Independent Bookshop Week

I was watching the local news last week and heard about Independent Bookshop Week for the first time. I have to say that running any Independent retail business is hard. (I have done this for years) But running a book store must be one of the hardest, with Amazon and even supermarkets selling the latest releases at a highly reduced cost it must be very difficult to compete on a level playing field. I meet a lovely lady, who was full of great ideas, at the start of the year at a local networking event who was telling me about the book shop she has been running successfully for several decades, and the many different events and exhibitions that were held throughout the year. I think that indies all need a niche of sorts but with bookshops it is crucial.

Independent Bookshop Week 2020 took place on the 20th to 27th June in the UK, I think the USA version takes place in August. The Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association, it seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. This is organised by the BA and sponsored by Hachette. This annual celebration of independent bookshops across the UK this year has adapted to include online/virtual events to give book- lovers across the country access to authors and books during lockdown.

I think that books and reading have played a huge part in keeping me sane during lockdown, as a chance to escape, when I can’t leave my home for months! I think I’ve reached 80 books so far, luckily friends and family have been dropping bags and boxes of books on my doorstep!

During the week, it was a chance to celebrate the role indie booksellers have continued to play in building a sense of community during the pandemic as well as encouraging customers to support their local high street by shopping local at what is a particularly challenging time for small retailers. I fully support buying local, we all must if the local high street is to survive.

BOOKS ARE MY BAG is a nationwide campaign run by the Booksellers Association to celebrate bookshops. It launched in 2013 and today it comprises of the Bookshop Day and the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. At the centre of the campaign is the iconic BAMB tote bag. Since the campaign launched, over a million people have worn a Books Are My Bag to show their love for their local bookshop.

Every year over a thousand bookshops around the country take part in Bookshop Day by creating bespoke window displays and holding special events like: reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and even face painting! The BAMB Readers Awards are the only awards curated by bookshops and voted for by book-lovers.

Why Buy Books in your local bookshop? Well if you don’t, they will sadly disappear from the high street. But it might be worth also thinking about the reasons below:

You love books

You might make a purchase you’ll value for the rest of your life

You’ll be shopping on your local high street

You’ll be helping create local jobs

You might just find a book you never knew existed

You’ll find great gifts for friends and family

You can talk to real people about books they know and love

You’ll be part of your local book-loving community.

Bookshops aren’t the same as other shops, they aren’t simply a place to go and buy something, they are so much more than that. When people were asked what it was that makes a bookshop so special, the same messages kept coming up again and again. They are different to other shops, they are relaxed, they’re a place of calm and they are somewhere to talk and to hone ideas. You can easily while away hours in a bookshop, knowing that you aren’t going to be rushed and that there are like-minded people around you.

In this day and age, where technology rules all, there is still something very special about an actual book, I love the smell and feel of a book, which is very different to a kindle book. Browsing through shelves, you never know what you will find, flicking through a book can take you into a different world. Books unite everyone that visits, regardless of where they are from and what they do when they aren’t in the shop. Everyone has a love of books in common and that immediately means that we have something to talk about. Visits to bookshop can give much needed ‘me’ time. I clearly remember getting away from it all by heading to the second floor of Waterstones in Hampstead, when I lived a hectic lifestyle in London.

What makes independent bookshops so important is that they are safe spaces. They can become community hubs, a place that can help to ward off loneliness. To visit regularly for a chat and to browse and in many cases have a cup of tea and cake in the attached café. Children are encouraged to look at the books and learn to love them, often there are kid’s book nooks so there is no need for them to worry about being quiet.

As many local libraries have been closed it makes the role of a local bookshop even more essential.

Damian Barr from indie bookshop week said the following “Indie bookshops do so much for readers and writers—they’re the beating heart of publishing. It’s a joy to be able to celebrate a different indie every day for a week, in addition to our Indie Bookshop of the Month feature on Salon.”

Visit their website for more details;

Despite the restrictions of 2020 the event was still a success, Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the BA, said: “We couldn’t be more delighted by the enthusiasm for Independent Bookshop Week 2020 from across the book trade. In this immensely challenging time, we hope that book lovers across the country will enjoy the many fantastic online events and exclusive editions on offer from indie bookshops, while remembering to choose bookshops and shop local.”

I do hope this special event can continue to go from strength to strength, and that perhaps during lockdown many people have re-discovered their joy of reading.

The Healing Benefits of Seaweed Bathing

Outside- The Body

I have talked already about the many benefits to the inside of your body by eating seaweed. What about the benefits to outside your body? Legend has long had it that taking a dip in the sea can work wonders for your health. As far back as 400BC, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was advocating saltwater and heated seaweed baths for curing a variety of bodily ailments.

Go to the ocean to heal– is a quote ascribed to Hippocrates.

Seaweed has been in use for thousands of years, in diet, science and bathing, it boasts a myriad of nutrients, amino acids, and antioxidants that are associated with skin health and beauty. As skin is the largest organ in the body it gives the maximum surface through which its natural source of minerals, vitamins and amino acids in seaweed can be fully absorbed. Seaweed takes the nutrients in the water in a similar way to the way our bodies do, it balances and purifies the ocean through its growth and chemistry. So, bathing in the weeds of the sea can be healthy, balancing and nourishing for the skin and body. Acting as an emoillant which locks in moisture. Our skin is constantly plagued by harmful environmental effects that can speed up the skin’s aging process. Research suggests that seaweed has a revitalizing effect on the skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to induce blood flow to the skin. A hot seaweed bath is like a wet-steam sauna: the greens from the sea balance body chemistry without dehydrating it. The electromagnetic action of the seaweed acts as a diuretic to release excess body fluids from congested cells. So dissolves fatty wastes through the skin, replacing them with minerals, especially iodine, which boosts thyroid activity. Seaweed is rich in B, C, E and K vitamins, niacin, pantothenic acid and folic acid. Vitamin K boosts adrenal activity, which can help maintain hormone balance for a more youthful body. Scientific studies have confirmed that seaweed bathing helps lower body stress and back pain. Skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema and acne are relieved and soothed. It has also been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of muscle aches and joint stiffness helping in combating rheumatism and arthritis.

