIFIC BIT
BIRCH venik – Phytochemical profile:
Birch leaves and twigs consist mostly of flavonoids (mainly hyperoside, with luteolin and quercetin glycosides), saponins (mainly triterpenes betulin 30% and betullinic acid), volatile oils (up to 0.5%), tannins and resins. The chemistry of birch can vary with geographic origin, species, age and parts used (leaf or bark). Young leaves, for example, have a much higher flavonoid content.
OAK venik – Phytochemical profile:
The inner bark is used medicinally. It contains mostly tannins (15-20%) phlobatannin, ellagitannins and gallic acid, and a small volume of volatile compounds, flavonoids (quercetin) and triterpene saponins. Leaves contain flavonoids quercetin and tannins. The chemistry of oak can vary depending on geographical location, age and species, e.g. younger trees have more tannins.
EUCALYPTUS venik – Phytochemical profile:
Eucalyptus leaves have a high content of volatile oils (0.5-3.5%), (alpha-pipene, d-limonene); polyphenolic acids (caffeic, ferulic, gallic) and flavonoids (eucalyptin, hyperosides, rutin).
Author: Julija Milovanova-Palmer, Medical Herbalist/Phytotherapist, MNIMH, MCPP