You’ve seen those spa treatments where they cover your body in mud or clay from head to toe and call it therapy. But does it really do anything, or is it just for show?


Medicinal mud and clay has been used for centuries to help with all kinds of ailments. In fact, medical doctors and dermatologists in Costa Rica routinely prescribe it to treat skin conditions like acne and rosacea.

Costa Rica is home to several different kinds of clay, called barro (mud) or arcilla (clay). You can find it in the ocean, in rivers, and near volcanoes and hot springs. (Before you go around smearing random mud all over yourself, you might want to ask someone local to make sure it’s the medicinal kind).

Medicinal clay cleans impurities from the pores thanks to its antibacterial properties, as well as its incredible ability to bind to the crap in your skin and pull it out like a sponge. It can also contain minerals like silica (delays aging), alumina (absorbs impurities), iron and calcium (promote cell renewal).




Medicinal clay has a cooling effect when applied, and it just plain feels good. Some anthropologists even claim that Cleopatra used healing clay to keep her complexion even (back then they called it ochre). It can also be used on the face as sunscreen.


Hippies on the internet swear that washing your hair with clay is a deep clean like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Don’t do it too often or it might dry out your hair.


Mud baths can help open up the pores to soften and revitalize the skin. It can also be good for improving blood circulation. The Australian Aborigines and other ancient cultures applied to wounds and small cuts to help them heal, like a bandage.


Ancient civilizations may have used different types of clay as eye salves. There is even a story in the bible of Jesus healing a blind man with mud mixed with spit.

Internal Organs?

For the record, I’m not recommending eating clay. I’m just reporting the facts. Some people eat mud.

Animals are known to eat dirt when they’re sick. Maybe it’s not so crazy to think that humans do the same thing.

A study at Arizona State University found that certain types of mud can be quite effective in both treating external wounds and killing bacteria internally (like E.coli) when ingested. They concluded, “our results indicate that specific mineral products have intrinsic, heat-stable antibacterial properties, which could provide an inexpensive treatment against numerous human bacterial infections.”

Want to try a medicinal clay treatment? Check out the volcanic mud wrap or red clay face mask at Los Altos de Eros, a gorgeous hotel and spa just outside of Tamarindo.


By: Genna Marie

Photo Credits:
photo credit:Genna Marie of Tamarindo Family Photos

photo credit: Sean Davis