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2006-01-25 Seaweed bath is almost sinful

Sitting in shallow water on the short strand at Streedagh on a warm summer day, as the gentle salt-water waves rolled over my legs, I began covering myself with kelp and wrack, rubbing it on my body like a loofah, then using it as a back-scrub, before a tiny green crab scuttled sideways from beneath the undergrowth, brushing past my toes.

 

On many occasions in my youth, all those decades ago, as I slopped about in seaweed, on beaches and in rock-pools, subconsciously I must have realised the many positive benefits of this marine algae.

 

There are almost 10,000 known species of seaweed. Most of us are familiar with two varieties  kelp and wrack. None are known to be poisonous, many are eaten as a delicacy (particularly in Japanese cuisine). My own paternal Grannie was a great believer in the nutritional benefits of Carrageen Moss. As a young child, I was not always as convinced myself, though a dollop of home-made strawberry jam on top seemed to make it immediately more palatable to my young unadventurous taste-buds. Traditional Chinese medicine uses seaweed as part of its treatment for cancer. Organic farmers employ seaweed as a fertiliser.

Being a huge believer in the beneficial powers of massage, swimming, baths, seaweed, saltwater, and alternative therapies, when I was given a voucher for the Celtic Seaweed Baths at Christmas, I felt confident that I would become an instant convert. I did. The original baths in Strandhill were established in the early 20th Century, around the same time as Kilcullens in Enniscrone. Sadly, in 1962, considerable damage was done to the Strandhill baths by Hurricane Debbie (Why do devestating hurricanes more often than not have pretty, deceptively harmless names?). My voucher allowed for one seaweed bath and steam, but the welcoming Walton family managed to squeeze me in for a short 20-minute massage first. The massage therapists at Celtic Seaweed Baths are highly qualified, and I benefitted greatly from even just twenty minutes of Michaels magic hands. Next time I will go for the full fifty minutes.

A bath full of seaweed might not initially appeal to everyone, but trust me, dont knock it til youve tried it. As the website says Until you have one, you wont know what youre missing. Having enjoyed the mud-bath experience on the shores of the Dead Sea, an enamel bath full of hot iodine-rich Atlantic sea-water, with a generous helping of seaweed (Fucus Serratis to be precise) seemed positively inviting.

Each private bathroom has its own personal steam unit, and after a great 15-minute steam I stepped carefully into my first ever seaweed bath. Hot seawater helps eliminate toxins from the body, and the body instead absorbs minerals and rich elements from the sea. The heat had by now released silky essential oils from the seaweed, so much so that I felt I was floating in a bath of rich moisturising cream. The piped seashore swishing sounds transported me back several decades to Streedagh.

For most of the time, I lay almost fully submerged (apart from my nostrils). My hair felt as though it had a thick coating of conditioner on it. My body felt buoyant. This pampering experience was positively sensual, as I luxuriated in what seemed like expensive bath oils, asss milk even. At times, my 50-minute revitalising bath seemed almost sinful. Knowing that my bucket of seaweed was to later become fertiliser on Mick Waltons organic farm made me feel as if I was even somehow doing my bit for the environment.

A seaweed bath is an ideal way to unwind, to detoxify, to help relieve tiredness, tensions, aches and pains. Seaweed rehydrates and moisturises skin, it can also help relieve psoriasis and other skin conditions. It can relieve muscular pain, or help ease rheumatism and arthritis, while assiting in circulation.

This multi-award-winning enterprise on Strandhills esplanade offers the full range of health, massage and beauty therapies, and is now manufacturing its own range of products. Two of the three Irish seaweed baths are located in Sligo  I am told the quality of seaweed off the north-west coast is of a particularly good quality. This is an almost uniquely Sligo experience, so have a look at

Celtic Seaweed Baths Website

or call 071  9168686 (open seven days a week). Book a bath, it will be 18 euro very well spent.