An Israeli hiker covered in Dead Sea mud basks in the sunlight. The Dead Sea's mud has proven therapeutic qualities.

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Minerals and Mud: Life-giving Qualities of the Dead Sea

As we've learned, more than 35 different types of minerals can be found in the Dead Sea's waters, and many people vouch wholeheartedly for the life-altering qualities these minerals possess. In fact, these minerals are considered so valuable that a company called Dead Sea Works has 1,600 employees who work day and night to harvest them [source: Bible Places]. The mineral salts are believed to cure or alleviate the symptoms of ailments ranging from skin problems such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis to rheumatic diseases, like various forms of arthritis and fibromyalgia.

The Dead Sea Research Center proposes a seven-step treatment program for clients seeking dermatological relief. To begin, the patient spends some time in the sun on the banks of the Dead Sea -- the sun's harmful UV rays are filtered due to the high atmospheric pressure in the area [source: Elliman]. This step is followed by a bath in the Dead Sea itself, then application of emollient creams, thermo-mineral baths and mud soaks, scalp treatment, optional psychological counseling and a follow-up consultation with a medical professional. Treatments for the rheumatoid diseases are more varied but often include sulfur baths, salt baths, sodium chloride baths, and of course, baths in the Dead Sea itself [source: Dead Sea Research Center].

Patients dealing with respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease and cystic fibrosis often benefit from the area's high oxygen levels, coupled with the environment's low pollution and allergen levels. The Dead Sea Research Center claims that these factors allow patients the opportunity to get their symptoms under control without relying so heavily on medical equipment. Dead Sea therapy is also used to treat Crohn's Disease, orthopedic ailments, heart disease and hypertension [source: Dead Sea Research Center].

Tourists who don't seek the Dead Sea for specific health treatments can enjoy the water simply for relaxation. In fact, thanks to its unbelievably high mineral content, the Dead Sea is incredibly dense. This high-density level allows people to float without any effort whatsoever -- they are able to read books or bob carelessly in the water. Some Dead Sea swimmers think of the water as a natural health spa: The water, minerals, mud and sunlight have naturally nourishing effects on skin. Black mud found along the shoreline is also rich in minerals and is often used in skin treatments [source: Atlas Tours]. Many famous visitors have flocked to the Dead Sea over the years to experience its positive effects, including Cleopatra and King Herod the Great [source: Visit Jordan].

Although the Dead Sea may be biologically dead, it maintains its historical ability to nourish the mind and body through its therapeutic qualities. Life may not be sustainable within its waters, but it most certainly thrives along its shores.­