Rainy days and muddy puddles are familiar hallmarks of warmer weather ahead. If you made even one mud pie as a child, you may be delighted (dare we say vindicated?) to find out that mud truly is nourishing—as long as you’re applying it to your skin, that is, and not eating it.
Naturally occurring muds are rich in minerals and enzymes and can be found in every corner of the world. Literally a gift from nature, mud has been a popular feature in beauty rituals practiced by countless ancient cultures and is now enjoyed as a type of therapy at luxurious spas and public thermal baths worldwide. Mud is often identified on spa menus as a “fango” treatment, which is the Italian word for mud.
Usually applied warm, therapeutic mud provides relief from joint and muscle aches and pains, stimulates circulation and gently exfoliates surface skin. A study published in the October 2007 issue of the journal Rheumatology International suggests that mud baths may help relieve pain associated with fibromyalgia. Mud also detoxifies and tones skin. As it dries, it effectively draws impurities from pores—leaving skin feeling soft and freshened.*
So, by all means, get muddy. Just remember that it’s never a good idea to scoop up mud from your back yard or a public park, since it’s likely to contain contaminants including bacteria, chemicals and pesticide residue. Instead, look for a purified mud product. A wide variety can be found online or in the personal care section of natural products stores and supermarkets. Some types of muds, including Dead Sea mud, are available in bar-soap form.
Here’s a quick primer to help you decide which mud to play with.
Dead Sea mud
Found only along the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel, this dense, dark mud was revered by both Cleopatra and King Herod, who recognized its therapeutic properties. Currently, it’s being studied for its potential to help relieve skin conditions, including psoriasis and other issues of the skin, and proponents suggest it may also be useful for a clearer complexion. It contains high levels of salt, sulfur, bitumen (natural tar), silicon compounds and magnesium. When purchasing Dead Sea mud products, check the label to be sure they’re from Israel.
Volcanic muds can be found anywhere there has ever been a volcano. Activity doesn’t matter—volcanic mud is often harvested from long-extinct locations, where the mud is now a feature of the landscape. The specific minerals and trace elements found in this type of mud will vary with the geographic location. A common ingredient is ash; however, the exact composition of a particular mud depends upon whether the volcano is located in Argentina, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, California or any number of other volcanic regions around the globe.
Icelandic silica mud
This thick, white mud is the subject of ongoing research for its ability to soothe atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. In fact, an extensive psoriasis treatment clinic, staffed by physicians, has been established next to Iceland’s legendary Blue Lagoon, a rich source of silica mud. Besides its detoxifying and cleansing benefits, this mud has been found to contain important bioactive molecules from micro algae that appear to be essential components of its healing abilities. In a study published in Experimental Dermatology, researchers found that the mud is able to improve the barrier function of skin and may also offer benefits related to premature aging of the skin. One of the most common elements in nature, silica is an essential component in the formation—and health—of collagen, the fibrous protein that keeps skin strong and supple.
Usually dark in color, Moor mud is commonly used throughout Europe. Muds harvested in Hungary, France, Austria and Turkey are particularly popular and have different components depending upon the exact location where they were created. Ancient bogs, lakeshores and prehistoric ponds can all be sources and contain the minerals and trace elements that reflect the plant life that once grew in that location. Use this mud as a full-body mask. Leave it on your skin for about 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.