Thalassotherapy Meaning, Method, Types, Benefits

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
‘The Sea Cures all the Ailments of Man’ – Pluto
Since ancient times man has always turned to water for healing purposes. Civilizations developed on seashores and water banks. Water was always considered sacred. It always contributed towards balancing one’s health and well-being effects. 

Thalasso therapy is a type of Hydrotherapy – which uses water for healing purposes.

Related Reading – Hydrotherapy Jala Chikitsa Definition, Advantages, Types, Uses, Precautions

Thalassotherapy is derived from Greek words wherein Thalassa means ‘sea’ and therapy means ‘treatment’.

Thalassotherapy uses seawater for healing. The healing and beneficial properties of the sea and the marine environment is effectively used for and diverted towards health and wellbeing. According to the French experts, Thalassotherapy is one of the best remedies to mineralize and detoxify the body.

According to recent researches, an 8 day stay at a thalassotherapy centre restores the balance of the body for the next 6 months. Therefore this therapy twice a year will significantly contribute to our health and well being.

Sea water qualities

The treasure of Sea-water and its family
The sea water has embedded inside it a fine canvas of beautiful world comprising of many plants and other materials of medical importance.

  • Unpolluted sea water has an antibacterial property due to minute plant life (plankton), which keeps the sea pure.
  • Sea water having 35g/l salt content is beneficial for treatment
  • Sea mud contains algae and sea weeds. This is used to treat skin diseases and rheumatic conditions
  • Dr and wet beach sand is used for heat application in various painful conditions.
  • Sea water aerosols are used to help breathing problems. It contains health-promoting negative ionization particles, which help on inhalation.
  • Skin, circulatory, rheumatic, breathing conditions and fluid retentions can be treated by thalassotherapy.
  • Walking pools designed to walk in different levels of water holding, railing, exercises in water etc. This is followed by Scottish douche, which consists of high pressure spray or jet of cold or hot or alternating sea water, applied for short duration to achieve circulatory and reflex effects.
  • After this treatment, in specialized solarium, one should get exposure to the sunlight (UV Rays) and infra red (heat) rays.
  • Sea water containing salts of Sulfur, magnesium and iodine is used in small quantity for drinking purposes. Potassium content is useful in fluid retention and fluoride content balances calcium metabolism.
  • Water can be given internally for drinking, by diluting with fresh water or juice for palatability. It can be given in the dose of 1-2 table spoons, in beginning to 4 table spoons thrice daily gradually.

Thalasso v/s Spa
A visit to thalassotherapy center is also known as Thalasso. It is a similar experience of having visited a spa. In Thalasso, the focus will be on healing and not only on relaxation and beautification therapies as done in spas. Sea water and sea products are mainly used in Thalassotherapy in contrast with spas. You will have the benefit and luxury of getting treated by expert and qualified professionals with your choice of treatments being done on seaside locations. The idea itself is rejuvenating and refreshing isn’t it?

Just imagine invigorating sea air, mineral rich seawater and marine-based products rich in trace elements and antioxidants and coming out relaxed, rejuvenated and healthy!

The experts will include physiotherapists who would provide you with invigorating massages, rehabilitation in or out of the pool. There are also hydrotherapists who provide you with relaxing baths, showers and seaweed wraps in the exotic seaside locations.

In Thalassotherapy, the below mentioned are systematically used –

  • Sea water
  • Sea products (seaweed, mud, sand)
  • Shore climate

The seawater is said to have beneficial effects upon the pores of the skin. Thalassotherapy also bestows many benefits towards health.

History of Thalassotherapy

The use of seaweed and seawater for preventive and remedial skin care treatments has been documented as early as 60 BCE.

Some believe that this therapy was developed in seaside towns in Brittany, France, during 19th century. A prominent practitioner of this era, Dr Richard Russell has been credited to popularize this therapy. In 1898, a French doctor, La Bonardiere d’Arcachon, coined the formal term ‘Thalassotherapy’ to refer to the use of seaweed and seawater in therapeutic applications.

The practice is said to exist from 1725 in Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, an area believed to have high concentrations of iodine, due to kelp forests and sea fog. It was believed to have been started by Benedictine Monks. Later, the farmers of that area started taking the practice ahead. In 19th century, heated saltwater public baths started. These baths became popular with higher classes of people.

Others claim that the practice of thalassotherapy is even older and were started by Romans in Rome. It is said that the Romans loved soaking in hot mineral springs. Modern thalassotherapy, however, was pioneered in France. France still has more thalassotherapy spas than any other country.

