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Professor Shaul Sukenik




The world’s ultimate natural healing resort for diseases of the

skin, joints, lungs and heart, among others


Professor Shaul Sukenik 


The Dead Sea


The World’s Ultimate Natural Healing Resort for Diseases

of the Skin, Joints, Lungs and Heart, Among Others





Table of Contents



Preface                                                                                          6



A Historical Review of Water Therapy                                       9



Treatment at Health Resorts: Terms and Definitions            14



The Effect of Bathing on Physiological Systems                    19



The Dead Sea as a Health Resort                                               23



Health Resorts for Rheumatic Diseases                                   38


Rheumatic Diseases (Inflammatory Joint Diseases)

a) Rheumatoid Arthritis……………………………………………….......45

b) Psoriatic Arthritis………………………………………………….........57

c) Ankylosing Spondylitis……………………………………………........61

d) Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis……………………………………......66


Non-inflammatory Arthritic Diseases

a) Osteoarthritis…………………………………………………….......….68

b) Fibromyalgia………………………………………………………..........74

c) Low Back Pain……………………………………………………...........79

d) Other Rheumatic And Orthopedic Diseases……………………….83






Health Resorts for Treatment of Skin Diseases

a) Psoriasis…………………………………………………………….……..86

b) Vitiligo…………………………………………………………….….…...97

c) Atopic Dermatitis……………………………………………………....100

d) Treatment of other Skin Diseases at The Dead Sea…………..104



Health Resorts for Treatment of Lung Diseases

a) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Copd)…………………106

b) Cystic Fibrosis……………………………………………………….…...113

c) Asthma…………………………………………………………….…..…..117

d) Sarcoidosis……………………………………………………….…..……120



Health Resorts for the Treatment of Heart Diseases..........122



Health Resorts for the Treatment of Intestinal Diseases....130



The Dead Sea and Eye Diseases……………………………………...134



The Dead Sea and Diseases of the Nose…………………………..137



Contraindications and Adverse Effects of Treatment

at the Dead Sea…………………………………………………………….140



Dr. Zeev Ma’or: The Contribution of Dead Sea

Minerals to Skin Beauty………………………………………………..150



Questions And Answers………………………………………..……...162

Appendix: Clinics And Health Care Services At Dead Sea

Health Resorts……………………………………………………..........172




                                        CHAPTER 4


                     The Dead Sea as a Health Resort


The Dead Sea is part of the Syro-African rift that stretches from

the Taurus Mountains of Turkey to the Zimbazi Valley in South

Africa, a distance of 6,000 kilometers. The Dead Sea is about

67 kilometers (41 miles) long and 18 kilometers (11 miles) at

its maximum width and is the lowest spot on earth – 418 meters

(1,371 ft) below sea level at its lowest point. The Dead Sea

currently defines the border between Israel and the Kingdom of

Jordan. The shores of the Dead Sea border the Judean Mountains

on the west and the mountains of Edom on the east. According to

geological theories, the sea was formed about two million years

ago by the upheaval of earth between the Mediterranean Sea and

the Syro-African Rift that caused a retreat of the Mediterranean

waters that up to then covered the entire region.

    The Dead Sea is divided into two parts, or basins: the northern

basin, which is the larger and deeper of the two with a maximum

depth of 400 meters (1,312 ft), and the southern basin, which is

much smaller and very shallow – only a few meters in depth. In

the past, the two basins were separated by a tongue of sea called

Al-Lisan (“tongue” in Arabic). Today the two parts are separated

by a narrow channel, which was dug to prevent the southern basin

(which contains the Dead Sea evaporation pools) from drying out

and disappearing.

  The Dead Sea, which has no outlet, gets most of its water



from the Jordan River as well as from small streams that bring

it relatively small amounts of sweet water. In the winter season

it also receives a certain amount of precipitation that runs off the

surrounding mountains.