  In 1904 French scientist Rene Quinton published the medical work L’eau de Mer, Millen Organique which translates as Sea Water Organic Medium. Quinton’s study indicated that sea water and human plasma, Blood and Lymph fluid, are almost identical in their composition of mineral salts, proteins and various other elements. Seaweed is one of nature’s sponges so absorbs minerals from the sea. In a bath where seaweed and seawater are infused the mineral concentration within the infusion is much greater than in the water alone. ( This would occur in a treatment bath)

Many people in countries like Ireland and France, where it grows in abundance, have long used seaweed to keep the skin clean, moisture-rich, and rejuvenated. Natural skincare and body care has evolved, but one thing remains true, we still make use of the raw ingredients around us, often using plants our ancestors have used for centuries to help to heal the skin and body. Modern thalassotherapy techniques use seawater and seaweed baths and treatments to deliver their potent combination of beauty properties and healing elements.

France still leads the way with many Spas (thalassotherapy) specializing in seaweed treatments, many of which are associated with body toning, slimming and skin imperfections. We are made up of 65% water and water is the basis for our body’s evaporative cooling system. It flushes out toxic wastes, plumps up our cells, and lubricates our moving body parts.

Ireland has had a centuries-old practice of Seaweed bathing. It has fortified generations who relied on its therapeutic benefits to see them through the cold season, helping with aches and pains caused by the damp climate. Spartan seaweed baths were once popular in Ireland many attributing robust health and energy to the traditional cure of a hot seaweed bath. Now it’s much more relaxing, with many Spas and Hotels offering this service. The Ice House, in Mayo, has the Chill Spa with lovely products created by it has an outdoor seaweed bath on the deck overlooking the river and is pure luxury. Voya Seaweed Baths is based in the coastal village of Strandhill in County Sligo they offer detoxifying seaweed baths and treatments utilising the natural power of their organic hand-harvested, wild seaweed. For full details of bathing treatments and products visit:

The seaweed used for bathing in Ireland is a wrack called Fucus Serratus, also known as serrated wrack and Fucus Vesiculosus known as Bladder wrack, belonging to the brown seaweed family. Wracks are large seaweeds growing on rocky shores in the northern hemisphere, particularly in Europe and North America. This seaweed has a high mineral content, and is rich in sulphur, iodine and natural oils.

It is possible to try seaweed treatments and baths at home and there are many great companies selling products that are both therapeutic and relaxing. Look for organic and natural companies where possible. Think how great you feel after walking on the beach and having a dip in the sea. A seaweed bathing regimen is thought to have a significant impact on our health and well-being as well as pure relaxation after a busy day.

Well I am totally convinced are you?

The Benefits of Seaweed- Inside and Outside

Inside- Edible

As I mentioned in my last blog post there are huge benefits to bathing with seaweed, however there are also has great benefits for inside as well as outside your body as seaweed holds a reputation as a nutrient-rich superfood. Seaweed or sea vegetables are forms of algae that grow in the sea and are found along rocky shorelines around the world. Its full of vitamins and protein as well as been low-calorie, crunchy and salty so is both nutritious and tasty. Seaweed has long been a staple of many Asian diets particularly in Japanese cuisine but has become increasing popular among health-conscious eaters for the fact that it’s plant-based and high in protein, it has as much calcium as milk, depending on the type of seaweed so is perfect for a vegan diet. Seaweed features powerful anti-viral properties that have been shown to guard against the influenza virus so during the cold and flu season it is worth increasing your intake of this marine plant. (Take note, a little goes a long way) It’s extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes, including sushi rolls, soups and stews, salads, supplements and smoothies. In Brittany, in France, an area which has a kelp forest called the Lamiariar, fisherman minced seaweed in butter which they called Beurre des Algues they ate this on bread and used it to cook fish.

Research is underway in using an extract called alginate (taken from types of brown seaweed) to add fibre to junk food favourites such as burgers, pies and cake. Adding the seaweed extract could quadruple the amount of fibre in white bread. A low fibre diet in the western world is seen as one of the most harmful dietary problems in staying healthy today.

While there are more than 100 types of edible seaweed, these are the varieties you’ll see the most often:

  1. Nori, think of this as the gateway seaweed. It shows up on sushi rolls and in sheets as seaweed snacks.
  2. Kelp- also known as kombu, kelp is the primary ingredient in dashi, a Japanese stock that forms the base of miso soup. Kelp powder can be added to smoothie’s.
  3. Wakame-is the main component of most seaweed salads and the wide, slippery seaweed found in miso soup.

There are several ways of adding seaweed to your diet; kombu can be added to dried beans. (It helps break down the sugars in beans that cause gas) Kelp can be added to coleslaw. Furikake is a topping that includes sesame seeds and nori and can be added to popcorn, roasted veggies, cooked fish and omelettes. Spirulina adds more health benefits to a fruit smoothie.

The colours of seaweed range in colour from Red to Green to Brown to Black: Green algae is sea lettuce or ulva, Brown algae is kombu, arame, kelp and wakame, Red algae is dulse, laver, and nori, and Blue-green algae is spirulina.

There are 7 science-backed benefits of seaweed:

