Cold Shower Benefits: Ancient Rituals and Modern Health Boosts

| Modified on Oct 27, 2023
Cold Shower Benefits

The brisk sensation of a cold shower has been cherished and practiced long before it became a modern wellness trend.

Originating from ancient civilizations and traditions across the globe, this refreshing ritual has been a cornerstone of holistic well-being for millennia. From the Roman bathhouses, where cold plunges followed vigorous exercises, to the Nordic cultures practicing winter swimming and the revered Indian tradition of "Ishnan", cold water immersion has been a testament to vitality and resilience.

The philosophy behind these practices often goes deeper than merely feeling awake. In the context of "Ishnan", for instance, the body's natural reaction to the cold not only revitalizes the physical form but also rejuvenates the spirit, encapsulating the essence of renewal. Over time, these historical practices have laid the foundation for the contemporary appreciation of cold showers, leading us to explore and rediscover the plethora of health benefits they offer.

Beyond the immediate invigoration of the senses, cold showers enhance blood circulation, promote skin health, and sharpen mental well-being, bridging the wisdom of the past with the science of the present.

Ishnan: The Ancient Indian Ritual of Cold Water Rejuvenation

Emerging from the depths of ancient Indian traditions, the concept of "Ishnan" offers an insightful glimpse into humanity's early understanding of the body's physiological responses. Historically tracing back to the Vedic times, over 3,000 years ago, "Ishnan" was more than just a morning routine; it was a ritualistic practice centered around purification and rejuvenation.

"Ishnan" is rooted in the belief in the body's natural wisdom and its intrinsic ability to adapt to the sharp chill of cold water. The process is both intricate and fascinating:

When the skin first feels the embrace of cold water, it triggers an immediate physiological defense. The capillaries, which are among the body's most delicate blood vessels, respond by dilating or expanding. This reaction is the body's ingenious method to ensure that warm blood doesn't shy away from vital organs, even when faced with an external cold challenge.

Yet, the dance of the capillaries continues. As one remains under the cold stream, these vessels begin to constrict or narrow. This action sets into motion a vigorous movement of blood, ensuring a rich supply of oxygen and vital nutrients reaches every corner, especially our organs and glands.

The brilliance of "Ishnan" lies in its multi-dimensional benefits. Beyond the obvious regulation of body temperature, the enhanced blood flow rejuvenates the organ and gland secretions, pivotal for countless bodily functions. This not only revitalizes the physical aspect but also engenders a profound sense of renewed energy, encapsulating a feeling akin to "youthfulness" for those who engage in this age-old practice.

Pinnacle Health Benefits of Cold Showers

  • Enhanced Blood Circulation: Cold showers stimulate the capillaries, ensuring better circulation throughout the body, vital for optimal health.
  • Detoxification & Cleansing: This age-old ritual not only purifies the circulatory system but also induces muscle contraction, driving out toxins and harmful wastes.
  • Organ Health: A cold burst reduces blood pressure on internal organs, further facilitating an organic flush that replenishes them with a fresh blood supply.
  • Nervous System Fortification: Engaging with cold water showers strengthens both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, essential for our body's balance and response mechanisms.
  • Resilience Against Ailments: The consistent embrace of cold showers enhances the mucous membranes, bolstering the body's defense against allergies, hay fever, colds, and more.
  • Rejuvenation & Vitality: With the enhanced circulation from cold showers, many health issues can be mitigated or even negated over time.
  • Mental Alertness: The immediate shock of cold water can increase alertness by elevating one's heart rate and boosting the oxygen intake, leading to a natural dose of energy for the day.
  • Improved Skin and Hair: Cold water tightens skin pores and cuticles, which can result in healthier-looking skin and shinier, stronger hair.
  • Endorphin Release: Cold showers trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators, potentially aiding in stress reduction and mood improvement.
  • Increased Metabolic Rate: Exposure to cold can boost the body's metabolic rate, aiding in calorie burning and weight management.
  • Boosted Immunity: Regular exposure to cold water can increase the production of white blood cells, strengthening the body's resistance to infections and diseases.
  • Enhanced Muscle Recovery: After a strenuous workout, a cold shower can help reduce muscle soreness and accelerate recovery, which is why many athletes swear by ice baths.
  • Regulated Body Temperature: Over time, regular cold showers can improve the body's ability to regulate its temperature, making it more resilient to extreme cold or heat.
  • Stress Reduction: Cold showers have been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This can lead to a calmer, more balanced state of mind.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: Some people find that taking a cold shower before bedtime can improve sleep quality, as the body's core temperature plays a crucial role in sleep regulation.
  • Hormonal Balance: Exposure to cold can stimulate the production of beneficial hormones such as testosterone in men, enhancing mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.
  • Enhanced Lymphatic Movement: The cold stimulates the lymphatic system, which removes waste and toxins from the body, leading to better overall detoxification.
  • Deepened Breathing: The initial shock from cold water can cause deeper breathing, leading to an increase in oxygen intake. This can help improve overall lung capacity and oxygenate the body more efficiently.
  • Increased Discipline and Willpower: Regularly challenging oneself to embrace the discomfort of a cold shower can foster mental discipline and build willpower, traits that can be beneficial in various life scenarios.
  • Stimulation of Brown Fat Production: Unlike white fat, which stores calories, brown fat burns them to produce heat. Cold showers can stimulate brown fat activity, potentially aiding in weight management.