    The hot climate that prevails in the region causes evaporation of

large quantities of water from the Dead Sea. In addition, diversion

of water from the Jordan River by both Israel and Jordan for

irrigation and drinking water has resulted in the “shrinking” of

the Dead Sea. For example, in the past thirty years, the level of

the Dead Sea has dropped by over 25 meters (82 ft) at a rate of

0.8 meters (2.62 ft) a year. Because the amount of water entering

the Dead Sea is smaller than that evaporating from it, some see

a danger that in the not very distant future it will dry out and

disappear. Other scientists believe that the Dead Sea will not dry

out entirely, since when the water level drops by another 100 meters

(328 ft), a new balance will be established between the sources of

water in the region, which will prevent its disappearance.

    In the course of time, changes in the formation of the earth

created underground streams. Large underground burrows

remained in places where small rivers that once flowed into the

Dead Sea ceased to exist. These burrows can collapse suddenly,

without warning, creating deep pits known as sink holes that

endanger the lives of residents and tourists in the region.


Minerals of the Dead Sea and Regional Springs


The Dead Sea is saltier than all other lakes, seas and oceans in

the world, meaning that it contains a greater amount of dissolved

salts than any other body of water on the earth. The amount

of dissolved salt per liter ranges from 31.5 to 34.0 grams, an

amount that is approximately ten times greater than that of the

Mediterranean Sea (see Table 1). The waters are especially rich in



magnesium, phosphates, sodium, chlorine and bromides (bromine

compounds) and many other trace elements. In contrast, regular

seawater contains cooking salt (mostly NaCl, which constitutes

95% of its salt), while Dead Sea water contains only 12%-15%

sodium of its total mineral content. The salinity of Dead Sea

water is even greater than that of the Great Salt Lake in the state

of Utah, USA. The high concentration of salts, which gives the

water a high specific gravity, enables people to float on the water’s

surface without fear of drowning. At the same time, swallowing

a small amount of Dead Sea water may cause complications, a

phenomenon that will be discussed in the chapter on adverse

effects of balneotherapy.

    Nuns living in the area named the sea the “Dead Sea,” because

they believed that because of its high degree of salinity no creature

could live in it. This assumption has proved to be mistaken. In

1936, a young Israeli researcher named Eliezer Volcani published

an article in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals

that contained the results of his study, according to which a

number of unicellular creatures (bacteria) have developed unique

mechanisms allowing them to live in the Dead Sea. In recognition

of his discovery, one of the bacteria discovered in the Dead Sea

was named after him – Halopherax volcan. Several years ago,

Ukrainian researchers found that besides the unicellular bacteria

discovered by the Israeli scientist at least three types of fungi live

in the Dead Sea. It is interesting to note that researchers have been

successful in breeding these fungi in regular laboratory cultures

only when water containing a 50% concentration of Dead Sea

water is added to the substrate. That is, not only do the fungi grow

in salt water, but they need the high salt concentration to continue


    Mineral water emanates from more than a dozen underground

springs near the Dead Sea. The temperature of the water in these

springs ranges from 28° to 30°C (82.4° to 86.0°F). The most




famous of these springs are called Hamei Zohar, Hamei Mazor,

Hamei Shalem, Maayonot Ein Gedi, Hamei Yesha, Hamei Ein

Tamar, Hamei Ein Hakikar and Hamei Ein No’it. They are

sometimes referred to as sulfur springs, because they contain

different compounds of sulfur that give them an unpleasant smell

similar to that of rotten eggs. But the name is not justified, because

it is not yet known precisely which components have the most

beneficial effect on patients’ symptoms. The amount of minerals

dissolved in the waters of these springs is much less than that of

the Dead Sea, but still much more than that of all other health

springs in the world (see Table 2).


Trace Elements


In addition to its primary minerals, the waters of the Dead Sea and

the hot springs also contain miniscule quantities of many other

substances known as trace elements. They are of great importance

because a deficiency of one or more of these substances can affect

the proper functioning of the immune system. For example, we

know that patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis often have

a deficiency in zinc and some researchers have reported that the

oral administration of zinc results in a degree of improvement

in the condition of some patients. Another example is a surplus

of copper, also considered a trace element, which may cause

deterioration in the condition of patients suffering from rheumatoid

arthritis, so that drugs that reduce blood copper levels can improve

their condition. As mentioned above, trace elements are found in

different concentrations in Dead Sea water and in the water of the

surrounding springs (see Table 3)




Medicinal Mud


Medicinal mud used for therapy at the Dead Sea health resort is

mined at specific sites along the shore of the sea. For the most

part, it is black in color and is called “black mud.” This mud

contains two principal components: organic and inorganic. The

inorganic components are the various salts in the mud that are

related to its various earth components. The organic component

contains the remains of living organisms, seaweed and various

plants. In the Dead Sea region only the kind of material known as

“mud” is used. This kind of mud is comprised mostly of inorganic

materials – high concentrations of various salts and minerals,

including important trace elements (see Table 4).