  1. Iodine and Tyrosine (an amino acid) is needed by your thyroid gland to function properly. The thyroid gland releases hormones to help control growth, energy production, reproduction and the repair of damaged cells in your body. Seaweed has the unique ability to absorb concentrated amounts of iodine from the ocean. Without enough iodine, you may start to experience symptoms like weight changes, fatigue or swelling of the neck. Kelp is one of the best sources of iodine.
  2. Good Source of Vitamins and Minerals, each type of seaweed has a unique set of nutrients. Seaweed also contains small amounts of vitamins A, C, E and K, along with folate, zinc, sodium, calcium and magnesium. The protein present in some seaweeds, such as spirulina and chlorella, contain all of the essential amino acids helping to ensure you get the full range of amino acids. Seaweed can also be a good source of omega-3 fats and vitamin B12.
  3. Contains a variety of protective Antioxidants, which can make unstable substances in your body called free radicals less reactive which makes them less likely to damage your cells. Excess free radical production is considered to be an underlying cause of several diseases.
  4. In addition, seaweed boasts a wide variety of beneficial plant compounds, including flavonoids and carotenoids. These have been shown to protect your body’s cells from free radical damage too. Fucoxanthin is the main carotenoid found in brown algae, such as wakame. Fucoxanthin, has been shown to protect cell membranes better than vitamin A. While the body does not always absorb fucoxanthin well, absorption may be improved by consuming it along with fats.
  5. Seaweed provides fibre and polysaccharides that can support your gut health. Gut bacteria play an enormous role in your health. You have more bacteria cells in your body than human cells. An imbalance in these good and bad gut bacteria can lead to sickness and disease. Seaweed has a higher fibre content than most fruits and vegetables.
  6. It may help you lose weight by delaying hunger and reducing weight. Seaweed contains a lot of fibre but does not contain any calories. This helps you feel fuller for longer and can delay hunger pangs. Fucoxanthin, contributes to an increased metabolism and may help reduce body fat.
  7. A reduction in the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Seaweed may help reduce your blood cholesterol levels. It also contains carbohydrates called fucans, which may help prevent blood from clotting. Diabetes, occurs when your body is unable to balance your blood sugar levels over time. Seaweed gives additional improvements in controlling blood sugar. A substance in seaweed called alginate prevented blood sugar spikes and may also reduce the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

N.B- Although seaweed is considered a very healthy food, there may be some potential dangers of consuming too much. As it can contain a very large and potentially dangerous amount of iodine. High amounts of seaweed can affect thyroid function, and symptoms of too much iodine are often the same as symptoms of not enough iodine. Seaweed can absorb and store minerals in concentrated amounts. This poses a health risk, as seaweed can also contain large amounts of toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury and lead. It is best to buy organic seaweed, as it’s less likely to contain significant amounts of heavy metals.

The fact that it’s plant-based and high in protein as well as containing many other nutrients would make it ideal for a vegetarian or vegan to help any deficiencies in their diet. I think it’s a great idea to add seaweed to your diet for extra fibre too which is often too low in the typical western diet. As a healthy, natural, substantiable food it is very on trend at the current time!

I will write about using seaweed, outside or on the body in my next post.

Water Power-Hydrotherapy, Balneotherapy and Thalassothreapy

Water is the most receptive element and the greatest receiver of energy. In my last blog post, I talked about the history of the practice of the Water Cure, which is a combination of Hydrotherapy, Balneotherapy and Thalassotherapy. Whilst in the main these water therapies are best practised in a spa or with trained practitioners, some aspects like Balneotherapy can be done at home.

I have covered a little about each method below:

Hydrotherapy is a therapeutic whole-body treatment that involves moving and exercising in water, it can also be called Aqua therapy. Hydrotherapy pools are usually different from ordinary pools – the temperature, pressure and movement of water is controlled and changed according to the requirements of the person having the treatment. However, you could have hydrotherapy treatments in any water or pool. Being immersed, buoyant or massaged in water can relieve our bodies in a variety of different ways, and hydrotherapy can help with many physical and emotional complaints; including rheumatic pain and arthritis, poor muscle and skin tone, back pain, muscle or ligament injuries; broken limbs, neurological conditions such as strokes or brain injuries. Doctors often prescribe a course of hydrotherapy as part of a treatment program. It is also used by athletes to improve and maintain their general health and fitness, and by others as part of a healthy whole-body. Hydrotherapy is often prescribed by a GP or therapist as part of a course of treatment: a program of movements and exercises is tailored to your needs.

NB- If you’re having hydrotherapy at a spa, you may well be having a more general treatment, in which case just be aware of the power of the water.

There are different versions of Hydrotherapy, I have listed several below:

The Watsu Method– Also called water Shiatsu, is a combination of Aqua therapy and Shiatsu. Watsu is based on stretching the body in the supportive, relaxing medium of warm water. Besides the physical benefits this also has benefits mentally. The Watsu method has a general relaxation and calming effect that soothes the muscle tension and stimulates all of the body systems and organs by nourishing the energy flow.

The Feldenkrais Method- This method promotes teaching individuals about the quality of their movements and how to move effortlessly with ease and efficiency. This is called Awareness Through Movement, many of the aspects of this can be successfully adapted to water. The properties of water can affect movement; for example, the relationship of yourself to gravity combined with the unique attributes of the Feldenkrais method.

The Burdenko Method– Is a method of Aqua therapy which is designed to address the 6 precepts of fitness: strength; flexibility; balance; co-ordination, endurance and speed. It is promoted as a great way to recover from injury or surgery.

Balneotherapy, is hydrotherapy without the exercise and is also called Spa therapy. Thermal water treatments are century-old practices, used all over the world and part of traditional therapies of ancient and modern cultures There are three basic ways of taking the waters, these are: externally, through immersion, either total or partial; into the lungs and respiratory tract, through the inhalation of aerosols; and internally, through drinking.  The various kinds of mineral waters have differing effects through each of these. Balneotherapy. is frequently used in alternative medicine as a disease cure and is very popular for treatment of all types of arthritis. Scientific studies have proven that balneotherapy could help in the reduction of pain in conditions such as low back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. It could also help manage stress also in a better way.

Water has different properties at different temperatures: Hot is stimulating and will relax muscles. Warm is gently reviving and will stimulate the appetite, cool, is soothing for heated skin and inflammation. Cold water can only be used for short intervals of time. This can be used after hot water for exhilaration and stimulating circulation. Alternating between hot and cold water can be a powerful technique. Balneologists have three major vectors for analysing and classifying the natural mineral waters that occur at various spa resorts. The thermal waters, as they come out of the earth, are naturally one of three temperatures:

     Hypothermal:  from cool to tepid, well below body temperature.

     Mesothermal:  warm, or around body temperature.

     Hyperthermal:  hot, or well above body temperature.

During immersion, the skin absorption of the minerals in the water can be considerable, especially in total body immersion and if the water is at a high temperature.  The skin and the peripheral lymphatic and capillary circulation are the most directly affected.  With aerosol inhalation, lung and respiratory conditions are targeted.  And with the internal imbibing of the waters, the digestive organs and the Natural Faculty are most directly affected, and through them, every organ and tissue in the body.  In addition, techniques like massage are used with salts, peats, clays and muds. In countries like Hungary and Poland, it has been in use for centuries for the treatment of common ailments.

