Organic, all-natural, wild, and raw are the buzzwords today as we increasingly realize the value of reconnecting with the natural world. Renewal, revitalization, and restoration are key, and these no longer go hand-in-hand with chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and a cosmetic surgeon. There is a desire for more meaningful, more simple, and more holistic options for healing and wellness. The answer? Mother Nature, in all her resplendent glory.
Natural Spas Are All Over the World
Nature has been our pharmacopoeia since time began, with woodlands, grassy valleys, brackish marshes, mudflats, ice fields, tempestuous seas, and flower-filled meadows providing an apothecary to sustain humanity. Botanically, few places on Earth are as well-endowed as Alaska, with its vast and diverse landscape richly abundant in flora and fauna, much of it endemic. Spa therapies are increasingly linking back to natural botanicals and recreating the tinctures, elixirs, oils, extracts, teas, rubs, and scrubs of olden times.
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Native medicine and healing plants have been used to calm, soothe, and protect since well before 3,000 AD, with bountiful ingredients harvested from all over Alaska’s rugged 586,400 square miles of land. Mother Earth’s leafy store-cupboard contains a wealth of seeds, berries, bark, twigs, grasses, blooms, roots, sap, honey, and seaweed that are effective in promoting, or treating, human wellness. A seemingly endless supply of curative mineral-rich spring waters and bubbling hot springs have been bathed in, or ingested, for generations.
The Natural Spas of Alaska
In the temperate rainforest zone of southeast Alaska, where an average of 500 living things can be found in a square acre, fruits, plants, and seeds are blended for facial masks and scrubs. Coral shards and clamshells, picked up from the sands along the Sitka coast, are used as massage tools to stimulate the lymph function and reduce swelling and water retention. At low tide, the mudflats surrounding Fire Island in the Cook Inlet are scoured for nutrient-laced muds rich in marine algae for treatments. Muds from the slow-moving Kuskokwim River, where sediment and organic matter enrich the riverbed along the deepest parts of the 702-mile stretch, are also highly prized for slathering all over a tired body. The intensity of this natural therapy is astounding — enveloping the body in a rising, healing heat to ease fatigue, sore muscles, and over-stretched tendons, with the wriggling invertebrates, buried deep inside the mud, gently tickling the surface of the skin.
Fungus and devil’s club, used in a plethora of salves, teas, syrups, and steam infusions, sprout out of leaf litter in the damp woodlands of Alaska’s interior. In greener, well-drained meadows, there are dandelion roots, fennel, stinging nettles, and garlic waiting to be picked; add them to safflower oil for a….
By Sarah Woods
Photo: Ingram Image