A popular wellness treatment in Bhutan since time immemorial
Hot-stone-bath is a popular form of medication practiced in Bhutan since time immemorial. There is no recorded history of its origin. In the olden times it was a luxury enjoyed by the well to do families. A whole day was spent to organize this particular event where the whole family took turns bathing.
This event was very elaborate. Most well to do families consulted their chief astrologer to look for an auspicious day to organize this event. It’s a general belief in Bhutan that any medication done on an auspicious day has more healing power. A team of able bodied men built a huge fire and heated rocks over it. Since it was for the whole family (then families consisted of over fifteen members) large amount of firewood and stones were used.
A large wooden trough of about four feet length, one and half feet breadth and two feet height (usually vary) is filled with cold spring water. Red hot stones are immersed from one end. As the water gets heated a person slowly enters the trough and sits immersed neck down in water. Depending on the heat-resistibility of a person more red-hot-stones are added. A person remains immersed from 20 minutes to an hour. From time to time hot soup is served to the person. More a person sweats, better it’s for him.
Hot-stone-bath is effective when the water temperature is unbearably hot. A person sits in the water without any movement. This medication is more like a heat therapy or the poultice practiced in many Asian countries.
To keep away from the drought and risk catching cold, the moment a person is out of the bath he gets into the bed and remains cuddled in a blanket.
Today, unless one has enough source and time this activity is restricted to old, sickly and wealthy.
No scientific research has been done so far, but hot-stone-bath is popularly believed to have certain medicinal benefits. It’s a fact that about 80% of skin diseases are curable. Hot-stone-bath is believed to heal many ailments like joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorder, arthritis and many other minor diseases. The addition of aromatic herbs in the water further enhances the healing power of the bath.
Some of the herbs added are a secret know to very few families. The secret is revealed only to immediate family members. Some of the families are so secretive that they bring only the root which most people fail to recognize the plant.
Hot-stone-bath has no side effects. It is in its pure natural form. The water is collected from a clear spring, unlike most underground water source; it’s free of chemical pesticides and industrial pollutant. The herbs added are collected in pollution free high altitude areas.
Today Bhutan Government has started a sustainable forestry management system. People are taught to manage and harvest herbs and other medicinal plants in a sustainable way.
A person must take several dips before feeling the healing power of it.
Today most of the tourist hotels in Bhutan have some form of hot-stone-bath. “I feel relaxed after taking the bath” is what most tourists say. “It’s a very good experience” is what I heard another say. As no scientific study has been done we can’t guarantee anything but most Bhutanese feel they have been cured of certain illnesses. The minerals in the rocks and the clean spring water must have certain chemicals which have curative power.
Eagle Tours has been in tourism business since 1997. They have a group of professionals who have been in the tourism industry for over 15 years. More than just a profit making venture, Eagle Tours is focused on uplifting the rural community and youth employment. They promote age old traditions like the hot-stone bath and employ about six people per district, in a total of 15 districts throughout the kingdom, thus sharing opportunity among backward communities. For more information about tours to Bhutan, contact Eagle Tours and Treks.
Norzin Lam, P.O Box 458
Thimphu, Kingdom of Bhutan
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Ph. : +975-2-327117
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