Thalassotherapy: The Limu Experience


What did the ancient Polynesians know about the sea and its healing properties? Long before the first European seatherapy center was instituted in 1899 by Dr. Louis Bougot in France, Polynesians were reaping the benefits of sea water and seaweeds in their healing practices. Many of the ancient remedies using seaweeds are still used by locals who make poultices from fresh seaweeds, detoxifying seaweed baths, and use dry seaweeds for internal and external healing treatments. The use of sea water and sea plants to promote health and beauty is called Thalassotherapy. The theory is that the chemical composition of sea water is almost identical to human plasma and contains all the elements necessary for optimum cellular function. Seaweeds have a rich abundance of all the building blocks of life: minerals, trace elements, amino acids, vitamins and a host of other nutrients.

Thalassotherapy has found a renaissance in spas and seaside retreats around the globe. Thalasso treatments vary from region to region, depending on the nature of the sea water, seaweeds and sea minerals available. Often seaweeds and sea salt are combined with other natural healing ingredients to rejuvenate the kin and stimulate internal balance. Seaweeds have a remarkable softening, remineralizing, moisturizing and firming effect on the skin.

Applications of seaweeds help to detoxify the tissues and regulate blood circulation throughout the body. The high iodine content stimulates the thyroid gland. This increases the metabolic action, speeding up the detoxification process. So, if you are interested in turning back the clock on your skin, a seaweed body treatment is a most pleasurable way to do so. Never mind that you will look like a human sushi roll while your body is enrobed in the Neptunian nutrients. You will emerge a new tuna with a wonderful feeling of well-being, and with skin as soft as a shark's belly.

The Hawaiians are one of the few groups to use sea salt in their healing practices. They were also the only Polynesian people of the four groups that used salt for seasoning food. Paakai (red salt) is a common local treatment to increase circulation and heal bruises. The salt is often mixed with Lepo Alae (red clay) and plant oils to tone and build better tissue integrity. Two of the most popular plant oils are from the Kukui nut and the Macadamia nut. Body care manufacturers have only recently discovered what Hawaiians have had in their hands for so many centuries. The use of these two oils in skin care products is becoming increasingly more popular.

Less available are the essential oils of Polynesia. The most well-known is the Tiare Gardenia, made famous in Tahitian products. My favorite is the Pikake, better known as Jasmine. Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, is perhaps the most affordable of tropical flowers, and yields a lovely sweet, and somewhat intoxicating scent. These essential oils are the cornerstones of tropical Aromatherapy. Many herbs and fruits are used in cosmetic and medicinal preparations, lending and aromatic and exotic potency.

As a child growing up on the shores of Kailua Bay, I spent many delightful hours hosting flowers feasts with my friends, real and imaginary. Preparations for these feasts took me down the beach and into jungles of overgrowth still vast in the early Fifties. I collected the flowers that dreams are made of: Pikake, Gardenias, Wax Flowers, Plumerias, Stephanotis and Honeysuckle. Hibiscus flowers became a petal salad, with plump Sea Grapes served on their round flat leaves. Such play in the plant kingdom led me along a bequilingly scented path which has become a rewarding profession.

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.


By Alexandra Avery

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