You might never have thought you'd thank Mother Nature for dirt, but immersing yourself in a mud bath may just change your mind. A therapeutic, healing treatment, mud baths are taken for a variety of reasons. Not only do they offer relaxation, they also promote radiant complexions, detoxify the skin, ease muscle tension, alleviate inflammation and soothe arthritis-related joint pains.
A Brief History
While the exact year of its inception is unknown, mud baths date back to the dawn of time. The ancient Romans incorporated the treatment into their culture, using it not only as a preventative and curative measure, but also as a socializing tool. The villas where the mud naturally rose were the popular meeting spots of the day. Members of the entire population - male and female, young and old, ill and healthy - would congregate, share lively conversation and immerse themselves in the mud.
The baths gained relative popularity in the United States in the 1940s and '50s, when the treatment experienced a revival. It was most popular amongst the elderly, who sought to relieve their arthritic and rheumatoid pains. In the '70s, the baths once again became a social convention of sorts. It was an age that saw a great interest in the concept of natural healing, and the treatment was looked upon as the ultimate stress-reliever.
The late 20th century again saw resurgence in the treatment's popularity. Considered ideal for a wide variety of skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, athlete's foot and dermatitis, the mud bath gave rise to treatment spas all over the United States. Today it is one of the most common alternative remedies in the world.
In the Mud
Though the idea of lying in a tub full of mud sounds unappealing at best, the contents of the substance are as natural and kind to the skin as anything can be. The mud bath consists of volcanic ash, peat moss and boiling spring water. Occasionally, essential oils are stirred into the bath, adding to the relaxing ambiance and providing the benefits of aromatherapy.
The Mud Bath Experience
The traditional mud treatment is typically divided into several parts:
- 1st Shower: The self-explanatory first step of the treatment is quick. It prepares the body for immersion.
- Mud Immersion: At a temperature of around 110 degrees, the rich mud mixture is extremely warm and thick. Immersion involves stepping into the tub and maneuvering the body into such a position that it is entirely covered in the substance. Remaining spots left untouched are covered by an attendant. This step typically lasts for 12 minutes. It is important to note the following points:
- The body will literally suspend itself in the mud; thus, you will not experience the sensation of settling at the bottom of the tub. Instead, bathers usually describe a weightless sensation settling over their bodies as their muscles relax.
- It is normal for first-timers to experience drowsiness and even drift off to sleep for a few moments during immersion. The combination of the steamy environment and the mud's soothing properties accounts for this sensation.
- It is equally normal, then, to experience mild difficulty getting out of the tub. The body is enrobed in a thick coating of mud, and it is often sticky and heavy. Alighting from the tub is akin to very light weightlifting.
- 2nd Shower: It usually takes several minutes to completely remove the viscous mud from the body. Due to its clingy property, it is usually necessary to manually "scrape" the mud off.
- Mineral Bath: This 15 minute bath subjects the body to the bubbling vigor of hot-air jets. Exceptionally soothing, the jets massage and energize the body, continuing the mud's therapeutic work.
- Steam Bath: A few minutes in a quiet, natural steam room warmed with moist heat is an optional part of the process. The steam room is often scented with aromatherapy oils to further enhance the experience.
- Blanket Wrap: During the final stage of the treatment, the body is swathed in clean, dry blankets in a private room. A nap is customary during this cooling down process.
The mud bath is often a prelude to an invigorating massage. Post-bath, the muscles are relaxed and loose from the heat, and the body is in optimum condition to reap the benefits of a massage. Select from several types of massages.
At-Home Mud Treatments
When the spa is more than a plane ride away, at-home mud treatments offer an excellent alternative. The following is a list of mud-enhanced retail products.
- Yves Rocher Botanical Mud Body Polish: This cleansing agent is packed with white clay. The clay purifies, detoxifies and mildly exfoliates, leaving the body exceptionally smooth and refreshed.
- Adovia Dead Sea Mud Soap: Suitable for the face and body, this deeply moisturizing soap infuses the skin with minerals from the Dead Sea. It is especially helpful in preventing acne and alleviating dermatitis.