Research Findings on the Benefits of Cold Showers

Recent scientific studies have delved deeper into understanding the health benefits of cold showers, corroborating many of the age-old beliefs:

Mood Enhancement 

A 2008 study published in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggests that cold showers could be a potential treatment for depression. The cold water can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Boosting Metabolism 

Research indicates that cold exposure, like taking cold showers, can activate brown fat — a type of body fat that burns calories. This activation can potentially lead to increased energy expenditure and weight loss over time.

Immunity Boost 

A study conducted in the Netherlands found that individuals who took cold showers regularly reported a 29% reduction in sickness absence from work. While not directly implying fewer illnesses, the findings suggest that cold showers could bolster the immune response.

Improved Circulation 

The alternating contraction and relaxation of blood vessels during a cold shower can improve cardiovascular circulation, as supported by various cardiovascular studies. This can lead to better heart health and reduced risk of hypertension.

Enhanced Recovery Post-Exercise 

Athletes often indulge in cold water immersion or ice baths post-exercise to speed up muscle recovery. Cold showers can offer a similar, albeit milder, effect for regular fitness enthusiasts, as suggested by multiple sports medicine research papers.

Skin and Hair Health 

While direct research on cold showers and skin health is limited, dermatologists often agree that cold water can make hair shinier and skin more radiant by tightening cuticles and pores.

Explore testimonials from numerous Earth Clinic readers who have benefited from cold shower therapy, reporting relief from conditions such as depression, knee pain, bipolar mood fluctuations, intense anxiety, acid reflux, and more.

Have you experienced the benefits of cold water therapy? Share your story with us!


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Posted by Karthik (Hyderabad, India) on 02/01/2007

Cold Water -- It's really amazing how it feels to take a cold water bath in the mornings. I have had this acne problem for a long time and taking cold water bath has helped me a lot.


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Posted by Cindy (Illinois, Usa) on 08/30/2020 460 posts

The Universe, Cold Showers, The Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS - What IF... occurs to me - you know how the universe sometimes puts things together in awesome and amazingly huge and "coincidental" ways? I've been looking at cold showers and, by the effect they have on the body, it appears to me to trigger a sort of reboot to critical systems in which, cold water over the head, in particular, appears to have a singular effect of its own.

The practice goes back thousands of years as both a spiritual and medicinal ritual. It feels so good to the body and mind that the horrible awesomeness of it is craved when it's not available because the effect is so immediate and profound and that got me wondering about the effect it might have on ALS. What What might it be doing?

