Five-star treatment

  • Health
  • Sunday, 04 Jan 2004

By Tee Shiao Eek

PAMPERING or healing? Here are some spa practices that are gaining popularity as curative therapies. 

Ozone hydrotherapy 

In ozone hydrotherapy, you immerse yourself in a tub of warm/hot water, while ozone air jets provide a steady stream of bubbles around you. The effect is somewhat like a jacuzzi, as the intensity of the bubbles can be quite strong. You will be left to soak for about 15 minutes, while the warm water opens up the pores on your skin and dilates your blood vessels, allowing the ozone from the water to be absorbed. You will be advised to drink plenty of water after the treatment, as the heated water causes you to sweat. 

Ozone therapy is a growing realm within the mainstream and alternative medical community. Ozone is actually a type of gas that is made up of three oxygen atoms. “It can kill bacteria and fungus in our bodies, improve blood circulation and immune system, as well as inhibit tumour metabolism. Ozone also helps to stimulate enzymes that act as free radical scavengers (antioxidants) so that they work more effectively,” says Dr Siva Poobalasingam, who practices conventional medicine alongside certain alternative treatments. 

Free radicals are unstable molecules that cause degenerative damage to cells, and are commonly linked with chronic diseases such as cancers and heart problems. As ozone therapy helps to reduce free radical activity in the body, it is believed to contribute towards preventing cancer, although Dr Siva is careful not to draw a direct link. 

Donald Cha, director Palm Spa in Putrajaya Marriott Hotel, shows the specially imported 'Tenko stones' used in the spa's Japanese therapeutic sand bath treatment.

“Some private medical centres do offer ozone therapy,” says Dr Fung Yin Khet, a physician with Putrajaya Hospital. “I have also heard that the method is quite popular in some European countries. However, it is not recognised as a health service by authorities like the Ministry of Health, due to lack of hard evidence.” 

Although ozone therapy can be administered straight into the blood, injected into the muscles or inhaled, the hydrotherapy method offered by spas is probably safest as it does not require medical attendance. 

Therapeutic sand bath 

The term “sand bath” is deceptive, as one expects to see a part of a beach in the spa. Instead, the Japanese treatment uses “Tenko” stones (specially-imported volcanic granites mined from the mountains of Kyushu), which are perfectly rounded and resemble mini ball bearings.  

Your body (from neck down) will be buried in the pre-heated stones for about 10 to 15 minutes. As you begin perspiring, a spa attendant should be on hand with a cold compress. You may find your breathing getting shallower, due to the heat. If breathing becomes difficult, you should alert the spa attendant, as you may not be taking the heat well. This treatment requires you to drink a lot of water because you have lost a fair bit of fluids while sweating. 

When heated, the stones are said to emit Far Infrared Rays (FIR), which is a specific wave length of light from the sun. According to Dr Yukie Niwa, who has conducted research on the properties of FIR, the rays are converted into the appropriate energy in the body to “boost the healing response of tissues”. 

“In Japan, there are only seven sand bath facilities, six of which are attached to hospitals and used as complementary treatment,” says Donald Cha, the director at Palm Spa in Putrajaya Marriott Hotel, currently the only spa in Malaysia that offers this facility. The treatment purportedly enhances the immune system, optimises detoxification, promotes weight loss, relieves stress and tension, encourages circulatory and lymph drainage, as well as reduces pain and muscle spasms. 

The therapeutic sand bath is not suitable for people with high or low blood pressure, heart problems, autoimmune problems, circulation problems or for pregnant women. 

Mud baths 

Bathing in warm mud may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but many find it relaxing and refreshing. You submerge yourself in a tub of “mud”, which is usually a combination of clay, warm mineral water and other organic compounds. A mud bath is usually followed by a shower to cleanse off the remains. 

Most mud baths are used to detoxify, cleanse and invigorate, although some do claim to be beneficial for those with rheumatism and arthritis. Mud baths date back to ancient times, when people may have found the mud to contain healing properties. 

A foot detoxification soak at Spa Artiyana consists of sea salt, fresh flowers and the customer's preferred essential oils.

“Mud baths are broadly used for people wiith skin problems (infections or skin disorders), musculoskeletal p[roblems (backaches or spinal problems), and respiratory problems (sinus). Although it hasn’t really been studied, there may be something in the mud that has anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr Siva.  

Natural products 

Call them old wives’ tales or new-age ideas – natural ingredients from Mother Nature’s garden have always been believed to contain healing properties. More and more spas these days are using natural flowers, vegetables, spices and herb as ingredients in their oils, lotions or scrubs. You may even have your own personal blend of ingredients to suit your liking, as well as your needs. 

“You’d be surprised to find that what’s in your own backyard can be used for much more than cooking. After all, Mother Nature and our own Asian heritage have so much to give us,” says Vicky Cornelius of Spa Artiyana, where fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs are blended and made into scrubs and lotions on the spot, according to the customer’s personal choice. 

Natural ingredients that are believed to have healthful properties include tamarind, which removes dull and tired skin; kaffir lime leaves, which increase blood circulation; ginger, which soothes sore muscles; soybeans, which absorb impurities; and carrots or almonds, which are a remedy for dry skin and hair. 

“For example, for a lymphatic drainage massage, a coffee, carrot and cinnamon scrub is used to open the pores and stimulate circulation. Then we use a fruit wrap, made of papayas, pineapple, honey, lemon juice and sesame oil. To flush out trapped toxins and fluid, we use an aromatic juniper and tea leaf-infused bath,” says Vicky. 

The beneficial effects of natural products are usually passed down as “family secrets” from one generation to another.

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