balneotherapy balneotherapy A woman relaxes in a natural thermal water pool and gets health benefits at the same time. Some people have all the fun. (Photo: JaroPienza / Shutterstock)

What is balneotherapy?

Research shows it can reduce oxidative stress, soothe arthritis, and you can even make a vacation out of it.

There’s a completely natural substance out there that can treat skin disorders, back pain, fibromyalgia and various types of arthritis.

But there’s a catch: to enjoy these fabulous benefits, you have to slather rich, creamy mud over your skin. Who would want to do that, right? Balneotherapy patients, that's who.

Balneotherapy patients immerse themselves in sulfur baths. As they lie for hours in mucky goodness, healthy chemicals make their way into the skin. Research shows that these baths can reduce oxidative stress, meaning they help the body detoxify. They also cause alterations of SOD activities (they prevent cell damage) and improve lipid levels (they help with cholesterol). As a result, balneotherapy is used for a variety of different diseases and is actually one of the oldest treatments for arthritis. Some people even use it to treat acne and other skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, dandruff and warts.

Blue Lagoon geothermal spaCrowds enjoy the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland. (Photo: Patricia Hofmeester/Shutterstock)

Naturally occurring sulfur baths are found around the world. But if you're not into hiking through brambles to get to a pokey-floored pool in the middle of nowhere, you're not alone: health spas offering balneotherapy abound throughout the United States, Europe and the Mediterranean. They offer luxurious treatments: Iceland's Blue Lagoon geothermal spa provides algae masks and in-water massages, and Israel's Ein Gedi Synergy Spa offers warm myrrh butter and frankincense massages using aromatic essential oils and reflexology.

A girl plays at Ein GediChildren play at Ein Gedi, a popular hiking destination in eastern Israel. (Photo: Noam Armonn/Shutterstock)

If you want to do experiment at home, adding essential oils to your sulfur bath for an aromatherapy experience or Epsom salts, sea salts and algae to get all the minerals in that you can. Some people even add oatmeal or honey to soothe the skin, bicarbonate of soda to soften the water, or dried herbs and flower pedals just because, well, everyone knows baths are better with dried herbs and flower petals.

And in case you thought balneotherapy was just for humans ...

snow monkey in a Japanese hot springA snow monkey finds inner peace at a Japanese hot spring. (Photo: 2nix Studio/Shutterstock)

We'll admit it: We were balneotherapy speciesists before we saw that photo. Now, we just want to find that snow monkey and ask him for the meaning of life.


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What is balneotherapy?
Research shows it can reduce oxidative stress, soothe arthritis, and you can even make a vacation out of it.