France Thalasso has nearly 40 members overall, more than 20 along the Atlantic Coast, 11 along the Mediterranean Coast (French Riviera) and 7 on the Channel Coast. Thalassotherapy spas are also found in other countries, mainly Spain, Tunisia and Italy.

Location of Thalassotherapy centers

Modern Thalassotherapy centers are located by the ocean. They have all facilities, including pools of varying sizes and temperatures for various purposes. The seawater comes from a depth of 40 feet. It also comes from some distance from shore.

To be accredited, a thalassotherapy center must satisfy the below mentioned conditions –

  • It should be located near the ocean in a pristine environment
  • It should use natural seawater in swimming pools and refresh it completely once in every 24 hours
  • It should provide medical supervision and a staff of physiotherapists, hydro-therapists, dieticians, sports instructors and estheticians

Principle of Thalasso therapy

There are many trace elements present in seawater, like iodide, sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium etc. In thalassotherapy, since seawater and sea products are used in therapy, it is believed that these trace elements which are also needed for body functions are absorbed through our skin.

In Thalassotherapy, the body is immersed in seawater with a temperature of 33-37 degree Celsius for at least 12 minutes. It is almost equivalent of a 20-hour immersion in the sea at normal conditions.

A 100 litre bath tub filled with 30 grams micronized seaweed powder has 20 times more iodine, 3 times more zinc, 27 times more manganese and 18 times more iron than the sea itself.

Repeated exposure to sea aid and immersion in warm seawater, marine mud and protein rich algae helps to restore the body’s natural chemical balance. Seawater and human plasma are very similar in terms of mineral content (according to Frenchman, Rene Quinton). When immersed in warm seawater, the body absorbs the minerals it needs, i.e. trace elements like magnesium, potassium,, calcium, sodium and iodide through the skin. The vitamins in seaweed nourish the skin and form an essential complex for overcoming the smallest deficiency. These elements work in association to increase circulation which, in turn, allows more oxygen to reach and nourish the cells.

How Thalassotherapy works

Thalassotherapy is a natural way to increase blood circulation. By doing this, the therapy reduces inflammation by moving toxins out quickly into the lymphatic system. Poor diet, stress and pollution always play spoilsport and causes imbalance in body’s principles. The essential minerals found in seaweeds at concentrations of 10-20 times more than land-based vegetation, including iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iodine, phosphorus and calcium are readily absorbed directly through the skin into the bloodstream, escaping the complexities of digestion process.

The chemical make-up of seawater and seaweeds is so similar to that of our own blood plasma. These essential trace minerals help the body to assimilate the large concentrations of vitamins, amino acids and polysaccharide sugars found in seaweed thereby to balancing our own interior ocean helping to maintain a healthy alkaline pH level.

Thalessotherapy also firms, tones and moisturizes the skin pores apart from increasing the blood circulation and reducing inflammation. It also helps to detoxify the body by increasing lymphatic drainage.

Forms of Thalassotherapy

Forms of application of Thalassotherapy treatment
Thalassotherapy has not been scientifically proved and accepted. Therefore its effectiveness is also not widely accepted. But the therapy has been followed at various parts of the world as a part of Hydrotherapy. Thalassotherapy is applied in various forms, like –

  • Showers of warmed seawater
  • Baths with underwater massage
  • Application of marine mud or algae paste
  • Body wraps with alluvial mud, algae (red, blue, brown) or different types of micronized seaweed
  • Inhalation of sea fog
  • Mud and seaweed wrapping services – Spas provide these therapies making use of hot seawater, this therapy is common in the Dead Sea area

Different forms of treatments have different effects. They include pain relief, slimming, toning the body and skin, detoxifying the body, providing minerals to the body, cure for acne and eczema etc.

The menu of Thalassotherapy
Thalassotherapy is used in various forms while using different sea products towards comprehensive usage.

  1. Thalassotherapy in the form of Hydrotherapy Variants – Here, Thalassotherapy is used in various varied forms of hydrotherapy, but the sea water at 37 degrees temperature is used in each of the below mentioned cases. The variants of Hydrotherapy using seawater in Thalassotherapy are as enlisted below –

Spa Bath – A re-mineralising massage is given using thousands of tiny bubbles rich in trace elements. This calms and relaxes your nervous system.

