Nature’s Best Pedicure
By SHANNON MURPHY
I am a new resident of the lovely prefecture of Japan called Okinawa. Part of the excitement of moving to a new location is the discovery of new foods, cultural sites, and activities. Today, had a lunch date with my hubby at the delicious Indian food restaurant, Alibaba, in American Village.
Afterwards, we walked around the mall and came across a sign, Dr. Fish. Being naturally inquisitive (aka nosey person), I was intrigued by the pictures that were posted of little fish all over people’s hands, feet and legs. I looked at my hubby and said, “Let’s do this!” They advertised a five minute trial course for only 500 yen ($7), and we figured we could handle the tiny fish for only five minutes.
There was a small, plastic pool with warm water (about 27 degrees C) with many small Garra Rufa, the scientific name for these fish. We bravely took off our shoes and at the instant our toes touched the water, approximately 50-60 fish immediately started nibbling my feet! The sensation is hard to describe, but it did not hurt at all.
These fish are toothless, so no actual biting is occurring. It was incredibly ticklish and for the first minute as they puckered along my skin, I found myself giggling like a young school girl! Once I became used to the sensation, it actually became more relaxing as the tiny creatures devoured the dry, dead skin from my feet.
I admit I had many more fish at my feet than my hubby did, but I wear sandals more often and always have extremely dry heels. Honestly, my heels feel just as smooth after only five minutes with Dr. Fish than when I spend $40 on a spa pedicure and they scrub my heels. However, I did not walk out of the fish pool with prettily colored toe nails. 🙂
BENEFITS OF DR. FISH
Garra Rufa are a freshwater cyprinid fish that mainly inhabit local hot springs in the central region of the Turkish Republic. They are accustomed to living in water temperatures of 28 degrees C, but can still swim vigorously in 37 degree C water. The practice of using these therapy fish dates way back to Cleopatra, where she relied on them for her beautiful skin.
The Garra Rufa eat rough, dry human skin as food and are reported to alleviate symptoms of many skin ailments, such as calluses and corns. The removal of the dry skin stimulates your senses and is a soothing way to help you relax. Therapy fish spas have also been long known for their ability to treat the symptoms of skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
The small Turkish town of Kangal has a spa that has been a healing destination for over 100 years. Since 1988, this spa has a treatment center for those suffering from psoriasis.
Now for the Warning…
Numerous countries in the world have therapeutic fish spas and resorts, as well as a few states in the United States and Quebec, a province of Canada. You can easily do a search online and find your nearest state or country that has them. However, those that have outlawed them claim the use of the fish is unsanitary since they cannot be “cleaned” like regular cosmetology tools. An article in the Wall Street Journal reported that “cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away.”
There have also been a few reports where customers contracted fungal skin infections; therefore, you should take care in choosing a spa based on recommendations. Another concern that has been discussed is the contraction of blood-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis and HIV, from the same fish nibbling on others feet while having open sores. Koray Altan, manager of psoriasisfishcure.com (the company that organizes bookings for the spa in Kangal, Turkey) explained, “The HIV virus, for example, cannot survive outside the human body and fish cannot transmit the virus from one person to another.”
You should always use good judgment if choosing to utilize one of these facilities: use a facility that has good recommendations, do not use if you have open sores, wash your feet afterwards with soapy water, and use clean towels and your own slippers when exiting the pool.
Sources: “Fish Therapy Gone Wrong”, August 26, 2008 http://www.asiaone.com/Health/Women%2527s+Matters/Story/A1Story20080825-84184.html “Eaten Alive”, April 9, 2007 http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2007/apr/10/healthandwellbeing.health2 “Doctor Fish”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_fish “Psoriasis Treatment in Turkey”, http://www.psoriasisfishcure.com/moreinfo.htm