Thermal waters and mud from Ischia

 This July I had one of my most amazing holidays on the islands of Italy. One of the islands I visited was Ischia what is very well known for it’s thermal waters. Of course I had to experience this natural wonder and let my body to be nourished by those volcanic minerals and muds. In this post I would love to share some benefits of those natural thermal waters and share my experiences with it.

The island’s volcanic creation has blessed it with a number of natural resources which have been steadily harnessed over thousands of years to create health benefits for those that go there.

Bathing pools with temperatures ranging from around 20 to 40° Celcius which can be used as part of hydrotherapy or heliotherapy programs along with Kneipp baths, saunas, steam rooms and many other modern-day treatments.

CAVE THERAPY

This treatment is a short time (from 10 to 60 minutes) spent in natural caves whose temperature is higher due to the vicinity of hot springs. The caves are either dry – with temperatures up to 70 °C – or humid, where the presence of vapors coming from the mineral springs have a temperature of between 30 and 40°C.

These caves are like saunas created by nature. The time of reaction to the treatment may vary according to the nature of the cave. Cave therapy may be used in addition to mud or bath treatments. Cave therapy is beneficial to the cardio-circulatory and respiratory system.

Mud

Another widespread use of thermal water is in thermal mud therapy (fangotherapy), which consists in the application of thermal mud on the body.  The mud used on Ischia is of volcanic origin, an argilla (clay) created by volcanic activity together with vegetable and animal micro-organisms, algae, humus and humo-mineral compounds. Volcanic muds contain more organic substances than others. The natural clay is mixed with thermal water, absorbing its beneficial properties. Thermal waters on Ischia have high mineral salt content and are very hot, unlike other radioactive waters found on the earth. The thermal mud is applied in form of masks or bandages at a temperature and for a duration recommended by a doctor.The mud is spread on the part of the body prescribed up to a thickness of 10-12 cm at a temperature of around 47°C. It is usually left on for 20-30 minutes, depending on the doctor’s prescription. Then, the mud is wiped off and the patient must relax for 30-60 minutes. The patient will continue to perspire until the ‘reaction’ time has finished.

In spite of their diversity, all the muds have the same standard features: sodium, chlorine, potassium, calcium and sulphur in the form of sulphates and sulphides. Because of the variety of different chemicals found in them, different waters and mud are recommended for different treatments.

At the centre of the treatment programs found in Ischia, is the use of mud. The mud is created by using a combination of the island’s thermal water and clay which is full of minerals that can be used to treat a wide range of diseases and ailments.

Mud therapy is used to help treat a number of diseases and ailments including arthrosis, arthritis, hernia and rheumatic cervical pain.

Of course there are true physiological benefits to thermal baths. Modern physical therapists recommend them and they truly are beneficial for muscle and joint pain. However, this treatment is based on the soothing effect of heat and is not mysterious or complicated in terms of the mechanism which provides the pain relief and overall feeling of well-being.

The thermal-mineral waters emanate from underground reservoirs fed by rainwater which infiltrates porous ground and which is warmed by heat sources located in the depths of the soil. The water is transformed into steam and rises to the surface. The steam heats the surficial and underground water sources to generate the thermal-mineral water which is enriched by the minerals contained in the soil before rising to the surface. These waters are alkaline or acidic, containing calcium, magnesium, hydrogen carbonate, sodium, sulfur, iodine, chlorine, iron, potassium and micro elements of other active substances including radon.  Ischia’s water is rich in noble elements and mineral salts: sodium, one of the basic elements for the vital activity of living beings, potassium, essential for muscle dynamics, sulphur, essential for joint elasticity and calcium, which has a sedative action on the nervous system.

The Italian Ministry of Health acknowledges medical hydrology as a bona fide practice, not alternative medicine and has published recommendations for treatment of various illnesses such as rheumatic illnesses, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic inflammation of the sciatic nerve, inflammations of the primary respiratory tract and skin diseases.

Wellness centres & spas in Ischia also perform a number of hydrotherapy treatments, amongst which is balneotherapy, a process whereby the body is immersed in thermal water for ten to twenty minutes at a temperature of around 38° Celcius. Balneotherapy is used to treat a wide range of conditions including rheumatism, rheumatoid fibrosis,  rheumatoid tendonitis, lumbar pain, fibromyositis, eczema, quiescent psoriasis, acne and various types of dermatitis.

Ischia’s thermal water is also used in the practice of aerosol therapy (to treat rhinitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis corditis, sinusitis and bronchial syndromes), physiotherapy and various other types of hydrotherapy such as the Kneipp method. Wellness centres also provide a range of massages from basic back massages, connective tissue massages or trigger-point massages through to various Vedic or Thai techniques, peelings or even yoga sessions.

The island of Ischia is the only place on earth where nature and man’s efforts have succeeded in creating the wonders that are the thermal parks, including the largest: Giardini Poseidon, Parco Termale Negombo,Parco Termale Castiglione. In the most scenic places of the island, visitors can enjoy thermal pools of varying degrees, set in lush gardens, private beaches, traditional departments for care and services of high quality.

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