Wet or dry, most of us consider mud a considerable nuisance. Piled in the yard and driveway after a rain storm or caked on shoes and boots, the idea of scrubbing, scraping, laundering, and just dealing with it in general is not a pleasant one – unless you’re a 3-year-old.
But many of us also know that mud has been used cosmetically used for centuries in the pursuit of smooth skin, with modern beauty products incorporating it into their formulas. Perhaps lesser known is mud’s medicinal properties — coveted even by kings and queens!
Imbued with soothing, healing sulfides and other chemicals and nutrients, much-maligned mud has had — and continues to have in some parts of the world – many applications. These include assuaging arthritis, gynecological issues, and rheumatic disorders, and nature aficionados know it as a quick fix to treat bee stings.
Speculative uses of medicinal mud, clay, or often a mixture of sand, clay, and silk, go back to early man who used it to cure wounds, with the first documented application in Mesopotamia. In the second century AD, Greek physician and philosopher Galen noted sick or injured animals seeking out clay presumably for its healing properties in what is called geophagy: the practice of eating earth or soil-like substances.
Kaolin and the smectite clays such as bentonite, montmorillonite, and Fuller’s earth are said to have been most commonly used for medicinal purposes, with mud baths (a combination of volcanic ash and hot springs or heated mineral water) popular for thousands of years. Some of today’s pricey spas and resorts tote them liberally, and residents of Eastern and Western Europe swore by mud baths to relieve arthritis–as some still do. The mud found in Israel’s and Jordan’s Dead Sea is sought after by inhabitants and tourists alike.
So why not take some time to luxuriate in the healing properties of marvelous mud? Your children probably won’t protest if you sanction a “go for broke” day of extreme mud pie-making. In fact, while the temptation might be there for them to eat the earnest fruits of their messy labor, a slice of the real thing in the form of some rich, ambrosial Mississippi Mud Pie (named for the dense mud on the banks of the Mississippi River) is a little reward you can make together. Try this recipe for a sweet ending to an arduous day of mud pie-making.
Quick and Easy Mississippi Mud Pie
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
13 oz. whipped topping
8 oz. cream cheese
Large packet of instant vanilla pudding
Large packet of instant chocolate fudge pudding
1/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup sugar
3 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
For crust, mix together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, butter, and nuts. Press into a 9-x-13 pan. Bake 15 minutes and let cool.
Combine cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and half of the whipped topping. Set aside.
Mix puddings with milk and let set in refrigerator. Layer pudding, cream cheese mixture, and more pudding. Top with remaining half of whipped topping. Sprinkle with nuts and shaved chocolate.