Dissipating an acute adrenaline attack? Breaking up loops of crippling thought patterns? Regardless of the PHYSICAL effects on the circulatory, renal, digestive, immune and nervous systems, I think everyone would agree that one's mental state is critical when it comes to serious illness. Particularly in this day and age, when it comes to the media's criminally negligent and deliberate horrification of the world around us.

Might it happen that an ALS patient who has found both his footing and his sense of humor might have a prayer answered? And might it happen that a universe/God with a divine sense of humor might answer and spread the results of such a prayer in such a light-hearted manner as the "viral" impact of something like the Ice Bucket Challenge?

A shallow lake is awesome for boat racing but it's horrible for cold water in a heat wave which got me wondering about the singular effect of dowsing the head first, The immediate effect on one's mental state, Lavina's idea of putting a camp shower bag of water in the fridge, ice water over the head in a pinch which made me think of the ice bucket challenge which turns out to be all about ALS which made me think about how I stumbled upon EC "way back when". And since 2 + 2 is 4, I thought about how AMAZING the universe/God is.

It probably seems silly, I know, but the most profoundly amazing things often are! Just a thought.


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Posted by Marissa (Williamstown, Nj) on 12/20/2011

I suffer from anxiety so much! And I want to start this cold shower therapy, but will it negatively effect my high blood pressure? btw this high blood pressure is all new ever since I've started with these headaches that seem like tension. (alot if pain on almost a daily basis) will the CST be a good solution for me? Does it help with headaches? Thanx so much!!

Replied by Timh
(Louisville, Usa)
2063 posts

Marissa, all your symptoms are common in heavy metal poisoning. Do you detox periodically? Master Cleanse? Take Vit/min supplement? Eat lots of greens, Chlorella? Oil Pull? it could likely be anything else like allergy or who knows, just sayin' it's likely.

From what I've read, cold shower therapy can be dangerous for LOW blood pressure folks. Try CST s l o w l y. Just a little cool at end of shower, more cooler and end of next shower etc.

I would do the CST along with other detox methods. A high profile, high potency multivitamin/mineral/foods supplement as directed on label alone will help very much if you are one who never supplement.

Posted by Sveta (Des Plaines, IL) on 07/23/2009

I just want to say that cold showers are great for major depression and anxiety disorder, but they don't help much if you don't shower your head. First, I was doing cold showers but was avoiding showering my head. It helped but I still had a lot of anxiety and depression going on. Then, after trying to SHOWER NOT ONLY MY BODY BUT MY HEAD too with cold water (I was told it's good for hair loss), I felt like I was born again. Plus, my hair doesn't seem to fall out much any more.

Posted by Sandy (San Rafael, CA) on 01/30/2008

About two months ago I was having yet another anxiety attack in the middle of the night. I got up and Googled and wound up at your site. Thank goodness! I read all the testamonials for Cold Shower Therapy. I tried it and much to my amazement I have felt so much better! I am grounded,emotionally stable and strong. My skin feels fabulous, my hair is soft and shiny, I am energized and also relaxed. I have tried so many treatments for severe depression,anxiety and panic attacks. CST has helped me beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, I now sleep so well that I am having amazing dreams as well. Thank you for this great resource and community !!!!!

Posted by Mike (Toronto, Canada) on 01/08/2008

I use the cold shower therapy everyday now, I try to do it at least twice a day. I also practice falun dafa which results me in good health also. Two power combination. I have more energy, more alert, less anxiety and less depression. It is uncomfortable at the beginning but well worth it.

Posted by Brenna (Rochester, NY, USA) on 08/07/2007

Well, I found your site from a link on and I suggested this "crazy idea" to my husband who's been dealing with panic attacks and anxiety. He hopped in, screamed for a few minutes, and came out looking a lot better than he had in a long time. I figured I'd "take the plunge" as well, just to try it out. As a FORMER hot-shower addict, I have to say that cold showers are IT!! I feel amazing, my face isn't dry, my hair is silky, etc. Plus, my husband happened to jump back in and...well, let's just say that "taking a cold shower" has a whole new meaning for us! ;)

Posted by Bryon (Cincinnati, OH) on 07/09/2007

I started cold showers about three or four weeks ago and I love them now. They seem to help me get rejuvenated in the morning and I have had less anxiety. Everyone should try them.

