Our need to relax and let all our worries melt away is part of the human condition. Throughout history, people have been developing stress-reducing massage therapy techniques and spa treatments that range from unusual to just plain bizarre.
However, much like a good massage doesn’t just treat the surface, these techniques all have deeper purposes than their names let on.
Here are five bizarre spa treatments you have to read to believe.
1. Knife Massage
Although images of chopped liver might come to mind, this is a refined massage technique that originated in China more than two thousand years ago. Back then, it was used as an alternative treatment for strange diseases when traditional Chinese medicine didn’t work.
This “cutting-edge” method is still used today in Taiwan. The steel knives are meant to transmit energy and reach deeper into the muscles than hands can, stimulating blood circulation and metabolism. The knives are specially cut and blunted at the ends so as not to cause the client any pain—or any literal chopped liver.
2. Snake Massage
When you imagine half a dozen snakes slithering all over your body, your mind immediately relaxes and goes into a deep meditative state, right?
For some people, this is actually true. The snake massage technique is practiced in a spa in northern Israel by a woman named Ada Barak. She believes that physical contact with snakes induces relaxation similar to that of a cold compress, despite people’s initial fear of the slithering reptile.
Another place you can go for a snake massage is Cebu City Zoo in the Philippines, where the snakes are even bigger and more terrifying—err, comforting.
3. Chocolate Facial Therapy
Now here’s a treatment most people would be hungry to try.
Performed at a spa in Portugal, this 40-minute facial involves slathering a bunch of Swiss chocolate all over the face in order for the vitamins and antioxidants in the creamy confection to sink deeply into the skin, promoting healing and cellular regeneration.
So next time your toddler gets ahold of too much Halloween candy, rest assured their face is being infused with vitamins and antioxidants touted by chocolate facial experts.
4. Cactus Massage
Nothing says “relaxation” quite like rubbing a cactus all over your body. Of course, that’s not exactly how it’s done.
Developed in a resort in Mexico, this massage technique involves a warm substance made up of several elements of the cactus that is then applied to the skin using the cactus paddles themselves. Apparently, the cactus is known for its healing properties and its ability to remove toxins and rehydrate the skin.
This seems surprising since the Mojave Desert symbolizes anything but hydration, but we’ll defer to the experts on this one.
5. Fire Facial Treatment
This is an especially hot treatment in China due to its popularity and the fact that it uses, well, fire.
First, a towel is soaked in both alcohol and a so-called secret elixir, and then lit on fire. It should be noted that the skin is never burned, but simply warmed, and this warming process is what supposedly fights dullness, sagging and wrinkles. Other reports suggest that the heat triggers an adrenaline response in the body which can improve indigestion and increase metabolism.
Still, most people shy away from having their faces lit on fire, regardless of the alleged fountain of youth (fire of youth?) benefits of the treatment.