Stoke your libido with carbon dioxide gas, beat infertility with mud – with far better odds than IVF, breathe better with salt, even eradicate eczema with mineral water baths……. These are some healing miracles I thought belonged just to the Bible until I researched my latest book: Healing Sources – Spas and Wellbeing from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
The book takes readers on a journey through the wellness traditions of 12 countries in Eastern Europe, and is the first to take an in-depth look at the power of natural resources to beat stress but more importantly to cure chronic conditions. Herbalists in Bulgaria, for example, talk of a three-month tea drinking prescription for curing cancer. Estonian herbalists recommend taking thyme tea before a party because it stimulates sexual energy. There is even a ‘herb spa’ in the country that sends lovers off to rest on a bed a thyme by the river, as part of their treatment!
Spa treatments in this region of course include massages and body scrubs (pumpkin, poppy seed, salt and honey are usual) and there’s little of the spirituality of the Asian way. But what they may lack in tinkly music and tails of incense they more than make up for in potency.
After a slap and wrap with bucket loads of warm gloopy mud in Slovakia, I’m so detoxed and dizzy I have to lie down again! In fact mud from this region is a panacea, either peat mud (the more-microbes-the-better!) or mineral rich mud as in Hungary. It’s a great cleanser, exfoliator, relaxing and detoxing bath soak and, as mentioned earlier, even used as a course of infertility treatment, in Poland, Latvia and Romania.
During a night spent 135 metres below ground (yes, really!) in a salt spa in Poland I felt so high, I giggled myself to sleep. The salt in the atmosphere generates a high humidity and bacterial purity that is oxygen-rich and pollution-poor. It delivers a euphoric hit for physical and mental harmony without the sweat of exercise.
Alongside the power of nature to heal in this part of the world comes a long history of rigorous study between scientists and doctors in countries, mixed with intuitive observation from generations living close to the land and empirical evidence that has stood the test of time. No wonder some of the treatments you enjoy today remain unchanged for more than 200 year! You get a sense of ‘being in safe hands’.