Mud therapy improves osteoarthritis  


By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Mud therapy

As per Ayurveda, the human body is made up of 5 elements- water, air, earth, ether, and fire. Earth or soil/mud or balneotherapy is one of these essential elements. It has the power to help the body heal and correct any internal issues or imbalances in the body. Mud has great detoxifying abilities and it helps in eliminating the toxins from the body.

Hence, there is nothing better than nature and its by-products. Nature has given us so many things to heal ourselves. The soil contains minerals and other nutrients in abundance which makes it a holistic healer.  People do apply soil or mud on their wounds, this is because the soil has anti-bacterial properties to prevent infections and control bleeding. There are plentiful benefits of mud baths including physical and psychological.  Let us explore all the wonders of this therapy.

Ingredients in Mud

A recent study by Tian et al.(2022) found that Mud is a semi-colloidal substance formed by the mixture of inorganic, organic, and water under the influence of various physical and chemical factors through geological and biological processes. The chemical composition of mud is complex, rich in Ca2+, Zn2+, Mg2+, Na+, and other mineral elements, and also contains organic matter such as humic acid, fulvic acid, and acetic acid. In the cosmetic field, mud can improve the activity of glutathione enzyme and superoxide dismutase in the skin, which helps the skin anti-aging.

Science, Mud Therapy Treatment

Mud Therapy Good for Skin

Skin gets the most advantage of a mud bath. Fuller’s Earth or multani mitti which is a very popular skincare ingredient is also a component of Earth. As per Ayurveda, mud can control Pita dosh. It detoxifies the skin to eliminate all the impurities and get the natural glow.

For instance, one review by Antonelli and Donelli(2018) suggests that muds have various properties that may explain their action on skin microbiome. The microbiome is the collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us.

Another study by Tian et al.(2022) suggests that clay is often used as carriers or composites in drug delivery, especially in skin drug delivery, showing very positive results. Mud pack has also been tested and proven to have an antimicrobial effect on strains of bacteria that live on human skin. Since overgrowth or the presence of certain bacteria can lead to acne, this may be why Dead Sea mud has been used to treat breakouts since biblical times(Ma’or et al. 2006).

Stress relief

Mud is a natural coolant which makes it apt to regulate body heat and control stress. Mud therapy has great importance in naturopathy and alternate therapies for the mind and body. Nervous issues like stress, anxiety disorders, sleep problems, post-traumatic disorders, etc. can be treated with mud therapy. It helps in clearing blocked neural pathways in the brain.


Costantino et al.(2015) study found mud-bath therapy in the interdisciplinary therapeutic protocol of patients suffering arterial hypertension.

Better Stomach Health

The detoxification benefits of mud helps in releasing toxins and other harmful chemicals from the body. Sometimes, these toxins are the reason behind stomach issues including indigestion, constipation, etc. Applying mud on your stomach would help in combating these issues. Navel Therapy is also good for curing stomach ailments.

Prevent fever, headaches, and osteoarthritis

If you frequently suffer from fever and headaches, you may consider mud therapy for relief. Just apply a mud pack on your abdomen area. It will lower the body heat which will instantly reduce body temperature. This is particularly good for summers to prevent heatstroke. It is easy and 100 times more effective than medicines.

One study by Hou et al.(2020) found that mud therapy can effectively alleviate pain and improve joint function for knee osteoarthritis.

An earlier study by Fraioli et al.(2011) also concluded that the mud-bath therapy performed at Chianciano Spa in Italy with Sillene Spring water remarkably improved the clinical conditions of patients with knee arthritis and significantly reduced the frequency and severity of symptoms and the disability they cause.

Another meta-analysis by Mennuni et al.(2021) found significant improvements in function scores and painful symptoms after mud-bath therapy in patients with knee joint osteoarthritis.

A previous clinical trial by Antúnez et al.(2013) concluded that mud therapy in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis attains immediate effects on perceived pain and better quality of life care, reducing the consumption of specific drugs.

Another clinical trial by Dischereit et al.(2019) concluded that Mud baths applied within the framework of a physical rehabilitative complex treatment brought about an improvement of parameters of functional health for both inflammatory rheumatic and degenerative diseases. Effects at the molecular level were induced, which are possibly accompanied by osteoprotective and chondroprotective effects.

Ortega et al.(2017) study also concluded that mud therapy could be an effective alternative treatment in the management of Osteoarthritis, and slow down the progression of osteoarthritis(Güngen et al. 2012). Another clinical trial affirmed that the beneficial effects of spa therapy in patients with hand Osteoarthritis last over time(Fioravanti et al. 2014).


In the case of fibromyalgia, clinical trials by (Fioravanti et al.  2007; Maeda et al. 2018  ) suggest the efficacy and the tolerability of mud-bath treatment in primary fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic (long-lasting) disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as fatigue and trouble sleeping. Scientists do not fully understand what causes it, but people with the disorder have a heightened sensitivity to pain.

Good for eyes

People who spend a lot of time in front of computer screens suffer from eye problems. Ayurveda suggests applying a layer of mud on the eyes or walking barefoot in a mud bath to promote eye health. There are several studies promoting the effectiveness of this therapy in the prevention of age-related eye disorders like glaucoma.

For instance, one clinical trial by Jogdand et al.(2018) explored the effect of mud packs on eyes on psychological variables in healthy volunteers.  The result suggests that mud packs to eyes increased the state of mindfulness in healthy individuals.

Is mud therapeutic?

“It depends on what is in the mud,” says Dr. Harvey. “The ingredients in a mud bath usually include warmed mineral water, volcanic ash, organic peat, lake mud, or salt water. Each combination has variable effects.” It is important to do your research and ask the facility which minerals are predominant in their mud. This will often vary based on the location of the spa and its proximity to various natural sources. For example, the ingredients of a mud bath in Miami will likely differ from that in Napa Valley.

How it works

One systematic review conducted by  Fraioli et al.(2018) found that mud-pack therapy, balneotherapy, mud-bath therapy, and spa therapy have proven to be effective in the treatment and in the secondary prevention of knee osteoarthritis, by reducing pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug consumption, and functional limitation and improving quality of life of affected patients.

Another clinical trial confirms that direct application was found to be superior, which implies chemical properties of the mud contribute to the build-up of therapeutic effect(Odabasi et al. 2008).

Mud bath safety

Based on some limited research, mud baths are typically not harmful to healthy people as long as your skin is intact and you don’t ingest it, says Dr. Harvey. “However, if you have broken skin from an injury or eczema, for example, you may be at risk for developing an infection.”

While mud baths are generally safe, try to avoid:

  • Getting mud in your eyes, nose, ears, or mouth
  • Spas that don’t change their mud regularly

Dr. Harvey does not recommend mud baths if you

It is important to talk to your doctor before trying a spa treatment or therapy, especially when heat is involved. When you go to a spa or resort that offers mud baths, ask

  • How often do they change the mud
  • How many people typically use the mud bath at one time
  • What type of ingredients do they use

Take Home

Extensive studies have been conducted on mud therapy and is effective in osteoarthritis and pain management.

>>>The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, an author, and a science writer. E. mail: [email protected]. For more about me, Visit:


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