Most people visit a spa for a massage, pedicure and a facial. But head to Naftalan in Western Azerbaijan, and those looking for a relaxing experience will be in for quite a shock. This small town offers several spas specializing in, of all things, crude oil baths.
Azerbaijan has vast reserves of natural resources including both crude oil and underground gas, giving rise to the country’s nickname ‘The Land of Fire’.
Naftalan oil is a particular grade of oil mentioned in the works of famous 12th-century poet Nizami Ganjavi and Marco Polo. Records suggest people in the region bathed in the oil from as early as the 6th century. The treatment became popular again under the Soviet Union.
According to the brave ones willing to give it a go, the consistency feels similar to chocolate, and the oil causes a tingling sensation in the skin. The bath itself is quite warm at around body temperature, and it doesn’t smell as pungent as many expect. Treatment lasts just 10 minutes — spending longer could be detrimental to the heart. A 40-minute cleaning process follows, where the crude oil gets scraped off the body.
According to medical specialists ‘, Naftalan can cure 70 diseases and kills viruses, bacteria, and fungi’. The supposed ailments it helps include neurological and skin disorders, along with offering a cure for impotence. Naftalan crude oil is different from the stuff people put in their cars. It contains approximately 50% of a hydrocarbon called naphthalene that’s used in lower concentrations to treat skin psoriasis.