Balneotherapy can be done at home. The following is a suggestion of ways to ensure it works for you:

Prepare the water in a bath, making sure the temperature is between 98.6 degrees and 107 degrees. If you want to stimulate your body or to treat mild fatigue, a bath at a temperature of 98.6 degrees is ideal. If you would like to soothe your muscles and joints after an intense workout, the preferred temperature would be higher at 107 degrees. The minerals that can be easily used at home for Balneotherapy are Epsom salt and Dead Sea salt. The recommended amount is 1-2 cups in a standard-sized bath. Soak for about 15 to 20 minutes to reap the benefits of this therapy. Making sure that you are soaked all the way up to the neck. After taking your bath, relax for 10-20 minutes, lie down or meditate for a while.

NB-If you have respiratory or heart problems, make sure to consult a doctor before opting for Balneotherapy.

Thalassotherapy– It was Frenchman Jacques de la Bonnardière, in 1865, who invented the concept of thalassotherapy, combining two Greek words, thalassa (sea) and therapies (therapia). The Greeks, have always been a seafaring people and they have always placed great faith in the healing powers of the sea and the marine environment. Due to the supernatural power attributed to the warm waters and their vapours, it’s not surprising how the first Thermal baths arose in Ancient times near the temples and natural hot springs. Some claims are made that Thalassotherapy was developed in France during the 19th century. I think that many of the techniques were used for centuries before this but were actually fine- honed in France at a later time.

The word spa comes from the Latin sanitus per aqua which translates as health through water and the curative qualities of seawater and the seaside climate have been used for therapeutic purposes since Roman times. Today, it’s a big business and there are countless seaside towns where visitors flock to be sprayed, floated, pummelled and hosed using a variety of water-based techniques. The marine air is filled with healing, refreshing negative ions. Modern science tells us that all life evolved out of the oceans, so the desire to take a healing, refreshing dip in the ocean can be seen as the desire to return to our Source.  The writings of Rene Quinton formed the foundation for the modern science of Thalassotherapy. French physicians started formulating treatment plans and therapeutic protocols in Thalassotherapy and constructing seaside Balneotherapy resorts where seawater was pumped in to large thermal treatment pools. The first rheumatism and depression treatment centre opened in Boulogne-Sur-Mer in 1800 but enthusiasm for Thalassotherapy only really took hold in 1822 with the opening of the first warm water spa in Dieppe, which would launch its fashionable beach resort. Which encouraged people to take a spa holiday.

 Some of the health problems that can be treated include eczema and psoriasis, joint problems, arthritis, poor circulation, immobility and post-operative conditions, which are treated with seawater baths and sea algae packs.  Thalassotherapy is also very beneficial against stress, fatigue and aging and other minor health complaints we all suffer from which can slowly sap our vitality and immunity.   The secret to seawater’s effectiveness lies in its trace minerals, which act as catalysts to activate the cellular enzymes.  Without these vital trace minerals, cellular activity gets sluggish, which adversely impacts all the major bodily functions. The nutrients from food ingested by a de-mineralized body can’t be properly absorbed, digested and metabolized.  So, our bodies can’t properly expel metabolic wastes and toxins.  Cellular sluggishness can produce a whole plethora of nasty symptoms including fatigue, insomnia, a slow metabolism, circulation problems and poor immunity, all of which can lead to more serious health ailments and diseases.  All of these conditions can be remedied by the healing effects of seawater and Thalassotherapy. Some of the standard procedures and treatments are algae poultices, algae hand and foot baths, hot seawater baths, ( Seaweed has incredible qualities and I will tell you more about these in my next blog post) underwater massage and jet Thermal Medicine.

The health benefits of the seaside and ocean can be experienced by simply spending a day near the coastline, it is certainly one of my favourite things to do, I always feel wonderful afterwards!

The Ancient Origins of Hydrotherapy

The beneficial properties of water have been well-known since ancient times for its healing and disease-protecting effects. When men discovered the importance of water as an essential element for human life, they built the first civilisations close by to the sea and rivers. Due to its importance, water was seen as magical and considered a gift of the divinity. Egyptians and Israelites used to plunge themselves in the sacral water of Niles and Jordan.  Hindus, enter the waters of the Ganges river for healing their soul and body.

Ancient Greeks knew the beneficial properties of sulphurous springs, especially for healing skin diseases and for relieving muscular and joint pain. The element of Water was thought to have an Expulsive Virtue which washed impurities and waste products from the body. The cleansing action of the water is enhanced by its surface tension, which further enables the water to be able to penetrate and draw out the impurities and toxins. In the Homeric poems and Hesiod, many references are made to the use of restorative baths. Plato said, “The sea cures all ailments of man.”  Euripides said, “The sea washes away all men’s illnesses.”  Plato, Hippocrates and Aristotle all recommended hot seawater baths.  Cato the Elder served his slaves a mixture of wine and seawater to restore their energy.

Hippocrates, the famous philosopher, was the father of Hydrotherapy. He was very interested in the therapeutic properties of various waters, which he saw were either rain- fed, as in lakes or marshes, or from subterranean aquifers, as in mineral springs that come bubbling out of the rocks.  He theorized that their differing curative properties came from their differing contents of various minerals like; iron, copper, silver, gold and sulfur. In his work “De is, a quiz at loci” he describes the chemical and organoleptic water features, and the effects of hot and cold baths on the human body. Hippocrates, proposed the hypothesis that all the human diseases started in an imbalance of the bodily fluids. To restore balance; changes of habits and environment were advised, including bathing, perspiration, walking, and massages.

