Mud: Dig It!
As you may know, the word
spa is the acronym for salus per aqua, Latin meaning "good
health through water." But did you know that all of that good
water also produces great mud? • Mud is one of the healthiest
components of spa therapies, when it comes from the correct source
and is used appropriately. In fact, mud is the cornerstone of many
spa therapies. What’s more, there are a variety of types of
mud, each notable for its own specific qualities. Let’s dig
into mud, from a historical perspective to its 21st -century presence.
• Spas have been around for hundreds of years. One of the
oldest, Karlovy Vary in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia, was founded in
1338. Karlovy Vary’s grounds boast 132 springs that have flowed
nearly 15 million years and vary in temperature from 95-160 degrees
Fahrenheit. Beethoven and Napoleon are just two among scores of
sheiks, maharajas and European rulers who have enjoyed the therapeutic
waters and mud in this area.
"Our mud is high in mineral
salts, CO2, argonite, calcite and trace iron deposits," said
Mila Syznovich, spokesperson for Karlovy Vary. "This area is
a river valley formed by granite tectonic blocks, which created
a rift valley. Subsequent basalt lava flows and argonite mineralizations
are also present. The thermal water infects the earth surrounding
it, lending the mud curative properties."
Interestingly, mud has a different
curative effect from each spring, varying from digestive healing
agents to vascular and metabolic aids.
Weil, M.D., a proponent of complementary health care, acknowledges
that mud seems to have something going for it. Research on the therapeutic
properties of mud has been much more intense in Europe and Russia
than in the United States, so Weil is cautious about endorsing mud
Weil said that based on the
application of thermal mud promotes long-lasting beneficial effects
for people with dry and seborrheic (flaking) skin. In 1999 another
Italian study reported that the combination of mudpacks and antidepressants
helped fibromyalgia patients both physiologically and psychologically.
"In Israel, medical researchers
at Ben-Gurion University found that rheumatoid arthritis patients
who were treated with daily mud packs, daily hot sulfur baths, and
a combination of the two, improved significantly compared to those
who didn’t receive any of these treatments."
Weil also raises some cautionary
issues, such as sanitation, indicating that single-use baths that
are completely sanitized and then replenished might be safer than
group-shared thermal facilities.
"I once took a mud bath
at a spa in Calistoga, California, and noticed that quite a number
of people got in and out of the mud before it was changed. You could
pick up a skin disease this way," said Weil. "Some of
the bugs responsible, such as pseudomonas, survive in high temperatures."
Muds used in spa therapies
are found throughout the world. Each mud has a different content
based on the geologic area from which it originated. Several governments,
including those in Italy and Israel, have actually conducted in-depth
studies as to the effectiveness of the mud found in their countries.
Dead Sea Mud
Just 16 miles east of Jerusalem lies the Dead Sea, with its healing
water, salts and mud. More than 1,300 feet below sea level and with
water 10 times saltier than that of the ocean, the Dead Sea is the
lowest point on earth and the most saline of all natural lakes.
The setting of the Dead Sea is unique not only in the waterbed itself,
but also the atmosphere above it. The atmospheric pressure is so
high around the Dead Sea that the sun’s harmful UV rays are
filtered out. There is more oxygen in the Dead Sea area than at
sea level. The waters are so salty that they contain absolutely
no life. The Dead Sea is so dense that individuals buoy to its surface.
In fact, every liter of water from the Dead Sea contains 320 grams
of salts and minerals.
According to Imar Levy, an
American dermatologist practicing in Chicago, there are several
beneficial elements to Dead Sea mud: magnesium, which is known for
its healing properties and soothing influence on the skin; bromide,
which is soothing, relaxing and has a tranquilizing effect on the
nervous system; iodine, which is important for the correct functioning
of the thyroid gland and a key factor in the body’s metabolic
exchanges; sulfur, which is a natural disinfectant and a great remedy
for acneic conditions; and potassium A, for moisturizing and emulsion.
Levy tested a Dead Sea mud
mask on 30 women of different age groups and varying skin tones.
He found that the facial mud mask both cleanses and moisturizes
"The clay’s drawing
qualities reach deep into the pores, thoroughly cleansing and removing
grime, which impedes the nourishing process," Levy said. "Through
reverse osmosis, minerals from the mud nourish the skin and restore
its vitality. The mineral action also works to tighten the pores."
When coupled with massage,
a Dead Sea body treatment can help speed lymphatic drainage, thereby
ridding the body of toxins, according to a study initiated by the
Israeli government and conducted by Levy.
At the Dead Sea Medical Center,
patients from all over the world come for treatments and relaxation.