Seaweed bath – Laminaria seaweed in the Seaweed Bath will replenish you with essential elements such as potassium, magnesium, calcium and trace elements while toning up your body.

Hydromassage / Multi-jet Bath – This is a bath which uses several jets of water programmed to target different areas of your body. Thus, this multi-jet bath incorporates in itself the benefits of gentle massage. This treatment relaxes the muscles and joints, and aids and improves circulation.

Affusion Shower – In this, a fine spray of warm mineral rich seawater is given all over the body. This relaxes and rejuvenates you.

Jet Shower – Sea water rich in high salt content is used to provide shower in jets. It combats cellulite apart from toning, relaxing and providing firmness to the body and skin.

Underwater shower – Regulated flow of water jets is used in the form of underwater drainage massage. This will help in curing circulatory problems and also to relieve joint pains.

Underwater Jet – In this, a jet of heated seawater is used. This massages, relaxes and stimulates the circulation. This therapy is also used for effective weight loss.

Hand and foot treatments – Hot baths and cold baths are given for hands and feet to improve circulation. They also relive joint pains.

  1. Algotherapy

Seaweed Wraps – Seaweeds are applied in thick layers. Seaweed has relaxing, slimming and remineralizing effect.

Seaweed / Algae baths – Seaweeds are rich in trace elements. They restore balance of minerals in the body. They also help in fighting stress and relax the body.

Marine muds / Mud mask / Peloid mask – the warm muds of seashore have marine elements. These elements penetrate the skin and help in relieving rheumatic pains.

Cryotherapy – In this, the lower limbs are wrapped in seaweed. This provokes sensation of cold and thus contracts blood vessels. It also improves blood circulation.

  1. Physiotherapy

Gentle Exercise – Exercises are done in or out of the pool (water)

Electrotherapy – In this, different frequencies of electricity are applied on certain areas of the body. This will act as analgesic and also provide anti-cellulite effect. This therapy also relieves pain in the muscles and help in draining the tissues off their toxins.

Massages – They provide comfort in muscle spasms, also cure circulatory problems. They help in elimination of toxins from the muscle tissue and thus relax the muscles. Massage gives overall relaxation and rejuvenation, not only to the body but also to the whole body and mind.

Rehabilitation – Rehabilitation comprises specific programme of treatments. They are prescribed for the after-effects of accidents, sports injuries or surgery affecting the joints and the spine. They are also advised in the postural problems in adults and teenagers.

  1. Other Treatments

Seawater sprays or ionized water sprays – In this seawater rich in negative ions is sprayed. This helps in detoxifying the respiratory tract. It is anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory and sedative in action.

Lymphatic Drainage – It improves lymphatic circulation. This is achieved by applying gentle pressure on different areas of the body. This treatment helps in reducing water retention by cells and helps in removing cellulites.

Pressotherapy – It is a physical treatment that improves the circulation

Shiatsu – It is a Japanese massage technique. It revitalizes the body, through the pressure exerted with the fingers on the meridians (channels of energy circulation).

Benefits

  • Stimulates circulation, cures disorders of heart and blood vessels
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Purifies (cleanses) the skin and body, cures skin diseases
  • Reduces cellulite (collection of cellulite is responsible for poor blood circulation and toxin build-up in the body)
  • Provides minerals to the body and enables mineralization, replaces trace elements in the body
  • Improves oxygen supply to the cells
  • Regulates the body’s acid-base balance
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system and promotes lymphatic balance
  • Promotes immune system
  • Has antibacterial effect
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves the muscular system, tones the muscles and firms the connective tissues, firms and tones up the body
  • Aids weight loss
  • Improves metabolism
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Helps to overcome diseases of stomach and intestines
  • Relieves stress, burnouts, exhaustion
  • Cures rheumatic pains
  • Cures back and muscular pain
  • Provides relief from eczema, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis
  • Reduces the thrombosis caused from varicose veins, spider veins or diabetes
  • Offers relief for burns and sunburn, cuts and bruises
  • Calms body and mind
  • Improves overall well being and promotes health

Contraindications

Thalassotherapy is contraindicated in the below mentioned conditions –

  • Iodine sensitivity
  • Cancer
  • Blood pressure
  • Asthma

Just Before Finishing –
In this article I have covered about one of the most effective therapies from the catalogue of Hydrotherapy, named Thalassotherapy wherein the richness of the sea and its family is brought into use for effective healing of many health issues and also to promote comprehensive body-mind health.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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