Thermalism became the social form of Hydrotherapy. Following on from the Greeks, Romans considered bathing as a regular regimen for good health. Many Roman and Byzantine physicians like Herophilus, Erasistratus, Asclepiades and Orebasius studied the curative properties of mineral springs. Roman thermal baths became a social experience for everyone. Numerous baths, which they called Balnea, were constructed in Rome and conquered lands all over Europe, for both private and public use. Baths, were also built in private houses, often with special areas dedicated to sauna and massage.  Not only was this a good regimen for human health, thermalism became important for socialising, relaxation and working. The Roman Thermae also had a medicinal emphasis, and were largely used as recuperation centres for the wounded military soldiers, fatigued by wars, to treat their sore wounds and tired muscles through the natural spring waters.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, spas in Austria and Germany, became popular. The Water Cure, which was also called Taking the Waters, was a 19th century health reform movement that employed the therapeutic use of water to revitalize health and treat disease. In the 19th century, detailed chemical analyses of the mineral contents of various hot springs waters began. (Today, in many European countries the scientific study of therapeutic spa bathing, is a recognized subspecialty of medicine) The Water Cure was a combination of Hydrotherapy, which is therapeutic bathing, Balneothrepy, which is bathing in thermal springs and Thalassothreapy, which is ocean bathing.

In 1849, Father Sebastian Kneipp who became known as the Water Doctor, invented a system of naturopathy of natural therapeutics.  When taken seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis, he discovers a book by the physician Johann Sigmund Hahn, On the Healing Virtues of Cold Water, Inwardly and Outwardly Applied, which explained about the healing power of cold water. Fascinated by this information, Kneipp performed an experiment on himself in the cold Danube river. A bath that lasted only a few seconds and a brief run afterwards lead to a surprising positive result. He is invigorated afterwards and repeats the brief baths over the following days and supplements them with half-baths and affusions, the pouring on of water on the head, as in the rite of baptism. As a result, his state of health continually improves and his illness is gone. He began using Hydrotherapy to help some of his poorer parishioners. Kneipp, broadened his approach to include; medicinal herbs, exercise, a diet of low-protein and high fibre and adhering to the body’s natural biorhythms. He wrote My Water Cure in 1886 which was translated into several languages. Kneipp’s effective philosophy is grounded on the five basic principles of Water, Plants, Exercise, Nutrition and Balance. His five pillars remain so relevant today that his methods of aromatherapy and plant healing play an immense role in contributing to modern holistic healthcare and have influenced many other health programs and experts. The German UNESCO Committee have acknowledged his work as part of Germany’s cultural heritage. Today, the company of Kneipp continues its 125 years old heritage by providing natural body, bathing and skin products inspired by the lifelong naturopathic studies of the health pioneer Father Sebastian Kneipp.

The Belle Epoque period, late Victorian era to the Edwardian era, saw the emergence of Elitist Thermalism, throughout Europe and the Americas, Spas were on the rise. The new thermal centres were an integral part of gentile life, it was the beginning of Medical and Health Tourism. Health was not solely linked to the treatment of disease and ailments but also for well-being, luxury and social status.

To able to travel for their health like the nobility, was very much seen as a major aspiration for the wealthy classes, to be seen taking the waters whether afflicted by illness or not. The elite flocked in their masses to the European spas to socialize, fall in love, find creative inspiration, show- off the latest fashions, attend cultural events and meet famous people. I do hope that their health also benefited from the wonderful natural resources.

In my next blog post, I will go into more detail about the actual treatments. This is such a large subject it was becoming a bit too long like War and Peace!

Incredible Edible Todmorden

I was watching James Martin last Saturday, one of my guilty pleasures, and there was a wonderful lady talking about Incredible Edible Todmorden. This inspirational story is about two, down to earth Yorkshire women who began turning disused verges in the former mill town of Todmorden into free food plots. It’s a simple idea to take over unused or unattractive bits of public land and to plant food to feed the local community. But little did they realise they would inspire a global movement of growers.

Mary Clear and her friends, sitting in a kitchen with no money, asked themselves, “What can we do to create a kinder world?”  They decided to make their ‘community stronger, educate their children in a different way, create jobs and have fun’. They got together their neighbours; local doctors, firemen, teachers, school children, even the police, and turned their town into an edible landscape where the produce is freely available to anyone who wants it. The Toddies didn’t set out to start a food-growing revolution, they only wanted to bring their small town together at a difficult time for communities throughout the UK.

Where is Todmorden? It’s an old mill town in Yorkshire’s Calderdale Valley. It rains a lot, there’s not a lot of sun, and it has experienced major flooding problems for several years. Still scarred by the memory of its declining industrial past. Many buildings lie abandoned and decayed, almost 20% of the residents are income deprived and an estimated 28% of children in the town live in poverty. These are ordinary people, not rich, or famous or influential. They practise the art of ‘propaganda gardening’, planting up every available public space in their town and from their efforts have started businesses, social enterprises, school gardens, a permaculture training centre, even ‘vegetable tourism’. Their work has invigorated the town’s economy. The Incredible Edibles say they’re inspired by Todmorden’s own history of activism. It was home to John Fielden who campaigned for the protection of child workers leading to the Ten-Hour Act of 1847, reducing the hours for factory workers.

Since a group of a dozen residents began gardening in March 2008, hundreds of people from around the UK and abroad have travelled there to see how the “Toddies”( what they call themselves) do it. Communities throughout the world have taken Todmorden’s model and replicated it. In France, the movement has taken root as Les Incroyables Comestibles, with 300 groups around the country. There are sister groups in Israel, Palestine, Colombia and Brazil, all growing food to share with others. In total as many as 500 community food growing groups across the world using the Incredible Edible name. The model is adapted to suit different needs. For example, In Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group supports farmers and street children.

We do say that if you can grow it in Todmorden, you can grow it anywhere,”

Estelle Brown, one of the founding members of Incredible Edible

Every first and third Sunday of the month, despite the weather, IET volunteers (of which there are an estimated 300 in the town of 16,000) get together for a morning of Guerrilla Gardening. They walk down the canal, following children carrying litter pickers. Every so often they pause to pick up cigarette butts or chocolate wrappers. There are lessons in pickling and preserving fruits, courses on bread-making, and the local college is to offer a BTEC in horticulture. The thinking is that young people who have grown up among the street vegetables may even make a career in food.

