Apparently, some users here agree there is no ion exchange through the skin. Mud therapy has some therapeutic effect for pain related diseases. As an anecdotal example, I experienced pain relief by treating my sport injury using mud therapy. If it is not ion exchange, then what is the mechanism behind mud therapy?

  • $\begingroup$ Never underestimate the power of the placebo effect, especially in pain related disorders. Treatment can change neuronal signaling, which can in turn influence gene expression. It may be as simple as the increase in buoyancy relieves force on the affected tissue, and this in turn allows a different series of neurotransmitters to be released. The article you linked to makes it sound like there is a significant immunological component, so if you can influence the chemokines in the area of injury, you may be able to reduce inflammation to a certain degree. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Oct 17, 2015 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @AMR Placebo is about 3%, it is significant, but you cannot explain everything with it. At least show some placebo controlled study in the topic, if you claim, that it is only placebo. $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Oct 17, 2015 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ it is my opinion, that is why it is a comment and not an answer. However anything that can change cell signaling has the potential to change gene expression, and the study linked to apparently showed a change in levels of protein products that was statistically significant. $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Oct 17, 2015 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ Here is a review article that asks the question "How can placebo effects best be applied in clinical practice?" You will likely have to dig into the references to find quantified studies, however, in the their summary, the authors state "Placebo effects have been demonstrated in a number of experimental trials and clinical studies. These effects cause physiological responses, such as reduced activity in the pain-sensitive areas of the brain." $\endgroup$
    – AMR
    Oct 17, 2015 at 16:46

1 Answer 1


The answer on the linked question is apt: transdermal administration of medications or other compounds include exclusively lipophylic compounds, i.e. uncharged 'fatty' materials, such as nicotine, opiate-bases and steroids. Minerals, like those found in clay, are highly hydrophylic and are therefore unlikely to be taken up by the skin.

A search through a bunch of articles makes me believe that mud therapy has mainly a thermal effect, i.e. a mud pack heats the underlying tissue and thereby relieves muscle spasms and pain (Espejo-Antúnez et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2013).

- Espejo-Antúnez et al., Rheumatology (2012); 258: 1-10
- Liu et al., J Int med Res (2013); 41(5): 1418–25

  • $\begingroup$ I heard/read from a non scientific resource that mud with high sulfur content was the only cure of lead poisoning in the old times, because of the Pb2+ + S2- = PbS type of reaction. I have not found any proof of this. It is hard to find old articles in the topic. :S If Chris is true (and I think he is), then this type of reaction does not happen, because there is no ion exchange, so mud therapy did not help by heavy metal poisoning. Unless... I don't know. :D Maybe if the heavy metal is not in an ionic form, e.g. Hg can be absorbed through the skin. $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Oct 17, 2015 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @inf3rno The most toxic forms of mercury are the organomercury compounds, for the exact reason that they are hydrophobic and can thus pass through the skin and into fat stores where they bioaccumulate. I don't know how easily you could draw them back out through the skin, but if possible, then sulfur chelation might work. $\endgroup$
    – Moop
    Oct 17, 2015 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Filipq I'll try to find some evidence about this kind of mud therapy later. Currently I have other things to do, maybe next weekend. $\endgroup$
    – inf3rno
    Oct 17, 2015 at 21:29

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