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Horse reiki and bull sperm hair masks: 9 bizarre spa treatments
Vanity, thy name is bird poo ... and beer baths ... and anything else that makes us look and feel good
I hate to knock anything that might make me look younger or feel better.
Thanks to what’s known in the business as “signature local treatments,” spas today massage and wrap customers in things like cherries, sugarcane, barbecue sauce and chocolate -- each ingredient said to add something to our undernourished bodies.
While it's one thing for an oceanside spa to offer thalassotherapy (naturally salted seawater), a nightingale poo facial is something quite different.
The more unusual spa treatments below suggest that mashed avocado and a couple of slices of cucumber are barely able to scratch the surface.
Snakes in the small northern Israeli village of Talmei Elazar give people massages.
Ada Barak’s Carniverous Plant Farm is a breeding station for plants that eat rodents, insects and small mammals.
On the sidelines, the farm employs a tangled team of non-venomous king and corn snakes to slither and wriggle away knots on clients’ naked bodies.
According to one regular, they’re especially nifty at relieving migraines.
Ada Barak's Carniverous Plant Farm, Talmei Elazar; +972 4 637 3473; $250
In the Japanese art of reiki, healing energy passed from practitioner to client corrects physical and emotional imbalances.
At Free Rein Australia, the 12 four-legged practitioners sometimes snort, roll or even relieve themselves while clearing energy blocks.
These reiki workers have no emotional “baggage” (they roam freely on 90 acres when not dislodging and releasing aforementioned energy blocks) and can replace clients’ low-level vibrations with their higher electromagnetic field, according to the ranch owners.
Clients lay on a massage bed in a secure yard and the horses decide among themselves who will perform the treatment and where to find the blocks. It’s not unusual for the whole team to get involved.
Free Rein Australia, 231 Grossmans Road, Torquay, Victoria, Australia; $145
Bull sperm hair treatment
At upscale Hari's salon in London, customers couldn’t get enough of a bull sperm hair mask that owner Hari Salem called “Viagra for the hair.”
Although no longer offered, it was made from organic bull semen imported from Scotland, mixed with Iranian katera root and, because it was refrigerated, allegedly didn’t smell.
Hari’s also liked to penetrate hair follicles with caviar and a blow dry treatment that used diamond dust and powdered meteorites.
These more pedestrian days, you can check into Hari's Beehive Bar for a retro do; or the Bun Bar for buns like you've never seen.
Hari’s, 305 Brompton Road, +44 (0)20 7581 5211 and 233 Kings Road, +44 (0)20 7349 8722
Moist hay body wrap
Getting shrink-wrapped in hot, moist hay has been a therapeutic spa treatment in northern Italy since 1903.
This unique vegetal straitjacket, perfected at Hotel Heubad, is said to draw out toxins, stimulate metabolism and fortify the immune system.
The hay is harvested from the meadows of Alpe di Siusi in the early morning when it still has all its ethereal oils. It also contains mountain arnica, gentian, thimble and lady’s mantle.
The Kompatscher family has been burying people up to their necks in fermented hay for more than a century and claims there’s scientific documentation proving the health benefits of hay baths.
However, it was recently stricken from government cure treatment classification.
Hotel Heubad, Via Sciliar 13, Völs am Schlern, South Tyrol, Italy; +39 0471 725020; $42
Soaking in beer enriches skin, eliminates toxins and exfoliates -- so claim fans of the sudsy new European pastime.
At beer spas in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, customers soak in barrels, wooden tubs and even swimming pools filled with lagers and ales.
The Landhotel Moorhof in Franking, Austria, offers a beer facial with hops, malt, honey and cream cheese. According to proprietor Hedwig Bauer, bathing in beer fights rheumatism, gout, poor circulation, eczema, kidney stones, heart attacks, strokes and stress -- although she didn’t mention if that last one had more to do with the pints of Schnaitl’s offered along with the baths.
Morhoof, Dorfibm 2, 5131 Franking, Austria; +43 6277 8188; $180
Fish foot spa
Your Labrador retriever can fetch your newspaper, but can he give you a pedicure?
In spas all over Asia, (and some in the UK, U.S. and Canada, although regulations are getting tighter), a species of Middle Eastern carp nicknamed "doctor fish" eat away dead skin.
You can even stock your aquarium with these reddish "log suckers" (another of its many nicknames).
Diane Sawyer, who featured the unique pedicure on “Good Morning America,” called the fish nibbles “little delicate kisses,” although others have described the sensation as “ants marching over your body.”
Said to cure psoriasis and other skin disorders, the treatment is maddeningly ticklish to some.
Sampuoton Fish Spa, B-G-23 Merchant Square, Jalan Tropicana Selatan 1, Petaling Jaya 47410, Malaysia; +60 (0)3 7885 0691; from $5
More on CNN: Thailand fish spas nibble on despite health concerns
Japanese geishas, kabuki dancers and, more recently, Victoria Beckham, have been known to smear a cream containing "uguisu no fun" on their faces.
The tonic is made from powdered droppings from the Japanese bush warbler, a nightingale found in Asia.
Besides the fact that I have no desire to look like a geisha, I also don’t relish the idea of applying bird doo doo to my face, even if it is dried, beaten to a pulp, sanitized with ultraviolet light and mixed with essential oils. So, this one comes with no personal testimonial.
Ten Thousand Waves, 320 Tesuque Dr., Santa Fe, N.M., U.S.A.; +1 505 982 9304; from $120
Gem stone massage
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they share billing with amethysts, rubies and sapphires in Trump Spa’s Harmonizing Gemstone Treatment.
Massage oil is infused with ground semi-precious gems and larger stones are placed on the body’s chakras.
“They’re not as big as the rocks we use for the hot rock massages, but they’re real diamonds, amethysts, rubies and sapphires,” says spa concierge Bridgitte Willis.
“We also have a pearl wrap that uses ground-up pearls to exfoliate.”
Trump Spa, One Central Park West, New York; +1 212 299 1000; $195
Though the receptionist is a uniformed security guard, the Chang Mai Women's Correctional Facility spa -- located in an historic building in Chiang Mai, Thaland -- resembles any other boutique spa, with flowers, soothing music, a gift shop and tea room.
The difference is the massage therapists are temporarily incarcerated at the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Facility.
When they’re six months from release it's hoped the Thai massage skills they master will help them avoid a return to the slammer.
It’s a good cause and for $6, how can you quibble?Chang Mai Women's Correctional Facility, 100 Rachvithi Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand; +66 (0)53 706 1041