There are no paid staff, buildings or funding from statutory organisations. Their only income is from voluntary donations and fees for talks and tours. Yet they grow vegetables to share all around Todmorden, run cooking and other demonstrations and workshops, organise festivals, encourage people to shop local, and work with other local organisations to build a stronger, kinder community, a truly incredible achievement and an amazing inspiration to others. Incredible Edible Todmorden continues to grow and thrives and I hope it will continue to do so, for many years to come.

 I have found several similar schemes in my own city and as soon as I able to, I hope to contribute myself in some way. Eating seasonally, buying locally and building better communities is such an important way forward and the work they do in engaging and involved children is crucial to this been a long-standing movement. Please see the website for more information in how to get involved.

I leave the final words to Mary Clear- the founder

 There’s a nobility to growing food and allowing people to share it. There’s a feeling we’re doing something significant rather than just moaning that the state can’t take care of us.

‘Maybe we all need to learn to take care of ourselves.’

The Dead Sea and The Wonderful Benefits of Dead Sea Salts

The Dead Sea is called Ya-Ha Melah (in Hebrew) which is literally, the “sea of salt. The Dead Sea is a landlocked salt- lake, the largest in the world, bordered by Jordan, Israel and the Palestine. Extraordinary climatic and environmental conditions make the Dead Sea a truly remarkable place, and its salt deposits are unlike anything else in the world. The water has 34.2% salinity, which is why people are able to float in the water. The Dead Sea has been an attraction for healing and wellness for thousands of years. That’s because the unique mineral composition of the water, mud, and atmospheric pressure have been shown to improve inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and arthritis. The low pollution and allergen levels of the Dead Sea depression region make it an ideal place to recover from ailments such as asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and cystic fibrosis. Dead Sea water is a wonderful treatment for dry skin conditions, nourishing the skin and replenishes much-needed moisture.

Jenna Rosenstein,the beauty director of Harper’s Bazaar, fashion magazine, visited the Dead Sea and below are some of her observations:

The water was so warm that it verged on hot. I kept walking until it reached my torso, and then I leaned back and splashed into the sea. I submerged only for a second before popping back up on the surface, like a human rubber duckie.

I’ve tried nearly every facial and skincare product that promises luminous, even skin—nothing compares to a dip in the Dead Sea. And if you can’t fly out there anytime soon, at least pick up a packet (or ten) of Dead Sea bath salts. In this golden age of wellness and self-care, a little salt water might be all you need.

 Using Dead salts has been documented from as far back as biblical times. King Solomon presented the Queen of Sheba with a gift of Dead Sea Salts when she was visiting the Holy Lands. Queen Cleopatra, attributed her great beauty to the secrets of the sea and its salts. She had Marc Anthony conquer the regions surrounding the Dead Sea, so she would always have access to a bountiful supply. Some records state that she established cosmetic clinics to offer salt treatments to her guests, but I found many versions of the facts on this, so I am not sure if that is true.

The area around the Dead Sea has always had an association with mythical worlds. Dead Sea Salts are favoured by Spiritual Healers as it is reported to remove all negative energies which we all pick up on our daily travels. These negative energies attach themselves to our Aura, resulting in a negative impact of our mood, mental state and sometimes physical wellbeing. There are many Spiritual Baths which use Dead Sea Salt, Herbs, and oils that people use to uncross negative conditions. Dead Sea salts can also be added to floor washes to remove negative energies from the home and sprinkling Dead Sea salt outside of the home has the same effect. Tradition has it that placing salt in the four corners of a room keeps negative spirits at bay and purifies the room.

There are over 20 different minerals found in Dead Sea salt aside from sodium chloride, the main constituent of sea salt, including magnesium, calcium, sulphur, bromide, iodine, zinc and potassium. It is these minerals that are the reason behind the wonderful healing and therapeutic qualities of the salt. It contains 10 x the minerals of other natural sea salts. It’s not processed or only had minimal processing, since it comes directly through the evaporation of seawater so it keeps its trace elements.

The many minerals have different properties but the key ones are below:

Sulphur– decongests and is anti- bacterial

Calcium– promotes skin growth and regeneration

Sodium– cleanses and exfoliates, revives sore muscles and neutralizes free radicals

Zinc and Potassium– work to promote moisture retention, keeping the skin, plump and hydrated

Magnesium– detoxifies and cleanses the epidermis

Bromide – helps relieve allergic reactions of the skin by reducing inflammation

Iron– stimulating circulation

These essential minerals naturally occur in our bodies but must be replenished, as they are lost throughout the day and are known to treat, detoxify, and cleanse our bodies.

So, if your nightly baths need an extra boost add a touch of salts as these are very absorbent, they mix well with essential oils giving even more health benefits. Dead Sea salt baths are known for their ability to ease stress, boost your overall health and promote better sleep. Putting them in a hot bath can have the same results as low- level exercise. Stretching and moving in the water can also provide a low impact workout for pains in the muscles and joints. If you are unable to have a full bath Dead Sea salts work really well in a footbath. Soothing achy, overworked legs and feet and reducing swelling.

 Research has proven that soaking regularly in water enriched with Dead Sea salt can provide relief from many unpleasant skin disorders. Problem areas can also be exfoliated using Dead Sea Salts as the grainy texture helps to detoxify and shifts blemishes whilst stimulating the blood flow.

Warm water and Dead Sea salt are generally safe for most people. However, there are some precautions to consider before you take a soak in the bath. It is important not to be use them, if you have had an allergic reaction, have an open cut or wound, as the salt can cause stinging sensations.

In the 1960’s, Habitat in the Kings Road started selling Dead Sea salts as an ozone- rich bath treatments giving the same feelings of well- being attached to the seaside. In 2020, I would agree that Dead Sea Salts still have all the wonderful healing aspects of the sea and are a lovely addition to any bath.

Olive Oil- The Mediterranean Super Power

I have talked about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet in my previous blog posts, one of the core ingredients of this is olive oil. I have watched Italian and Spanish chefs on cookery programmes and been surprized at the amount of oil actually used in their dishes. Health and culinary circuits can’t stop raving about the benefits of this wonder oil. Before I spent time in Spain,at an olive farm, I didn’t particularly like or eat olives and olive oil. But once you have tried it, you do notice the difference. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil available,and is extracted from the olive fruit without the use of any heat or chemicals. Regular olive oil is refined so is stripped of important nutrients and antioxidants, so if possible buy the extra virgin.

