Health benefits

The “Dirty Wellness” trend focuses on the health benefits of soil


Research continues to uncover the physical and mental benefits of being in and around the ground. Photo / Unsplash

Like many children growing up in Aotearoa, my childhood was marked by grass-stained knees and muddy hands. Boasting beaches, parks, forests and rivers, recreation often involved lots of dirt and very few shoes.

Even decades later, as I hiked the forest trail to New Chums Beach in Coromandel last weekend, I explored the sneakerless. Instead, allowing inches of fresh mud from a recent rainstorm to coat my feet with childlike glee.

Living in an urban city, it’s easy to forget that for 99% of human history, people lived in and around the ground as we evolved from foragers to farmers. A way of life that was not only historic but also physically and mentally beneficial.

Around the world, research continues to uncover how the soil microbiome supports and supplants the human microbiome, improving our gut and mental health.

Some scientists are even going so far as to explore a “stress vaccine” using a soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae, after observing how it can boost serotonin and reduce stress in people.

The problem is that many of us spend most of our days dirt-free, in suburban homes, urban gyms, or office buildings. We are, as some experts say, “a soilless species,” stripped of the nourishing bacteria of the natural world.

Given the link between soil and well-being, it’s no surprise that global trend forecaster WGSN thinks soil-related experiences could be the next big thing in wellness-focused tourism and hospitality. to be, some companies are already offering experiences that literally connect people to the earth.

Typical offerings such as “forest baths” and organic plant-based menus will be enhanced with experiences such as earth baths, mud treatments and foraging tours.

Food gets dirty

The food will not just be farm-to-table, but floor-to-guest; getting people where their food literally begins with an education in regenerative agriculture. Abroad, hotels like Heckfield Place in the UK or new Six Senses destinations offer real farming and foraging experiences where people can pick their salads and learn about regenerative farming.

In New Zealand, pop-up restaurant company Tauranga Kitchen Takeover will partner with Te Puke Truffles for a similar experience. In June and July, the one-day event allows people to “hunt” their own truffles at the Paengaroa farm before later trying them in a dish.

Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Nature and Nosh’s two-day retreats include a wild foraging workshop. After learning which nutrient-dense wild shots can nourish and strengthen your body, you’re free to source ingredients before sampling a packed lunch dish.

Hot tubs get muddy

Alternative wellness has long embraced mud and clay treatments. However, continued scientific studies into the benefits of soil minerals, nutrients and bacteria could see it becoming even more prevalent in spas and resorts.

In the field of dirt-related science, one of the most famous experiments was conducted by the University of Helsinki in 2017. After studying children who grew up in soil-rich agricultural environments, researchers found they had significantly fewer cases of asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory/inflammatory conditions. immune disorders. The key? Their skin had more diverse bacteria, which had an anti-inflammatory effect.

There are the natural mud baths like the Sakura Sakura hot springs in Japan, the thermal baths of Bormio in Italy, the milky way lagoon in Palau or, near us and one of the most famous in the world, Hell’s Gate to Rotorua.

Hell's Gate has been used for generations for relaxation and to relieve aches and pains.  Photo / Provided
Hell’s Gate has been used for generations for relaxation and to relieve aches and pains. Photo / Provided

Alternatively, you can find mud or clay treatments offered at spas and resorts. Queenstown’s Body Sanctum day spa offers dozens of packages with a Rotorua geothermal mud foot bath, while Christchurch’s boutique spa, Beauty at the Tannery, offers a full body treatment using creamy Italian thermal mud .