Replied by Jon
(Monongahela, PA)

Oh God...this is the most greatest thing in the world. I embrace the Eastern philosophy of medicine which talks about natural and organic treatments to the ailments that we all suffer. Unlike Western medicine that gives you toxic pills to swallow only to treat the symptoms and not to cure you. I feel great. I've never been so happy and energetic in my life and I feel like I'm high all day long...of course with out the impairment of psychotropic drugs. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED...yeah, there is the hesitation associated with jumping into a swimming pool, but please, just "bite the bullet" and do it.....every day.


Replied by Leon
(Wichita, Kansas)

I agree. The Western medicine is atrocious. The only side effects I get from them is insomnia, weight gain, nervousness, and irritability. But most of all it tastes bad. I am glad to embrace the Eastern way of handling the problems with my body through taking cold baths and nasal cleansing. It works. It worked for Neiman in the Bible (leprosy), it worked for Father Sebastian Kneipp (tuberculosis), and it works for me (asthma and allergies).

Replied by Hellfang
(Toronto, Canada)

Here's my own personal story that is related to this concept.

I've always been the person with the weakest immune system, when I was a kid I had anemia, and since then I would get the flu 3-4 times a year, each time resulting in 3 weeks in bed for recovery.

Then at age 25 by pure fluke I started taking cold showers (ok it was no fluke, I couldn't pay my heat bill so they cut off the hot water :S), and I immediatley started feeling a difference. I went on close to 5 years now without getting sick once! (I did eventually pay my bill but continued taking cold showers). As a matter of fact I once stayed in a household full of sick people, shaking hands, hugging and kissing, and I was the only who didn't get sick, even though I had the worst medical history of all of them.

Ever since, I've been taking cold showers exclusively. I've varied it now so that I start out with a hot shower, then halfway through I flip to cold water until my body temperature gets to the point where the water stops feeling cold and starts feeling refreshing. What this does is it promotes the flow of blood throughout your whole body, first by forcing the blood out of your organs to your skin (that's why your skin looks red-ish), then the cold water sends them rushing back into your vital organs. The amount of energy you gain is incredible, try it, you won't be sorry! Not to mention its better for your posture, & cures back pain.

Anyways, point is that showering with cold water everyday fools your body into thinking that you are about to get sick, so your immune system gets triggered and is prepared for any virus or microbes coming your way for the rest of the day.

I find it sad and ironic, that I've wasted thousands upon thousands of dollars going to doctors, taking medication, trying everything so that I can live a normal life without fearing something as trivial as a little WIND, having to spend 60-70 days a year in bed recovering, and the answer was as simple as a cold shower!

I don't understand why this isn't common knowledge. The answer isn't to try and cure diseases, it is prevention. Simple prevention.

In contrast, hot showers are so bad for you I'm surprised there are no awareness campaigns against them. Hot showers cause depression, bad posture, back pain, lowering of the immune system, low energy, they are horrible for your skin as they dry it out completely and makes your skin looser and makes you look older, its bad for your hair as it also dries it out and makes it weak and brittle...

In life there are few things that are for sure. Love, Reltionships, Religion, god, the future, the stock market....
But now, as silly as this sounds. the only sure thing in my life is a cold shower every morning!

Replied by Bipbip
(Budapest, Hungary)

Let's be serious!

Hydrotherapy wasn't invented by the East, and not all people use all the day heavy synthetic drugs in the West. Moreover, in some situations you must use those heavy drugs to save your life. Even the "Easterners" know this, because they have adopted the "Western" medicine that has saved millions of life. Let's keep ourselves on the middle of the road.

Replied by JJ

But we are not talking about some situations that are life threatening. Just routine, daily activities that can avoid Tylenol, Advil and depressants etc. Are we going to compare post-heart surgery medicines or anethestics for surgery to Tylenol avoiding medicines and other over the counter medicines that can be easily avoided...not prescribed for cures but symptoms? Let's be serious again!

