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THERAPY


Dry CO2 gas baths are used to stimulate blood fl ow in the lower limbs


PART 1


From gas injections to cryotherapy and smoke saunas – treatments based on natural resources underpin wellness tourism in central and eastern Europe. As interest in this region gathers pace, Sophie Benge begins a series looking at how diff erent elements are used


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entral and eastern Europe, from Estonia in the north to Ukraine in the south, is blessed with a rich well of natural resources. Mineral


water, mud, salt, herbs, heat and gases have been an integral part of cultural tradition as much as they’ve been the mainstay of healthcare for more than three centuries. At the same time, wellness tourism is


gaining traction and Europe is leading the way. In March, the Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC) announced that Europe ranks number one in the world for wellness tourism with its 203 million annual trips and number two for expenditures, accounting for US$158.4bn (€114.3, £95.2) annually. “Europeans are the most sophisticated, experienced wellness- and prevention-focused travellers on the planet,” says GWTC chair and CEO Susie


Ellis. “They not only take frequent trips in their own countries and across Europe, they’re also pegged as the largest source market for international wellness travel.” It’s a good time, therefore, to focus more


specifi cally on the natural resource lexicon in this part of Europe, starting with, perhaps the most idiosyncratic – gases. Broadly, gas in this context refers to naturally-occurring carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s generally administered to ease pain and boost blood circulation. It can also refer to nitrogen gas, which is used in cryotherapy, or simply the movement of intensely hot air, which is at the heart of traditional sauna experiences. It’s important to remember that while


some of these gas therapies may sound unusual, they came about only after meticulous study by scientists and chem- ists during the 18th and 19th centuries.


44 Read Spa Business online spabusiness.com / digital


Carbon dioxide Naturally-occurring carbon dioxide gas features prominently in the traditional spa treatments of the Czech Republic and Transylvania in Romania. In the spa town of Mariánské Lázně (formerly known as Marienbad) in the Czech Republic, gas of volcanic origin, containing 99.7 per cent CO2, seeps out of the ground. It’s prevalent in the local mineral spring water and is harnessed for use in a number of therapies that boost blood circulation for an anti-infl ammatory eff ect. CO2 is also used in ‘dry gas bath’


treatments, where concentrated amounts of it are pumped into plastic bags around the body (see above) working directly on skin receptors to aff ect vasodilation. The improved blood fl ow accelerates wound healing and stimulates kidney activity. A very particular benefi t is the stimulation


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©PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTIAN BANFIELD AND HELEN ABRAHAM


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