Official Website of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia - The Country's First Spa Official Website of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia - The Country's First Spa
Official Website of Berkeley Springs, WV ~ The Country's First Spa

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Articles About Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

The Smell of Healing

By Jeanne Mozier

Not wanting to lose my spot on the cutting edge of the new millennium health care which is thriving in Berkeley Springs, I was one of the first to sign up for an aromatherapy treatment at the Bath House Health Center.

"This is the aromatherapy machine," said Evelyn Garcia, resident expert, as she introduced a five-foot high plastic tube, about three feet in diameter with a white plastic chair in it. I stayed calm. The plastic tube looked less threatening than the traditional iron lung steam cabinets at Berkeley Springs State Park spa. There was no reason to suspect that it would disassemble my molecules.

"We begin with a dry brush," explained Garcia. She stroked a yerba brush from the tips of my toes and fingers toward the center as a way of increasing circulation, removing dead skin and opening pores before the aromatic steam went to work.

Wrapped in a towel, I stepped into the tube that offered space for toe or finger wiggling but not much more, and sat on the plastic chair. Garcia slid the door closed, steam drenched the transparent sides, and subtle odors chosen for relaxation wafted invisibly. Then I noticed the sounds. Whether by design or nature, the ebb and flow of heating oils beneath the chair gurgled like ocean waves, rhythmically breaking and receding.

Halfway through the treatment, set for 20 minutes, I had covered the sides of the plastic capsule with five-pointed stars finger-drawn in the steam. Nearing the end of the time, the effects of the treatment began to approach a traditional steam; I even managed a few drops of sweat. When the spa automatically shut off, the shoreline sounds stopped and air inside the capsule began cooling. I slid open the door and cool air washed over me as I eased out of the tube back onto a massage table. My skin felt good, neither oily nor dry. The ideal next step, had time permitted, would have been a massage by one of the Bath House staff. A bath would come before the steam in a full treatment.

Maria Spencer, owner of the Bath House, is constantly on the lookout for unique treatments. "Lots of people asked about steam," she said, "but I wanted more. I wanted to do real aromatherapy." She assembled a full range of oils and books for consulting, signed up Garcia, and bought the aromatherapy spa.

Futuristic tubes in historic spa towns may be trendy, but did it work? "It's very subtle as a treatment," said Garcia. "It's not dramatic for everyone." It worked for Garcia, bringing her to both informal study and pursuit of certification in aromatherapy. And the night of my treatment, I cut my decibel level in half when rebuking the Friday night junior-high movie crowd. Maybe next time, they'll be willing to pay for my steam and double the dose of oils.

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