Posted by Marc (Toronto, Canada) on 02/28/2007

I've been suffering from anxiety and depression for years, and recently I've started to get panic attacks. I finally got motivated to start researching my problem on my own because I've discovered that doctors (at least the ones I've been too) are useless.

I've discovered a lot of useful information on this website, but what really caught my eye is the cold shower therapy. I've never taken a cold shower in my life so I tried it today. Honestly, I've never felt so great. I don't know what it did to me, but I got a terrible fit of the giggles that lasted half an hour. I feel a lot better, and motivated, which is rare for me especially in the morning. I'll keep it up and see what else happens, but I definitely recommend trying it, for whatever reason. And Thank You for this great website!

Replied by Igor
(Moscow, Russia)

Dear Earth Clinic,

Thank you for this excellent forum on cold water therapy. I had an anxiety which seemed to 'come from nowhere'. Cold baths work on this much better than cold showers. Also swimming in the sea or lakes. There is a tradition of doing this in Russia and also northern China: but in modern times people think it is madness. In this time of credit crunch (2009) this is a practice which everyone can afford.

I have a question to people on this forum: what about time? I do it for 1-4 minutes, 2 times a day, before and after sleeping, every day, as my uncle showed me, like the brushing of the teeth. (The washing with warm water and soap I do before or after this: it seems not to matter which.) It seems that a longer time is not beneficial at all. So I am interested to know other people's ideas about timing.

Another question: I work sometimes in Arabia where it is very hot in the Summer times. There is no problem to make a bath of water, but it is not very cold. So do people know of any device/machine which can be put in a bath to make the water cold? Putting ice from the fridge is OK but this method needs a lot of ice.

Kind regards,


Replied by Lavina
(Lake Jackson, TX)

I live in texas and in the summer months there is often no cold water in the taps. I am sure several people have this problem. May i suggest buying one of those basic camping showers that come with a hose and hanging bag. You can put the bag in the fridge every night before bed and have an ice cold shower for the morning. Most of them have some sort of hook so you can hang it right on your shower head.

(Illinois, Usa)
460 posts

Lavina! A camp shower in the fridge? That's BRILLIANT!

Replied by Jared
(Melbourne, Austrailia)

If you need to keep water cool, you could use an aquarium cooler in the bath. Its used to keep water temperature low for cold water fish.

Replied by Ella
(Loon Lake, Washington, Usa)

Dear Igor from Russia, I have done hot and cold showers for many years. I have found that 3 minutes hot to 1 minute cold is just about right. Do this at least 3 times and each time increase the hot and then increase the cold. You will be surprised how much hotter and how much colder you can go. I aways end with cold and go at least 3 to 4 minutes longer on the last cold. You will feel amazing! When you are sore from working out or working hard, do the hot and cold, most of the time you will have no soreness when you are through. The hot opens the vessels and lets the blood flow freely and then the cold constricts the vessels and pushes all the old blood and toxins out, replacing it with fresh oxygenated blood, so you want to do this a few times to get all the pain causing toxins out. When ever you take a cold shower you want to do a few times of hot and cold to get the most benefit out of it. I hope this is helpful.

Posted by Roxanne (Miami, FL) on 08/31/2006

I took my first cold shower today, after reading about cold shower benefits on your website. It really does feel good! I was a little scared and started with lukewarm water. Brought it down as most as I could tolerate it. But man, the other people are right - it really does give you a ton of energy! I suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and this shower seemed to my anxiety in check. Thank you!

Posted by Chris (Kennewick, WA) on 03/30/2006

Hey! John from Arlington, TX, howdy. I thought "I" invented this cure for panic attacks. ;)

Posted by John (Arlington, TX)

I started taking cold showers after I developed panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and moderate depression. Cold showers have been the best distraction out of any other distraction to get a panic attack to go away. It feels so good when I take a cold shower that it is like an addiction to me. I feel instant gratification both physically and mentally when I take cold showers. They our the best to get rid of negative thoughts, minor physical pains from within the body, fear from a panic attack, and anger. At first I tense my muscles together so I can get use to it and then I let them un tense and let the water flow and it feels so great. Also I feel that my body is working better and I am a lot more alert and awake. I always feel like I am regenerated afterwards no matter how much I am going through. It is an intense body high. I would recommend this to anyone who suffers from anxiety, depression, or addiction problems. Remember when you take any of these three away you need to replace them with something else and cold showers is a great safe alternative that works wonders!

