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Peloids - otherwise known as muds and clays - have been used by people and animals for thousands of years. We all know about the urge of many animals to cover themselves in mud - for a variety of reasons known only to them. They are instinctively drawn to mud - they smother themselves with it, they eat it... Humans have also been using (and eating! - see “geophagy”) mud since times immemorial. There is no arguing about the fact that mud is good for us. It is extremely rich both in minerals and organic substances which have been used in peloid therapy for centuries, bringing incredible results.

A great number of resorts all over the world using muds for treatment of various health conditions and health maintenance, as well as spas and beauty salons where muds are used to improve skin condition and for weight management, proves the fact that mud works. The use of muds as a therapeutic factor is based on their ability to stimulate metabolism, its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, and its adaptogenic qualities.

If we also consider the fact that the popularity of muds and clays has grown immensely in the past few years and is on a steady increase (have you noticed how many more products based on peloids have appeared in shops and on the internet in the past few years?), then one can the fact that we want to know more about peloids and how they work on the body. Generally - why they are good for us.

How do peloids work?

The action of peloids on the body systems is a combination of the temperature (heat), mechanical and chemical factors. The temperature (or heat) is considered by some to be the most important factor in peloid therapy. It has been established that heat increases activity of chemical components in peloids. Besides, heated mud promotes swelling of the skin which changes penetrability of cellular membranes for biochemically active components of muds.

According to the chemically active substances found in peloids (hormones, antibiotics, biostimulators, microelements, organic acids) penetrate into the body systems and heal the body from the inside. Heat and other physical factors in this case are deemed as subsidiary, based on tests conducted where peloids were applied at hot and cold temperatures.

The fact that peloid molecules can penetrate through the skin into the body has been proved both by Russian and non-Russian scientists a few decades ago. Hydrogen sulphate is considered a biologically active component of muds. It acts similar to acetylcholine, causing substantial changes in circulatory system. It raises blood pressure, slows down the pulse and narrows down blood vessels, thus changing the blood supply to organs and body tissues and improving the heart activity.

Bio-stimulating effect of muds has been has been connected by some scientists with their antioxidant properties which most of them possess. In 1973, P.G.Tsarfis offered a theory of peloid action according to which peloid application increases penetrability of the skin to their components, and in particular, iron. Iron and other elements of peloids penetrate from the tissue structures deep into the body systems. An increase of biochemical enzyme activity on the cellular and sub-cellular levels takes place, which leads to an appearance of a “centre of pathology” where one can observe changes in the levels of biologically active substances, an increase in the content of acid mucopolysaccharides, with the content of hayaluronic acids remaining unchanged.

These local changes initiate regional and reflex processes, with the participation of the Central Nervous System which regulates the release of biologically active substances, neurohormones, thus intensifying enzyme-releasing systems. Integrative and neuro-humoral processes act selectively, first of all - on the most reactive systems, i.e. systems affected by a pathology, which are the least resistant. Compensatory mechanisms are switched on, on various levels, through the peripheral nerve formations. As a result of all this, the following takes place: an increase in hormonal activity and intracellular steroidal metabolic activity, a reduction in tissue penetrability, as well as inflammatory components and autoimmune aggression, and slowing down of collagen destruction.

It is important to remember that a reaction to a peloid procedure depends, on the one hand, on the condition of the body systems, and on the other hand, on the intensity of a therapeutic factor. As a result of many years of research, it has been established that at the basis of peloid therapy lies its ability to normalise the functions of the body, tissues and cells.

It is important to note that peloids have different combinations of biologically active substances, which makes them differ in their clinical effectiveness, since they affect different regulatory and homoeostatic body systems. Such selective effect of peloids is explained by the fact that, first of all, like different oil deposits, each of them is formed only in certain regions of our planet out of various substrates, and secondly, each peloid is at a certain stage of etnogenesis or maturity. At the basis of this process is the activity of a whole group of micro-organisms, with the products of their activity being the at the basis of the therapeutic properties of peloids.

V.I.Vernadskiy has called peloids “the living matter” of our planet which reflect the processes of its evolution and regional geochemical specifics. Considering this, there is an opinion that there are “old” and “new” peloids, differing from each other in the combination of biologically active substances, as well as their biological, clinical and sanogenetic effects.

By stimulating systemic restructuring of the antioxidant status of the organism and changing the structure of neuro-endocrine and immune regulatory function, natural peloids activate reparative reactions in the body. As well as antioxidant properties, peloids also have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, boosting the immune system and acting as adaptogens.

Antioxidant properties are based on the presence of carotene and its analogues (discovered by the spectral analysis). This makes peloids effective in treating a number of diseases of inflammatory nature, since antioxidants, and particularly carotene, regulate physico-chemical characteristics of body membranes. In recent years, carotenoids, and in particular, beta-carotene, has been successfully used as a preventative treatment for tumours, IBS, to correct unfavourable effects of the environment on the human organism, since they stimulate protective functions of the body systems and activate humoral and cellular immunity.

Retinoids are another group of antioxidants present in peloids which possess immune boosting functions. It is possible that due to their anti-oxidant function retinoids can actively promote micro-circulation. Also, comparative analysis of peloids and moor peats have shown that antioxidant properties of peloids are more prominent than those of peats. Thus, on the basis of research conducted by Siberian scientists, the following conclusions were made:

  • Therapeutic and adaptogenic properties of peloids are both directly targeted at the areas of pathology, as well as indirectly affect endocrine glands, and in particular adrenal glands.

  • Biologically active compounds in peloids can sufficiently influence the activity of the endocrine glands as a result of targeted action comparable to the one in anti-oxidant therapy.

  • Based on their physico-chemical characteristics, peloids can - and are - widely used to treat a large number of conditions of musculo-skeletal, genito-urinary, digestive, nervous, integumentary, endocrine, respiratory, circulatory and lymphatic systems.

  • Although peloid treatment does cause a balneological reaction (“healing crisis”), their action on the body is mild and is targeted not only at the area of pathology, but at all the body systems.

  • The ultimate goal of peloid therapy is to re-balance the body systems and restore homoeostasis.

Reference materials:

  • Adaptogenic and medicinal properties of peloids, Novosibirsk Medical State Academy, Novosibirsk, 2001. Edited by Prof. V.Y.Kulikov.

  • Sanogenetic Mechanisms of Peloid Therapy, Novosibirsk Medical Institute, Novosibirsk, 1999. Edited by Prof. V.Y.Kulikov.

  • Sanatoria and Resorts' Part in the Processes of Rehabilitation of the Population of the Siberian Region (Materials of the Regional Scientific-Practical Conference, 22-24 October 2003). Novosibirsk, 2003.

  • The Aromatherapy Companion”, Victoria Edwards