A combination of mineralized water; black mud, highly oxygenated
air and filtered sun make for a curative combination of therapeutic
choices. Among the skin disorders seen at the clinic, the most common
are psoriasis, vitiligo, ichthyosis, acne, eczema and arthritis.
Without committing to thousands
of miles of travel and the expense of staying at a five-star resort,
Dead Sea mud is widely available throughout North America for home
and professional use, from a variety of companies.
Fango is an unglamorous grayish-brown slime. It is made up of a
solid, clay-like component, thermal water and an algae-based flurry.
Fango is organic and undergoes a maturation process before being
considered therapeutic. Fango can be used on clients, and it must
be in direct contact with thermal water, sunlight and air during
the maturation process, according to Reinhard Bergel, Ph.D., and
a physical therapist who practices in Calistoga, California. This
permits the fango’s enrichment by mineral salts and the growth
of a particular form of algae at its surface. This strain of alginate
thrives in environments that offer very high temperatures with a
rich mineral content. Two actions are produced in a cycle of fango
therapy. Therapeutically, a local anti-inflammatory, analgesic effect
occurs in a localized area. Secondly, increased resistances to pathogenic
agents occur in the area being treated.
"When the fango has sufficiently
matured, its efficacy is strengthened by its ability to give off
heat, which leads to perspiration from the client," said Bergel.
"Circulation is increased, as is stimulation and elimination
of toxic substances in the body."
Based on a 1999 study by Bergel
on the biology and physics of peloid fango - a by-product of mineral
water, he concluded that the substances contained in fango actually
affect the coetaneous nerve endings. In turn, they facilitate a
release of hormonal substances by the endocrine glands, said Bergel.
"These hormonal substances
are effective in stopping inflammatory components in articular applications
of fango. This reaction helps the individual fight off disease-causing
agents through neurovegetative modification and hormonal stimulation
that modifies the connective tissue components, where primary and
principal alterations of chronic diseases are produced," he
A fango therapy cycle lasts
an average of two to three weeks, with 12-15 applications of fango
in a daily cyclical treatment. A shorter fango session often produces
short-lived results. Aldo Cimi, M.D., a dermatologist at the Beatitudo
Spa in Veneto, Italy, describes the classic fango session: "Each
session is divided into four phases: the application of the mud,
a bath in thermal water, perspiration reaction and stimulating massage.
In Europe this type of a treatment is always physician prescribed
"Typically, a sweating
grotto or thermal cave is also utilized with a steam bath of thermal
water. Fango therapy mixed with time spent in the grotto is particularly
effective for treating obesity, gout and diabetes," said Cimi.
The mud is applied at a temperature
of 38 degrees Fahrenheit and left on for 15-20 minutes, followed
by a hot shower and thermal bath for 8-10 minutes, he said.
"After the client is
dried off, it is essential that the individual be allowed to rest
in a warm bed for 30-60 minutes for the sudoral reaction to occur.
This is the point at which the biological effects induced by the
fango treatment are most intense," Cimi said. "After this
reaction the client receives a full-body stimulating massage to
obtain a toning effect on muscular and nervous activity."
Moor mud is another type of therapeutic mud, derived from peat.
According to the International Peat Society (IPS), peat lands are
mires of wetland ecosystems characterized by an accumulation of
organic mire. More than 90 percent of peat lands can be found in
the temperate and cold belt in the Northern Hemisphere.
Peat is a heterogeneous mixture
of decomposed plant (humus) material that has accumulated in a water-saturated
environment and in the absence of oxygen. Its structure ranges from
decomposed plant remains to a fine amorphic, colloidal mass. The
warmer the climate, the quicker the plant material will decompose.
The rate of accumulating plant material is greatest in areas where
the temperature is high enough for plant growth but too low for
the vigorous microbial activity that breaks down the plant material.
Chairman of the U.S. National
Committee of the IPS, D.N. Grubich, said that the society tries
to keep moor-mud standards high. "We classify the nutrient
status of mire vegetation and the substrate based on several factors.
The term ombrotrophic describes a site receiving nutrients only
in the form of precipitation or wind-borne dust. Ombrotrophic conditions
represent the extreme situation at the lower end of nutrient availability,
and ombrotrophic sites usually have a thick peat layer. Sphagnum
mosses are the most typical bryophytes for ombrotrophic bogs,"
According to Grubich, a site
is minerotrophic when the nutrient concentration in the surface
peat and mire water is significantly higher than that of precipitation.
This may happen where the depth to underlying mineral soil is shallow,
or if mineral-rich surface water or groundwater is supplying nutrients.
"Moor mud quality is
therefore dependent on the bog from which the substrate was taken,"
said Grubich. "Every mire is somewhat different in organic
makeup. The processing and handling of the moor is also a crucial
aspect of determining the substance’s organic value."
