A Look at Thalassotherapy

October 28, 2016

Two summers ago I studied abroad in Germany and Austria to learn about the history of medicine in Europe through a Texas A&M University faculty-led program. While in Germany, I was surprised to learn that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices seem to be in much wider use across its population than I had expected. I had the chance to learn about some methods such as homeopathy (I wrote about what I learned here: //www.amsa.org/look-homeopathy-past-present/) and thalassotherapie, a therapeutic form of medicine that involves seawater, products made from marine elements, and shore climate.badehaus-norderney-1l

Our small group of students and our professor visited the island of Norderney in the Wadden Sea off the north coast of Germany for a few days that summer. We had the opportunity to use the facilities at the world-renowned Badehaus, a nearly 2-acre facility with multiple spas and relaxation rooms. I learned that citizens in Germany who are diagnosed with asthma or skin conditions can get paid leave from work to spend weeks at places like this in order to gain relief for their conditions. How awesome is that? The general idea is that the wind blowing in from over the sea is extremely pure and helps those with breathing problems to gain relief. Other forms of therapy include water exercise for patients with arthritis and using skin products made with sea minerals and mud for acne and other skin conditions

Having the chance to experience hydrotherapy by soaking in various hot and cold pools filled with seawater as well as getting to experience algotherapy through a mud bath was phenomenally relaxing. Staying on the Frisian coast for a few days seemed to improve my breathing, but if anything it certainly made a positive impact on my mental health. More than all of this, the experience helped to reinforce to me the idea of how a clean environment can make a severe impact on one’s physical and mental health. I realize that here in the U.S., most of the patients we encounter cannot afford to take off for a week or more to spend time at a health spa. Something that I think is more crucial to keep in mind as an individual, and to support when it comes to legislation, is to promote actions that contribute to our communities living in cleaner environments, so that our communities can be physically and mentally healthier.

Elisa Vengalil
AMSA Wellness & Student Life Committee, Advocacy Coordinator
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, M.D. Candidate