In my travel blog, I explain about the history of olive trees.

Olive oil is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet. The main fat it contains is mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which experts consider a healthly fat.  People who consume this appear to have a higher life expectancy, including a lower chance of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Some experts call it the standard in preventive medicine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority recommend consuming around 20 grams or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation. So just using olive oil in salads or as a cooking oil would give you protection from common health problems like strokes. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world today, studies conducted a few decades ago showed that heart disease is less common in Mediterranean countries.

Scientists had found evidence that people who ate trans fats, which is an unhealthy fat that features in fast foods and pre-made baked goods, were more likely to have depression than those who consumed unsaturated fats. Eating excessive amounts of fat causes weight gain. However, consuming olive oil does not appear to increase the likelihood of weight gain. A moderate intake may even aid in weight loss, as it can be used instead of unhealthy, higher calorie options.  As it is rich in mono-saturated fats, it helps to stimulate the digestive system, speeding up bowel movement and preventing constipation. Mixing a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice can be an effective remedy for constipation.

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by the reduced effectiveness of insulin, the hormone that moves glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into cells to be used as energy. It’s thought that the phenolic compounds present in olive oil can aid in glucose metabolism and improve the sensitivity and effectiveness of insulin. So, including olive oil in your daily diet could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%, in comparison to a low-fat diet. A diet high in olive oil was also found to help normalise blood glucose in people who already had type 2 diabetes. When combined with the other elements of a Mediterranean diet: lots of vegetables and fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, fish and low in meat, the beneficial effects were increased.

In 2016, scientists suggested that including extra virgin olive oil in the diet may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to its protective impact on blood vessels in the brain. As I discussed in my previous blog, protecting our brain power as we age helps us live a healthier, happy life in later years. Vital to our quality of life.

It is also rich in antioxidants which neutralize free radicals. If too many free radicals (which can be called the rust of the body) build up, they can cause oxidative stress. This leads to cell damage, and it may play a role in the development of certain diseases, including certain types of cancer.

Olive oil seems particularly beneficial when combined with fish oil, a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In one study, olive and fish oil significantly improved handgrip strength, joint pain and morning stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Olive oil contains vitamin E, which supports the normal function of the immune system as well as maintaining healthy skin and eyes. Vitamin E, improves skin health by treating inflammation, acne, and dryness, it also improves the skins elasticity and its regenerative properties. Sophia Loren, credits her youthful appearance to the Italian habit of using lots of olive oil in her diet and applying oil directly to her skin to moisturize. Your fingernails need as much attention as your skin and a useful tip is to dip a cotton ball in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and dab it on your nails, the vitamin E helps bring your dry brittle nails back to life. I have tried this and it really works.

The oil’s MUFAs, which are mainly oleic acid, appear to help prevent inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and other changes that can result in liver damage. It also contains traces of calcium and potassium, as well as polyphenols, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene, and terpenic acids and other antioxidants.

So to do a quick re-cap, adding two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil a day to our diet; gives us a higher life expectancy, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation like arthritis, lowers the risk of depression, helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease, supports the immune system, can fight against obesity, lowers blood pressure, neutralizes free radicals and can protect against liver damage.( I am sure that there are even more benefits but I wanted to cover the most important ones)

Buying a better-quality extra virgin olive oil is important as this undergoes less processing and is more likely to retain its antioxidants, these can be expensive but just looking at how many benefits there are it is worth spending more.  There is a lot of fraud on the olive oil market, as many oils read “extra virgin” on the label when they have actually been diluted with other refined oils. Therefore, examine labels carefully to ensure you’re getting the real deal. It’s always a good idea to read ingredients lists and check for quality certification. If you see ‘harvest date’ or ‘pressed on’ date, it’s likely to be a higher quality oil.

Ideally, buy olive oil in a dark bottle, especially extra virgin olive oil. As light can degrade the oil turning it rancid, it’s best to store your olive oil in a cupboard and not on the kitchen surface where it can be exposed to sunlight. Dark glass bottles offer better protection than plastic bottles.

Why not try, drizzling olive oil on to a salad or adding it into a dressing, or drizzling it on a freshly made bread, instead of using butter. Frying food in olive oil may help maintain and even improve its nutritional value. This is because the food takes up antioxidants that transfer from the oil. Some research has shown that pan-frying produce such as tomatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil improves the bioavailability of protective plant compounds, such as carotenoids and polyphenol antioxidants.        

Not only are you improving the nutrients in your diet you are also adding to the taste too.

I do hope I have been able to convince you of the superpower of olive oil!

Forest Bathing and The Power of Green

When I lived in London, I was close to Hampstead Heath, I had a hectic and stressful lifestyle and if I had a rare free moment I would always go for a walk on the heath. Slowing down and observing the most minuscule of details, how the smells changed as I strolled along the rough paths: earthy, fresh, woody, musty and floral. The noticing of these things deeply quieted my busy mind. I always returned from my walks grounded. At the time I didn’t intentionally practice connecting with nature and surrounding myself with the energy of the natural world. I felt grateful for a chance to get just out of my head, as I have a constant Monkey Brain, and found mediating difficult, then and now, walking in the woods, was a mediation of sorts for me.

Forest bathing originated in Japan in the early 1980s, where it is called Shinrin-Yoku, practitioners greatly respect trees and believe that they’re the protectors and wise watchers of the forest. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries created Forest Bathing as a way to promote national health and being outdoors. Even Forestry England promote this on their website. While this is not an ancient practice, many see it as a cure for modern ailments and a form of nature therapy. Investigations on the physiological effects that result from being in a forest began in Japan in 1990 and continue today. In a 2011 study, scientists found that people walking in nature had lower blood pressure than those in the city. Another study in Japan showed that inhaling the aroma from cedar trees boosts stress-fighting compounds in the body.

