Get Messy with Mud: Caring for Soft-Tissue Injuries

Bowl of Herbs

by Gretchen Popp
In many parts of the world, and in some luxury spas, people use mud as a way to cleanse the skin and heal the body. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, muds and clays have many benefits when applied to the body, and are not just as a lavish spa treatment.

There are many types of muds and clays that are used from all over the world. From Moor mud to Dead Sea mud, Bentonite clay and more, each one has its own special balance of minerals and nutrients derived from its original environment. These minerals are easily absorbed by the skin, and can be a wonderful way to assist with dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, painful joints, muscle strain, soft-tissue injuries, and more. They also have a wonderful cleansing and detoxifying effect, which usually leaves the skin softer and healthier. Common minerals in muds and clays include Magnesium, Calcium, Sulfur, Bromide, Iodine, Sodium, Zinc, and Potassium, and many others. The unique mineral content of each mud and clay allows for differing benefits depending on skin type and ailment. Combining muds and clays to create a balanced product can not only be an enjoyable (albeit messy) process, but can also allow for a wide range of benefits for many common ailments.

My favorite use for muds is assisting the healing of soft-tissue injuries that result from over-use or strain. When a muscle or tendon is injured, the body responds with inflammation to increase blood-flow to the area, allowing fresh, nutrient-rich blood to help heal the damaged tissue. This can be a long process, however, and if you are an athlete experiencing an injured muscle, there may be little time to heal. This is one area where muds and clays can be a huge benefit, by adding minerals necessary for the healing process.

I prefer to use Dead Sea mud for this use. The high amounts of Magnesium and Calcium in particular are wonderful for relaxing a tense or pulled muscle. The mud also creates a perfect base for essential oils to be added, expanding the possibilities for healing. Here’s a recipe which I swear by for a pulled or torn muscle:

  • If the muscle has recently (within 24 hours) been injured, begin with a cool/cold bath or soak. If the injury is more chronic, try a warm/hot bath or soak with Epsom salts.
  • Prepare your mud:

o   1 Tbsp. Dead Sea Mud (or mud or clay of your choice; Bentonite clay is a great substitute for those with sensitive or particularly dry skin).

o   If your mud or clay is powdered, add hot water to make it a nice consistency for spreading onto your injury, but not so runny that it drips easily. A very effective substitute for the water in this step is an infusion of Lobelia, though you should use the mud within two days if an herbal infusion is used.

o   Add Essential Oils:
– 2 drops Marjoram
– 2 drops Peppermint
– 2 drops Oregano
– 5 drops Lavender (optional)

o   [Caution: young children, elders, and people with liver or kidney disease can be extremely sensitive to essential oils. Don’t use essential oils on companion animals without consulting your vet; many are toxic to cats and some to dogs.]

o   Add 1 drop of Vitamin E – this will help preserve the mud mixture if you have leftovers, and is great for the skin.

o   Mix thoroughly.

  • Apply the mud to your injury. Be sure to apply to where it hurts, as well as some of the surrounding area. Be careful not to get this mixture into the eyes or on the genitals.
  • Wrap the area with plastic wrap or a bandage – this will allow you to keep the mud on as long as possible without leaving mud all over your house, as well as insulating the heat created by your body, which will aid the absorption and distribution of minerals to your skin and muscle.
  • Leave the mud on for 2-4 hours if possible. If the injury is chronic, a heating pad can be applied to encourage circulation. If the injury just occurred, your body will be creating all the heat it needs already, and added heat can be aggravating.
  • Rinse the mud off with cool water, or better yet, wash off with a cool/cold bath.
  • Apply a cold compress to the area for ten minutes. This step isn’t necessary if you’ve braved a cold bath!
  • This process can be repeated with leftover mud every day if you so desire!

Gretchen is a student clinician at the Evergreen Center, as well as a massage therapist with her own practice in Boulder, CO. She enjoys creating herbal spa treatments to be enjoyed at home, and loves finding ways to make the healing process thoroughly enjoyable. Learn more about at-home herbal spa treatments in her class Creating an Herbal Spa at Home, which will take place in the CSCH Classroom on Monday, November 3rd, 2014, at 5:30 pm.


Creating an Herbal Spa at Home

Presentation by Gretchen Popp, CMT,  Certified Herbalist

Date: Monday, November 3, 2014

Time: 5:30-7:30pm

Cost: $30 (includes $15 materials fee)

Location: Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism 2900 Valmont, Suite F-1 Boulder, CO 80301 (Zarlengo Plaza,  rear of building, off 29th St.)

To Register, contact gretchup@gmail.com.  Class size is limited.