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Health & Wellness

Curative Qualities of Ocean Water

There are unmistakable feelings of mental and physical relief that come from immersing in the salty water of the ocean. Why else would legions of land-lubbers flock to the coast to enjoy sandy beaches and sea spray? Maybe there really is something in the water.

Since the time of the ancient Greeks and probably long before, a dip in the sparkling blue waters of the sea has been a trusted cure for a range of maladies of the mind and body. A day at the beach leaves the body feeling invigorated, relaxed, and cleansed.

Wherever you live, there are plenty of reasons to make a beach trip a part of your routine. Read on to discover more about the scientific perspective on the curative properties of ocean water.

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Relaxing and Exercise

Strip down to your swimsuit and flip-flops and head out into the rolling surf for soothing relief to a variety of painful conditions of the joints, bones, and muscles systems. Swimming itself is great cardio and evenly engages the muscles systems in a low-gravity environment perfect for relieving tension. 1

Hydrotherapy is the term given to remedying conditions in an aqueous environment. Unlike swimming alone, hydrotherapy requires a warm water setting, typically between 33° and 37°C in which to practice therapeutic movements. While ocean water will only get that warm on some beaches in the tropics, most beaches will be warmer than your average swimming pool. 2

By suspending moving muscle systems in a warm buoyant environment— because saltwater supports your weight better than freshwater—hydrotherapy in the salty sea could reduce pain associated with ankylosing spondylitis, neck, back, and shoulder pains, and some types of arthritis. 3

The Salty Mineral Scrub: A Tonic for the Skin

The water you find in the ocean is nothing like the chlorinated chemical soup in your average swimming pool or the water in rivers and lakes. Seawater features a rich set of essential minerals. This can be especially beneficial for the skin, in addition to providing a range of other health benefits. 4

Seawater contains high concentrations of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium, which can enter the body through the skin. Then, there is 3.5% pure, healthy sodium chloride, or sea salt, which has exceptional healing and remedial properties. Bathing in mineral-rich water in the ocean or hot springs is called “balneotherapy” and has remedied a variety of conditions throughout history.

Additionally, while you're swimming in the ocean, it is likely that you may end up with some seawater in your nose. Even this simple splash can provide a range of health benefits. A regular saline rinse for the sinuses keeps nasal secretions from encrusting, thus clearing out breathing passages and potentially reducing the severity of allergic reactions. 5

Salty mineralized ocean water also improves a range of skin conditions. Acne, psoriasis, and fungal infections can be remedied with the ocean’s natural antibacterial properties. Then, the saltwater helps dry up any open sores, expediting the healing process. 6

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“Thalassa” comes from the Greek word for the sea, and “thalassotherapy” is considered by many to be one of the oldest spa treatments. The curative properties of ocean water led to this practice. The Greeks adopted this practice from the Egyptians and later passed it on to the Romans.

Today, you will find many spas and health centers that offer this alternative treatment for beautification and a variety of health benefits. Better circulation and anti-aging effects are the reputed results of this treatment.

The benefits of thalassotherapy lie in the combination of salts, minerals, and other biological compounds in ocean water. Some of the algae and seaweed that inhabit coastal regions have special benefits to human health.

For example, the algae Lithothamnium calcareum contains calcium-rich thallium and is often used to remedy conditions like low calcium, rheumatism, painful joints, and osteoporosis. This marine plant is often applied in thalassotherapy seaweed wraps. Rockweed is another macroalgae used for addressing weight loss efforts, breaking up cellulite, and even moisturizing hair. 7

Mentally Soothing Ocean Atmospheres

Even before the crystal blue coast comes into view, there is a tangible change in the air near the coast. You may notice the same atmospheric charm when visiting waterfalls , large river systems, and lakes, but it is most pronounced by the open sea. This atmospheric change in coastal regions is due to an abundance of negative ions produced by ocean waves and bodies of water of all types. 8

While the effects of negative and positive ions are still being researched, some evidence suggests that negative ions have a calming effect on the mind. Experts suggest that negative ions can boost the production of serotonin in the body. This leads to a better mood, relaxed disposition, and improved sleep at night. 9

Who wouldn’t agree that some of the best night’s sleep come after a day at the beach?

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Don’t let the cold ocean surf further up north discourage you from taking the plunge. Some of the oldest people on the planet are also the healthiest. Many accredit their well-being to a regular dip in the frigid waters of the U.K., Canada, Russia, and Scandinavia. Proponents of winter swimming say that the cold water boosts the immune system, fires up endorphins, and can lead to a longer life. 10 , 11

Photo credits: Khak/, SergeyNivens/, Stockphotomania/, LPOnline/

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