At first glance, it is difficult to believe anyone would willingly get into a mud bath. But thousands of Germans bathe in them every year to benefit their health, and these warm baths have a long history as a natural cure.
Patients have sought out the brownish-black mud in Bad Wilsnack in Brandenburg for more than a century, originally to ease back pain or arthritis. Today, it is also available to those who simply want to relax or get away from it all.
The case is similar at the Therapy Centre and Spa Baths in Bad Kissingen, Bavaria. Irene Hoffstadt says the heat does more than reduce pain. It relaxes muscles and inner organs, greatly easing symptoms of stress.
Verena Wegner, head of physiotherapy at Bad Wilsnack's spa, treats people with chronic pain, inflamed joints or gynaecological problems. Her patients swear by the mud bath's healing properties.
"The people literally float in the mud because of its high mineral content," she says. Every day, she fills multiple, 200 litre-tubs with the brew, which has been treated to remove micro organisms and germs. The ill or stressed then climb in and sit in them for up to 30 minutes.
The peat is gathered twice a year. It is broken up, sieved, freed of contaminants and then diluted with water. Wegner says people usually take full baths, immersed up to their necks in the mud.
Kraft says the bath's power to reduce pain has been scientifically proven. She recommends mud therapy for people with joint problems, arthritis, skin diseases or menopausal problems.