The treatment menu of a great spa is essentially a walk-in guidebook to healing botanicals. Here are a few of my favorites that really feature the local plants. By Mary Bemis
A favorite jaunt of mine is the thermal spa town of Bad Wörishofen, the tiny Bavarian village where, beginning in the 1850s, Father Sebastian Kneipp practiced his world-renowned Kneipp Cure. His particular philosophy involved the use of hot-and cold-water therapies in combination with herbalism. Some of the herbs used included calendula, which acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory; juniper to soothe sore muscles; and valerian to promote a good night’s sleep. To this day, the many resort hotels and inns in this spa town offer treatments that use the original methods of Kneipp. Kneipp therapies are also available at many spas worldwide. Kneipp Herbal Bath Oils are sold at pharmacies and even come in handy travel sizes for a quick fix.
Not so far away and surrounded by the magnificent Alps, is the Bio-Hotel Stanglwirt in Going, Austria. Boasting the largest hotel saltwater pool in Europe, as well as a newly designed spa, the menu here nicely reflects the rich Alpine region. For example, the soothing Marigold Bath uses the nurturing herbal essential oil extracts of organic marigold and chamomile—a wonderful treatment for stressed and sensitive skin. Marigold, explains Maria Hauser, daughter of the Hauser family who own the spa, contains soothing and pain-relieving properties and helps calm irritated skin (an ideal treatment if you’ve had too much sun or have spent a long day hiking or skiing in the mountains). This common and colorful garden flower is found on many mountains, like those surrounding the Stanglwirt.
Another cherished treatment at this spa is the Stanglwirt Signature Alpine Herb Pouch Massage, a deeply relaxing massage (especially beneficial for those dealing with insomnia) that begins with a re-energizing foot bath and foot massage. The core of this treatment involves steam-heated herbal pouches that are gently used to massage. All of the herbs in the pouch come from the gardens of local farmers. There’s coltsfoot, valued as a respiratory disinfectant and cough suppressant, and used since the days of ancient Greece and Rome to relieve asthma and bronchial congestion; pepper-root, boasting antibacterial properties, in addition to having tonic, stimulant, analgesic and carminative (anti-gas) properties; sage, rich in antioxidants and important nutrients, such as vitamin K, and valued throughout history for a wide range of uses in both cooking and medicine; peppermint, known to help digestion and relied upon for cold and flue relief; as well as a variety of blackberry, strawberry and raspberry leaves—high in vitamin C and trace minerals and believed to have healing properties for many ailments, including colds and skin rashes.
At the Le Torri di Bagnara Castle-Villas, proprietress Zenaide Giunta, Napoleon’s great-great-grandniece, infuses the property’s homemade extra-virgin olive oil with aromatic herbs from her botanical gardens. The one-of-a-kind oil is used in the Anti-Stress Massage. Guests may choose from oils infused with garden-fresh chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary or sage. Guests who stay at this historic castle will find themselves blissfully situated amidst a 1,500-acre estate and working farm—which Zenaide refers to as “a private green heaven.” Manicured gardens designed by Mario Margheriti, a famous Tuscan landscape designer, include an herb garden with aromatic plants and a kitchen garden with fresh vegetables for guests to pick and enjoy—dotted by flowers, pomegranate and cherry trees, with laurel, rosemary and lavender bushes, and oak and olive trees that are continuously in flower.
Frangipani, lemongrass, aloe vera, damascena rose and coconut oil are just some of the luscious flowers and plants found in spa treatments at the Mulia Spa on the spectacular coastline of Nusa Dua in southeastern Bali. The spa makes use of fifty percent of local indigenous ingredients in its treatments—the Purely Bali massage, the Mulia Mermaid treatment, the Bali Hair Crème Bath and the Sun Lovers Delight, to name a few. A homemade “boreh,” a paste-like substance created from a mixture of natural ingredients such as roots, turmeric, ginger, galangal, various leaves and herbs and spices like clove and nutmeg, is employed here as well. Often, these ingredients are mixed with bark from various indigenous trees.
And speaking of trees, the baobab, moringa and marula, all of which hail from Africa, have long been revered for their healing properties and make wonderful essential oils that are especially nourishing for the skin. The One&Only Cape Town, South Africa, offers a number of holistic experiences and spa treatments that pay homage to local African influences. For example, the Essence of Africa Journey, a stress-reducing signature ritual, uses ancient healing ingredients, including baobab tree oil (highly moisturizing, it is rich in vitamins A, D, E and F, as well as Omega 3,6 and 9)—excellent when used on the hair, as well. Rooibus herbs from the African bush are also used in this treatment to help improve skin elasticity.
Mary Bemis is a leading spa and wellness expert. The founder of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com, and the co-founder of Organic Spa Magazine, she keeps her bathroom well stocked with all sorts of herbal bath oils and elixirs. To read the current issue of QUEST magazine online, click here, and be sure to stay up to date on all of QUEST’s online content by following the QUEST Facebook page.