The BIG reason I traveled to Ireland was to study seaweed.
This idea grew out of the passing mention of Irish seaweed baths from my travel buddy, Em. From there, we were unstoppable.
We did months of research around seaweed, we scoured the internet for herbalists, physicians and researchers working with seaweed. We found seaweed bath houses and we plotted a path that would take us from one end of Ireland to the other.
It was nothing short of amazing.
The practice of bathing in seaweed dates back to the late 19th century in Ireland. The elderly would take seaweed baths to prepare for winter. Interestingly enough, the bath can help to alleviate painful arthritic and rheumatic conditions, making the notion of “preparing for winter” quite accurate. Arthritic pain is generally aggravated by cold weather, which is why my grandmother, who resides in New Jersey, often travels to Florida to spend time with my mom during the cold, winter months.
Seaweed contains high levels of iodine which are absorbed by the bather when immersed in the water. Seaweed baths are a traditional marine cure therapy and the only therapy that is indigenous to Ireland; at the beginning of the 20th century there were an estimated 300 seaweed bath houses in Ireland. Seawater has long been thought to be a cure all, the ancient Greeks believed seawater preserved and restored good health and the French regarded seawater therapy, or Thalassotherapy, as a complete mineral source, and one that could cure mineral imbalances. Seaweed has an incomparable wealth of mineral elements all of which are drawn from the aqua environment in which it grows. Macro-elements, vitamins and trace elements are all found in seaweed. The mineral content of some seaweed accounts for up to 80% of its dry matter. Neil Walton, founder of Voya Seaweed Baths and tri-athlete, discovered bathing in seaweed could provide relief to tired muscles and help him to recuperate after strenuous races.
You must be wondering…What exactly does a seaweed bath feel like?
It’s actually a bit strange and it can be intimidating to get into a tub full of seawater and seaweed.
But once you do…WOW!
The seaweed releases oils into the seawater making the water feel like silk. Your skin and hair feel incredibly soft. The water temperature is to your personal preference, it is a combination of cold seawater and hot water. The hot water is primarily added for comfort (soaking in an ice cold seawater bath might not feel quite as luxurious).
It is recommended that you enter a steam prior to getting into the tub. This opens up your pores to help you absorb the oils, minerals and iodine released by the seaweed. A traditional bath house, like Kilcullen’s Seaweed Baths, also has a shower to allow you to finish your hot bath off with an ice cold seawater shower, this closes the pores and locks in all of the goodness you just absorbed. Kilcullen’s Bath House opened their doors in 1912, the same year the Titanic set sail, and today is operated by the same family. Fun Fact: The Titanic made it’s last stop in Ireland before setting sail enroute to America.
The sea has always held a special place in my heart. Growing up in Florida meant that a beach was never more than 45 minutes away. I find myself drawn to the ocean and my experience in Ireland made me feel connected to the sea in so many ways. I really do believe that saltwater cures everything.