Culture of Hot Stone Baths in Bhutan

The Traditional Healing Culture of Hot Stone Baths in Bhutan

Hot stone baths are imbued in Bhutanese culture and are recommended for a wide range of ailments. Bhutan, the “Land of Medicinal Herbs” (Menjong), derives its name from the country’s abundance of medicinal herbs. The traditional healing culture of hot stone bath in Bhutan, dates back centuries. It is a medicinal method that involves soaking in fresh river water mixed with artemisia leaves. The river water is typically heated by roasted river stones. Hot stone baths are believed to have a variety of medical properties and are used for therapeutic purposes. The alchemy of Bhutan’s hot stone baths is based on both Indian Ayurvedic practices and traditional Tibetan medicine. 

Hot Stone Bath, a Medicinal Bath Culture in Bhutan

The Bhutanese have an ancient winter ritual of soaking in the Menchu (medicinal water). The historic practice of a hot stone bath is a form of traditional Bhutanese culture. Families in the olden days would soak after their seasonal farm work in winter. The long, healing bath relaxed their tired bodies and helped cure their backaches and joint pains. It helped them get rid of any ailment they had acquired during their long months of fieldwork. 

families soaking in hot stone bath after seasonal farm work

Hot stone baths were traditionally set up in a fairly rustic manner. They were constructed within a farm shed or beside a riverbed with ample stone and water supplies. Families would participate in this tradition for weeks together, followed by a nutrient-rich meal. Many families would even consult an astrologer to select the most auspicious day. The Bhutanese believe that any medicinal act done on auspicious days has more healing potential.

A Unique Ritual of Hot Stone Baths in Bhutan

The process of a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath is a unique ritual in itself. It involves the deposition of fire-roasted river stones in Menchu. Menchu consists of fresh river water mixed with artemisia (Khempa) leaves in a wooden hot tub. The traditional Bhutanese hot tub is commonly made of oak as it is said to hold the water’s heat better.

The Process

The process begins with the heating of large river stones on a big fire for hours. Once the stones are glowing red, they are gradually dropped into a wooden tub. For safety reasons, the section with hot stones is separated by a wooden bar. More heated stones or water are gradually added to alter the temperature of the water, depending on one’s preference.

traditional-hot-stone-bath-tub

The roasted rocks slowly heat the water. When they hit the water, they crack and release minerals. The minerals released by the stones, combined with essential oils released from artemisia leaves, work wonders. The culture of hot stone baths in Bhutan is more than just a mere tradition. It has therapeutic properties that help to relieve aches and pains.

The Health Benefits of Hot Stone Bath

Hot stone baths are believed to be a hybrid of Tibetan Kum Nye healing and Indian Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapies. In Bhutan, the hot stone bath is a traditional method of healing the body from rigorous activity and work. Many believe the healing properties of hot stone baths relate to relieving bodily stress. The heat from the water, the minerals released from the stones, and the essential oils of local herbs are believed to have a miraculous effect on the body and mind.

1. Source of Relaxation

Traditionally, these baths served as a source of relaxation for the family after a hard day’s work. It helped them recover more quickly. Some families would even visit an astrologer to choose the best day to bathe. According to popular belief, the auspiciousness of the day would boost the beneficial effects.

Relaxing in traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath

The stones release a high concentration of minerals into the water. Then combines with the meditative effect triggered by the Artemisia leaves. This mixture brings relaxation and tranquility. Soaking in a hot stone bath is also a great way to release stress.  The culture of hot stone bath in Bhutan has been a form of traditional healing practice for ages. It is a very satisfying and relaxing ritual in itself.

2. Form of Traditional Bhutanese Medicine

The water’s heat, the minerals generated by the stones, and the native herbs (Artemesia leaves) are believed to have strong healing power. It helps to relieve joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and other deep-set aches. 

Hot Stone Baths also help get rid of over 50 skin ailments including psoriasis, eczema, and many others. It can also help reduce teenage acne. Apart from feeling better overall, it has no adverse effects.

The Everlasting Culture of the Hot Stone Bath in Bhutan

Tourists enjoying hot stone bath in Bhutan

The exquisite wellness practice of the traditional hot stone bath continues to prevail as a form of Bhutanese culture. People in Bhutan continue to benefit from the conventional Bhutanese habit of soaking in medicinal water (menchu).

Today the ritual used by native Bhutanese for years to cure diseases has become a renowned practice among tourists. It is considered a perfect way to relax and unwind after a long day of sightseeing. The most authentic method to experience a Bhutanese family custom.

Where to soak?

Bhutan’s distinctive experience of the traditional hot stone bath can be found in farmhouses or homestays in the countryside. Several hotels and resorts also offer soaking as a form of spa and pampering to tourists and travellers. Regardless of the place, the everlasting practice of the traditional hot stone bath remains a unique culture in Bhutan.  

A luxurious version of a traditional bath

The hot stone bathtub is normally sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt flakes to enhance the health benefits. In addition, the bath consists of the organic Artemisia essential oil or the herby green Artemisia leaves. A variety of colorful Himalayan wildflowers are also present. It creates an uplifting atmosphere by adding a calming scent. 

A Luxurious Version of a Traditional Bath

The traditional hot stone bath experience is enhanced by a pot of herbal tea and peaceful spa music. This luxurious version of rejuvenating hot stone bath provides numerous health benefits.

Hot baths in Bhutan are unlike any other hot baths around the world. The ancient ritual of hot stone baths in the Himalayan country is a form of traditional Bhutanese culture. It helps to harmonise the body and mind with its therapeutic and healing effect. 

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