Imagine lying on a massage table, a thick layer of mud smoothed across your skin with long deep strokes to help it sink in. For thousands of years, traditional medicine has considered “mudding” (aka a mud bath or mud wrap) therapeutic for the skin, joints, muscles, and the mind. It’s even said that Cleopatra used mud baths as a wellness method.
Today, in spas around the world, mud-based wellness treatments are promoted for stress reduction, healing skin ailments, and relieving joint pain. So why is this ancient treatment for stress and pain so popular with doctors? Read on.
What’s mud got to with health?
Therapeutic mud contains minerals such as sulfur, zinc, magnesium, and bromine. These compounds are often blended with other botanical extracts (e.g., Aloe vera, organic peat, volcanic ash, warm mineral water or salt-water) and applied via various massage methods.
The body reaps the health benefits of the minerals by way of direct absorption through the skin into the bloodstream, while the mind reaps the benefits of the state of relaxation, associated with lower stress level, pain relief, reduced inflammatory response, lower blood pressure, and other mental and physical benefits.
Does mudding work for specific health conditions?
There is limited research on the effects of mudding on any specific health condition. For osteoarthritis (OA), for example. a cumulative review of dozens of high-quality studies indicates short-term relief of pain for knee osteoarthritis. However, many of these studies did not distinguish which elements of the mud and what concentrations of ingredients made the most difference. This is important for two reasons:
- Muds can come from all over the world: Napa Valley hot springs like Calistoga, other parts of California, Florida, New Zealand, Jordan, Colombia, Israel (the Dead Sea mud), Europe, island nations, and glacial nations. Where the mud comes from affects the composition, which may be a factor in its effects on health.
- Muds can be organic/naturally sourced or entirely lab-created (a synthetic based on the properties of a mud derived from nature). What we make in a lab is usually not equivalent to what we find in nature and might not have the same healing properties as mineral-rich mud. Often, it’s impurities and non-organic nature are actually damaging to many health conditions.
Despite limited research, mud spa treatments are used on specific skin conditions, such as psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. Often, they are also in facials and other skincare treatments for exfoliating the skin and getting rid of rashes. Mud-bath treatments are also sometimes used on sore muscles or to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Again it’s important to stress that not all mud is the same. Mud can be a fantastic treatment option, especially warm mud and mineral-rich mud. Talk with your dermatologist or other qualified healthcare provider when considering mud treatments for specific conditions.
You might want to try mudding, as it is relatively safe for most people. Before going to a spa for any treatment, ask questions about the product ingredients, where it comes from, and how often stock is rotated for purity. Share the information with your personal physician to determine if mudding may be a good option for you!
For weekly EcoMedicine advice and my exclusive, free ebook on how to be less stressed and happier using nature, subscribe to my email list.