During a nature bath, you’re “bathing” in the energy and clean air of the woods. The healing effects of forests and other natural, green settings, is shown to reduce stress hormone production, lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve moods, free up creativity, boost the immune system, accelerate recovery from illness, reduce anger and aggressiveness and increase overall happiness. So, is advantageous for your physical and mental wellbeing. Most of all, Forest Bathing positively benefits your mood. After trying this many have seen a noticeable improvement in both focus and attention, researchers have even linked this practice to better focus in those with ADHD. Personally, even looking at images of forests and woods fill me with a instant sense of calm and relief.

5 simple steps to practising Shinrin-Yoku or Forest Bathing;

  1. leave behind your phone, camera or any other distractions, so that you can be fully present in the experience.
  2.  Leave behind your goals and wander aimlessly, don’t plan a route.
  3. Pause from time to time, to look more closely, feel some bark and leaves, hug a tree or run dirt between your fingers.
  4. Find a comfortable spot to sit and listen to the sounds around you.
  5. If you go with others, agree not to talk until the end of the walk.

If possible, embrace all your senses; sight, touch, smell, listen to the sounds, bring natural snacks with you to eat, nuts and berries are ideal.

 Thanks to the power of the internet, Forest Bathing has dramatically increased in popularity all over the globe. For the full experience, participants walk with trained guides, who are like therapists, taking their clients through guided meditations, yoga and walks, helping them to see nature in a new light.

The International Nature and Forest Therapy Alliance (INFTA) is committed to establishing Forest Therapy as a scientifically-proven natural medicine by building networks and establishing partnerships with research, education and Public health bodies across the globe. Through these networks, INFTA will access studies, contribute to research on and create awareness about Forest Therapy and Forest Medicine. INFTA’s mission is to make Forest Therapy accessible to all for the health and well-being of people world-wide. Recent estimates by the INFTA project see a demand of up to 10,000 INFTA-Certified Forest Therapy Guides in China alone over the next five years.

Though still a new practice, forest bathing has already shown great promise in treating real conditions without the side effects of medication. It is possible to do this without using a guide, so the costs are low. A pair of walking boots or trainers, a rain proof jacket in the UK and a water bottle are all that are needed.

So next time you go outside, why not find your nearest nature trail and begin your own forest bathing experience?

Bathing for Good Health

I started to research this blog on bathing (one of my favorite pastimes) and I found so much great information about this topic, I will be writing about different types of bathing for weeks to come, so in advance, I am very sorry about that!

At one in time in England a bath was a rare occurrence even for the upper classes, and now its seen as something so ordinary its almost taken for granted and its wide range of benefits are under-valued.  We know about the relaxing benefits of unwinding with a hot bath, but did you know it can also help to improve your health?

Baths and bathing have been such a huge part of human life that there’s a bathing tradition on every continent.  Most ancient cultures have long believed in the healing effects of water. Hippocrates in the 5th century understood the connection between health and the practise of daily bathing and he was the father of Hydrotherapy. The Roman love for bathing gave birth to huge bathing complexes with under-floor heating and a range of temperatures (for Hydrotherapy) some of which are still standing and used today. The Japanese practice of engaging in public baths is known as Sento and lone-bathing at home is Furo.  This is similar to mindfulness rather than a cleansing bath. (I will write a blog post about this)

Your skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water the same way that endorphins are released when you feel the sun on your skin, says Dr Bobby Buka, a dermatologist based in New York. He explains that submerging ourselves in hot water can be both therapeutic and reinvigorating. So, soaking in a bath for 20 minutes, can help to stabilize blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, aid the flow of oxygen throughout your respiratory system and contribute to overall better heart health by increasing and improving blood flow to and from the heart. Taking a bath also helps to strengthen and synchronise your circadian rhythms, the daily fluctuations in behaviour and biochemistry that affect every one of our organs, including the brain.

 After a bath your limbs and muscles will feel less sore after strenuous exercise or a demanding day at work and it can also help you experience less mental fatigue. It is said that our bodies associate horizontal conditions with relaxation and vulnerability, particularly in the bath, which possibly mimics the warm, liquid conditions of the womb. When struggling with a bad cold or flu, actually elevating your body temperature with a hot bath can actually boost your body’s ability to fight infections and viruses, combining this with essential oils, like lavender, eucalyptus or chamomile, and Dead Sea or Epsom salts can help reduce stress and aching muscles, allowing for even greater healing and relaxation. Simply making a daily routine out of unwinding in your bath at the end of a day and thinking, (or meditating) that the water is washing off your day and removing your worries will help to improve your well-being and sleep quality. Adding a gently, fragranced bath product, made from natural ingredients would add an extra touch of pampering, important to self-care.  

Researchers have also found that soaking in an hour-long hot bath burned as many calories (around 140) as a 30-minute walk. This is because the warm water makes your heart beat faster, giving you a gentle workout session. As this may help reduce inflammation and in much the same way as exercise does, this is especially helpful for people who are unable to exercise through illness as well as a helping them to manage any pain. Many people who have chronic illnesses report feelings of depression, taking a hot bath can provide physical comfort and ease the blues that are associated with chronic pain conditions, literally washing your pain away.

I would just add one note of caution, if the temperature of the water is too hot it can put your body under what’s called heat stress, where your body’s internal temperature regulation is thrown and doesn’t have enough opportunity to recalibrate. Heat stress, can cause a strain on the heart, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.  So keep check of the temperture.

There is some disagreement on whether it’s better to have a bath in the morning or evening, but some doctors advocate the benefits of a morning bath. Cortisol levels peak at 8am, so lowering the level first thing, would give a calmer start to the day, as we do on occasions wake up actually feeling stressed. Personally, I enjoy having a long soak in the bath, on the mornings I don’t work, as it’s a real chance to relax, get a bit of time to myself and spark my creative juices. I add some of my favourite oils, like bergamot and ginger. It is best to mix the essential oils in to a tablespoon of carrier oil like grapeseed or olive oil and use around 5-6 drops only. If you swirl your hands in the water to disperse the oil it doesn’t then sit on the surface of the water.

I hope this has made you re-think the humble act of bathing and I will add more in-depth details about some of the methods mentioned. I always think a long blog post is a bit like a speech that is far too long….

The poet and novelist Sylvia Plath wrote, “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath, but I can’t think of one.”

 I couldn’t agree more!