Mud In Spas
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in Corona, California, water is the main
focus. Long before Europeans inhabited North America, Native Americans
frequented the springs and deemed the area a sacred site. By Native
American law, conduct at the spring had to be peaceful, even if
enemies showed up there at the same time. When the Spaniards came,
they named the valley Luisenos and called the hot springs Temescal,
meaning "sweat lodge."
There was a small hotel nearby
that kept the springs busy from1870 to 1884, when the hotel burned
down. In 1879 the first Glen Ivy hotel was built closer to the springs
and named Glen Ivy Hot Springs by natives of England, where a canyon
is referred to as a glen. This gave way to the first part of the
name that stuck. Wild grape ivy grows profusely in Coldwater Canyon
where the spa is located, so Ivy became the second part of the name.
"We actually call it
Club Mud," said Marketing Director Cindy Capen. "We have
a natural red clay unique to this area of Southern California. The
clay has a purifying effect on the skin. The fine clay actually
draws from the pores, absorbing impurities and helping to release
wastes from the skin. The effect is a gentle exfoliation, tightening
and revitalizing of the skin."
In addition to the health
benefits, Capen said she thinks clients find mud to be fun. The
mud is left on for about 20 minutes and is then showered off. Glen
Ivy also offers the red clay in the form of mud baths.
Spa-goer Cindy Gunthrie, from
Springfield, Illinois, had her first mud treatment at a spa in Chicago
just a few months ago. She was a little afraid at first and didn’t
know what to expect. Once she discovered the "mud scene,"
she loved it.
"I got a facial and a
thermal mud wrap," Gunthrie said. "One of my friends went
to the spa with me, which made the experience fun. Afterwards my
skin felt smooth, and I felt completely relaxed. I would do it again
in a heartbeat."
Mud In Smaller Practices
Mud is certainly interesting and has an exceptional history. Mud
is healing and therapeutic; some would even say medicinal. But what
does this mean to your business? Believe it or not, there are several
ways to incorporate mud into your spa or practice without spending
a lot of money or revamping your facilities.
Sheila Wymand, a massage therapist
in Boone, Vermont, incorporated Dead Sea mud into her practice by
starting with foot masquing.
"I begin the massage
with 15 minutes of reflexology and then apply the masque. After
the massage I wipe off the mud with hot, peppermint-infused towels,"
works in a small office with no running water in her immediate room.
"I just use a crock pot
to warm the towels. After the massage I simply clean out the pot
and throw the towels into the wash."
Wymand advises using dark
towels, as the mud stains. The increase in revenue for a foot treatment
is $20, with only $1.40 spent per treatment.
Susan Upmyer, a massage therapist
with a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia, believes in parafango,
which is heated paraffin mixed with fango.
"For under $300 I got
set up with a parafango kit. The kit comes with an electric pot
of fango and paraffin, plastic wrap and everything else needed to
do a full-body treatment. Once the service is complete the wrap
is simply removed from the client, leaving no mess. No water is
necessary, and my clients love the treatment," said Upmyer.
The charge for the wrap is $80, with only $3.60 spent on the treatment.
Robin Ingram, trainer for
Neydharting Moor in Stuart, Florida, said it is important to research
the purity of a product.
"Research the product:
where it comes from, how it is put together. Think about who the
company is, what they are about and their business philosophy,"
Ingram said. Clients today want basic, simple products that work.
People want simplicity. Think about how versatile the products are.
"Our body paste can be
directly applied to the skin. It is pure peat. Once the paste is
applied the client can be wrapped in a plastic sheet for 20 minutes
before a massage is given," said Ingram. "To remove the
mud, warm towels can be used. Cotton towelletes or cloth diapers
may also be used to remove the mud. If you don’t have wet
facilities in your working space, the client can also enjoy a soothing
moor bath at home before the massage."
Jaiyson Dillon, a massage
therapist practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has become enthusiastically
proficient with using mud in his practice. "I use mud that
is water-soluble so it doesn’t clog drains or leave stains
on towels or tubs," Dillon said. "Because I just have
a small one-person practice, I do not have wet facilities. As a
consequence, I steep towels in mud water and drain the clear top
water that has all of the nutrients still in it. I use the hot,
mineral-enriched towels to loosen up muscle groups as I do massage.
I also use the cold water to offer cooling forehead compresses during
the end of my massage sessions, to revitalize the client."
Dillon said he thinks that
his client base appreciates the amenity, which is offered without
extra charge, and he encourages them to take mud home for at-home
baths and treatments.
Melinda Minton, L.M.T., is
an esthetician, cosmetologist and former spa owner. She currently
works as a spa and salon consultant, E-business expert and free-lance
writer. She calls Fort Collins, Colorado, home.