Roman baths such as the ones at Bath, UK, feature in the history of mud masks

A history of mud masks

Mud packs and mud baths have been used all over the world for hundreds of years. In fact, they were one of the earliest substances to be used as a cosmetic product.

One of the oldest surviving medical manuscripts is a clay tablet that dates back to 2200BC. It describes the three healing gestures; washing the wound, making plasters and bandaging the wound. Ancient plasters were made from mud and herbs – this is because the ancient people knew of mud’s healing properties.

Heracles and Gerson

Heracles and the giant Geryon. After the battle, Heracles and his men bathed in mud to soothe their aches and pains.

Engravings from the times of the Greeks and Romans depict people bathing in mud and applying mud to their faces. When Heracles killed the three headed giant, Geryon, he and his fellows were said to have found refreshment bathing in the mud in Abano. The name of Abano comes from the Greek word ‘aponos’ meaning ‘to take away the pain’.

The Romans built baths (such at the one pictured above) in areas where there was high quality mud that they believed to have healing powers. The Romans used mud as a preventative and curative measure as well as a way to socialize. Villas where mud rose naturally were popular points for meetings. Everyone would come together and bathe in the mud.

In 863 BC, Prince Bladud contracted leprosy and was banished from his father’s kingdom. He became a swine herdsman in Swainswick near Bath but it wasn’t long before the pigs he was looking after also contracted leprosy. One day, Bladud observed the pigs rolling around in the mud springs and he noticed that after coming out of the mud, the pigs seemed healed. Prince Bladud then bathed in the mud and he too was healed. He then became the mythical God-King of the Britons and the father of King Lear.

Dead Sea mud

The 1st Century historian, Josephius Flavius, recorded that King Herod bathed in Dead Sea mud to get relief for pains in his body. The Dead Sea is also often associated with healing in the Bible. As well as this, the writings of monks over the course of centuries record the healing properties of the mud in the Dead Sea. Another interesting biblical tale involves Jesus spitting in the mud and rubbing it into the eyes of a blind man, subsequently healing him. One could argue that the saliva of the Son of God is enhanced by the healing properties of the Dead Sea mud.

Mud baths gained popularity in the US in the 40s and 50s when the treatment experienced a revival. It was popular among the elderly as it helped their rheumatic pains. The 70s was the age of natural healing and mud baths became a place to socialize. Spas became popular in the late 20th Century and mud is now one of the most popular alternative therapies.


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