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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


Itar-TassVendors who make their own venik often sell them outside popular banyas.
Moscow still offers plenty of traditional banyas. The most important component of a banya is the venik, or leafy branches tied together into a bundle with which people hit themselves in order to improve circulation. Usually people come to the banya with their own venik, which they may have made themselves.

A good venik should have lots of leaves and no bare sticks (ouch). The handle should be thick enough to withstand the hitting and easy to hold in your hand. Additionally, different types of branches are used for different effects.

The most common venik is made of young birch branches. Birch leaves are soft and have a high concentration of vitamins A and C. They soothe muscle pain after physical exercise and clear the skin.

Another popular type of venik is made of oak branches, which have tougher leaves and are often used by elderly people. Oils found in oak leaves are believed to lower blood pressure.

Masochists in Siberia often use veniks made from freshly cut fir and pine branches. These can be softened by submerging them in boiling water for ten minutes, but still the effect might as well be called "Russian acupuncture." Hard-core banya enthusiasts use fir veniks to treat back pain and rheumatism.

The best veniks are usually sold at markets by the people who make them. Most markets in Moscow have venik sellers during the winter. Sometimes the sellers spontaneously materialize next to metro stations and well-known banya spots, such as the Sandunovsky Banyas on Kuznetsky Most. Good banyas always have veniks for sale as well.