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It’s long been said that the sea has healing qualities. Proponents of thalassotherapy agree.

Thalassotherapy gets its name from the Greek word “thalassa,” meaning sea or ocean. The therapy involves the use of seawater, spa therapy, and the salty ocean climate to improve overall health and well-being.

The practice has been used in Europe for centuries, dating back to the Roman Empire when soldiers used hot seawater baths to recuperate after battles. The practice has grown in popularity since then and can now be found along most European sea lines.

Thalassotherapy can take many forms, including seawater baths, pools, exercise within heated pools, sea products, and climate therapy.

It’s mainly found in locations with a maritime climate where seawater can be drawn locally and applied to baths, pools, and treatments.

Lourdes Mourelle of Estetética & Wellness is an expert in spa wellness, thermalism, and thalassotherapy and a researcher at the University of Vigo in Spain. She’s a proponent of thalassotherapy.

“Seawater and thalassotherapy are general body stimulants. They act by increasing the hematopoietic (blood cell production) functions, improving response capacity, and acting as a general tonic. They can also boost the immune system,” says Mourelle.

According to Mourelle, other benefits include:

  • stimulation of endocrine functions, including thyroid, adrenal, parathyroid, and sexual glands
  • improvement of blood circulation
  • increased sweating
  • increase in red and white blood cells
  • smoother, unobstructed breathing

Variables that determine the effectiveness of water-based therapies include:

  • buoyancy
  • resistance
  • water pressure
  • water temperature

Circulation

Research has found that water therapy can have various physiological effects on the human body. These include increasing blood circulation, which helps to relieve muscle spasms and replenish the body with oxygen and nutrients.

In addition, algae sometimes used in thalassotherapy have been shown to promote blood circulation when applied topically through cosmetics.

Joint pain

Spa and spa treatments have long aimed to ease joint pain and increase motion.

Furthermore, rehabilitative and bathing treatment can significantly decrease osteoarthrosis (noninflammatory joint disease) symptoms, including reducing severity of pain, improving joint function, and preventing further damage.

Evidence for aquatic treatment for neck pain also shows water techniques can improve functional capacity and joint mobility, as well as increase relaxation and mood.

Increase trace minerals

Trace minerals are essential minerals for the human body. They’re crucial to health and development, and many can be found in seawater.

These include:

According to Mourelle, these minerals are absorbed into the skin through warm seawater baths and the tiny salt particles contained in sea air, strengthening natural defenses.

Muscle fatigue, stiffness, and soreness

Studies on spa treatments in patients with fibromyalgia found that regular treatments lead to decreased muscle pain and fatigue. They also had positive effects on overall health and physical functioning.

A 2008 study on patients with fibromyalgia found that aerobic exercises in seawater improved muscle pain and overall health. Furthermore, the heat of the water influenced muscle tone and decreased pain intensity.

Another study also found deep-seawater therapy had a significant effect on decreasing muscle fatigue and improving muscle damage recovery time.

Research also shows that thalassotherapy can improve muscle flexibility and mobility by increasing blood oxygenation.

Skin conditions

The use of seawater has also been recognized as a treatment for the symptoms of multiple conditions, including:

According to Mourelle, seawater contains many minerals and trace elements necessary for the cellular metabolism. It can calm skin irritation such as psoriasis and dermatitis as well as improve wound healing, she notes.

Seawater has also been shown to help to excrete toxic residue and oxygenate tissues.

Skin moisturizing and firming

“Thalassotherapy includes the use of marine mud and seaweed with multiple benefits derived from its content in minerals,” says Mourelle.

Seaweed can also contain beneficial bioactive compounds, including:

According to Mourelle, these can be used for cosmetic applications such as moisturizing, lightening skin, and preventing signs of aging.

Seawater has been shown to moisturize and firm skin, and the salt in seawater can be a natural exfoliant that aids in cellular rejuvenation. The use of seaweed has also been shown to reduce the visual appearance of cellulite.

Sleep

Thalassotherapy may also help improve sleep.

One study found that 3 days of thalassotherapy combined with sleep management found both immediate and delayed sleep benefits, including:

  • reduced daytime sleepiness
  • improved mood and cognitive function
  • lower levels of anger, stress, and depression
  • improved sleeping through the night
  • positive effects on anxiety and sleep disorders

Pool

Thalassotherapy pools are filled with heated seawater and designed for you to move around in. They can be communal due to their size.

Thalassotherapy pools can be commonly found on cruise ships, in some resorts, or in certain spas or clubs.

You may be able to find a local thalassotherapy pool with a quick Google search.

Baths

Similar to pools, thalassotherapy baths are filled with heated seawater and are intended for the user to submerge their bodies and enjoy a long soak.

These baths can be found at day spas or clubs that offer thalassotherapy.

At home

For a free treatment, you can go for a dip in the ocean.

There are also some thalassotherapy treatments you can purchase, like the Botanical Trader’s DIY thalassotherapy spa treatment, which includes a seaweed body wrap and marine bath soak.

To truly do-it-yourself, you’ll just need some dried seaweed, boiling water, essential lavender oil, and a tub.

You can also purchase a range of skin care products that use thalassotherapy, such as Sea Flora’s skin care range, which uses U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seaweed and promotes sea therapy.

The Seaweed Bath Co.’s body scrub and Osea’s skin and body care are derived from seaweed and bioavailable minerals.

There are plenty of face masks that incorporate seaweed and algae on the market, too, like the Pinpoxe Seaweed Mud Mask and the Raya Seaweed Masque with kaolin clay.

Supplements

You can also take supplements that contain seaweed or algae, like chlorella or spirulina.

Chlorella is a nutrient-dense algae packed with:

Chlorella can be taken at home via capsules, tablets, powder, or in extract form, all available online. Always be sure to do your research before purchasing supplements to ensure quality.

Daily dietary supplementation of chlorella has been shown to:

  • reduce high blood pressure
  • lower serum cholesterol levels
  • enhance immune function
  • accelerate wound healing

Further studies report chlorella may offer support for diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.

You can also find spirulina in supplement form, available online.

Thalassotherapy is similar to others you may have heard of before, such as hydrotherapy, cryotherapy, and balneotherapy:

  • Hydrotherapy, or hydropathy, is the use of water to treat various forms of pain, diseases, and ailments.
  • Balneotherapy is the practice of bathing in mineral water or thermal springs.
  • Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to cold temperatures as a form of therapy.

All have demonstrated benefits in improving health-related quality of life, however, these techniques and treatments don’t specifically use seawater, like in thalassotherapy.

Since thalassotherapy traditionally involves the use of seawater and a salty ocean climate, it’s dependent on the season, the climate where you live, and access to regular seawater.

Also, the skin needs protection from sunburn during any outdoor treatments. Make sure to apply the SPF if you’re going to be soaking at the beach.

Thalassotherapy is various seawater-based treatments that can have a range of health, cosmetic, and wellness benefits on the body.

To try it, visit a spa or club that uses thalassotherapy techniques, follow at-home DIY guides, or take a trip to your local beach.


Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications, covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.