Anxiety, Depression

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Posted by Tim (North Dallas Area, Texas, Usa) on 05/12/2012

When I was a kid around the age of 9 or 10 I developed severe separation anxiety from my parents. It was hell just dropping me off at school in the morning, and was sleeping in my mothers bed at that age because leaving her caused me such distress. My anxiety disappeared sometime from turning 10-11 years old, I'm 17 now and about 1-2 years ago my anxiety returned but in a form of social anxiety and just whatever the 'bad feeling' could attach itself to. Like my anxiety is just a base feeling and attaches to whatever might cause me distress such as socializing in school which is a big stress for me as I am a pretty self conscious person.

Only about 2-3 days ago I came home from a jog and checked my Facebook and happened to notice a page "cold showers after a workout" and decided to try it out as I was pretty sweaty and hot from running (I live in Texas it starts to get warm/hot this time of year). I had my first cold shower probably about 3 days ago. I felt very refreshed and energized and almost anew after my first cold shower.

Now after only 2 days of practicing cold showers I have to say, it's definitely got some sort of therapeutic value in it for me. My thoughts seem clearer and a bit more focused but most of all I noticed the energy and motivation gain. I didn't have to make myself want to jog anymore, the jog was no longer an endurance. It was fun and I kept pushing harder and felt like it wasn't a chore but a pleasure. Everything seems the same way, it's no longer something I just have to do I enjoy doing more things. I guess to sum it up it's helped with my depression which I have also been suffering from since my recurring anxiety.

The most amazing moment during a cold shower is when you flip from hot to freezing water and nothing is there but the shock and the feeling of the freezing water rushing around your body. It's almost like a spiritual release of stress because your mind goes into a shock and all you can think of is how uncomfortable the water is, and on top of that it's healthy! My acne seems to be smaller, still breaking out but it's not huge bumps anymore more like dots which is amazing because severe acne runs in my family. It's been 3 days since I started and it's almost like hot water is uncomfortable and cold water is where the relaxation is at. It's just amazing. I highly reccomend this to anyone, don't be scared I encourage you to flip that shower handle from hot to no heat whatsoever. You'll know when there is no heat in the water when the lever or whatever u use to adjust your water temperature gets to a certain point and you can hear the pipes make a lighter noise.

To get the best mental results ( ie not skin health or hair loss but the mental clearness and motivational feeling) I would recommend no Luke warm. Endure the cold and it will gift you with a fortitude of mental strength and clearness. It's like a high when you first flip it to cold, don't focus on how cold the water is just try to think of something else while that waters rushing around you and you'll realize your completely stress free! Ok ive written too much! I hope you all can find the same experience with this as me. Good luck and glad I found this site many other remedies I intend on trying.

Replied by Juliette
(Reston, Va)

I used to be on a cold shower kick and loved but but got out of the habit going to try it again thanks for posting!!

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Posted by Charlie (Biloxi, Ms) on 12/29/2009

I have been forced to take cold showers this winter because my underground gas line collapsed to my house and I can't afford to get it fixed. I have been taking a cold shower every mornig and night for almost three months and let me tell u it is brutal. However, my skin has never looked better and I have not had a blackhead or acne since I started taking the cold showers. I love it. I may never take another hot shower again.

Beautiful Skin
Posted by Steve (Santa Rosa, CA) on 10/01/2007

I have been taking cold showers for about a month. I also started a self massage with almond oil, especially on scalp. Hot showers and baths now feel like they drain energy. I take cold showers in the morning and at night. My hair and skin look and feel wonderful! I will never take hot showers again, unless I am coming out of a cold lake or something.