   One of the characteristics of the mud used at the Dead Sea is its

ability to preserve its heat for a long time after it has been applied

to the body – its temperature decreases at a rate of one degree

centigrade every ten minutes. In addition to this effect – beneficial

in itself – of the heat on surrounding joints and tissues such as

tendons, ligaments and muscles, the mud increases the secretion

of different chemical compounds that suppress the inflammatory

process, and reduces or blocks the secretion of other compounds

that accelerate it. The mud also increases the secretion of

antioxidants whose function is to protect the various tissues from

the free oxygen radicals produced in metabolic processes that

tend to cause oxygenation, wich can cause tissue damage. The

role of the antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin

E, selenium, and others, is to prevent the oxygenation of these

radicals. Studies conducted, especially in Italy, have shown that

mud packs can increase the secretion of antioxidants and thereby

improve the condition of patients suffering from arthritis, a disease

sometimes characterized by increased secretion of free radicals.

It is worth noting that recent studies have shown that Dead Sea

mud also has properties that inhibit the development of various



bacteria. The addition of Dead Sea mud to bacterial cultures such

 as E. Coli, Staphylococcus aureus and others suppresses their



Table 1. The composition of Dead Sea water in comparison to

Mediterranean Sea and ocean water. The values are in milligrams per liter.


 Element Dead Sea Mediterranean Ocean



Table 2. Water composition of a mineral spring (Hamei Zohar).

The values are in milligrams per liter.


 Element Composition
 Chloride 35,509.5
 Bromide 769.5
 Bicarbonate 185.5
 Sulphate 677.5
 Lithium 3.66
 Sodium 8,595.0
 Potassium 825.0
 Calcium 3,600.0
 Magnesium 5,830.0
 Stronthium 52.5



Table 3. Trace elements in the water of the Ein Gedi spring. The values are

in micrograms per liter.


 Element Concentration
 Arsenic (As)  1.0
 Cadmium (Cd)  0.1
 Chrome (Cr)  10.0
 Copper (Cu) 59.0
 Mercury (Hg)  0.1
 Mercury (Hg) 1.0
 Selenium (Sc) 11.0
 Lead (Pb) 45.0
 Zinc (Zn) 23.0
 Cobalt (Co) 27.0
 Molindenum (Mo) 10.0
 Vanadium (Va) 100.0
 Silver (Ag) 1.0


Table 4: The main elements of Dead Sea mud. The values are in milligrams

per liter.


 Element Concentration
 Mg 32,503
 Na 31,734
 Ca 23,547
 K 6,835
 Cl 190,000
 Total Salinity 2,784,625



The Medical History of the Dead Sea


The Dead Sea is referred to by many names. It is also called the

East Sea, the Arava Sea, Lot’s Sea, the Zohar Sea, the Sodom Sea,

the Gomorrah Sea and the Salt Sea, among others. The Greeks

called it the “Asphalt Sea” because of the material that looked




like asphalt that was drawn from its waters and served many

purposes, medicinal and non-medicinal. It is assumed that the

biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were situated on the south

coast of the sea. The nearby city of Jericho is considered to be the

oldest city in the world (Kings II, Chapter 2, verses 19-23). We

read of the prophet Elisha who added salt to the water of a spring

near Jericho to purify it, thereby ending the epidemic which killed

many residents of the area who used this water for drinking and to

irrigate their fields and water their flocks of sheep.

    The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, who lived in the first century

BCE and was thought to be one of the most beautiful women of her

time, was known for her great love of beauty and health products.

She believed that the waters of the Dead Sea contained substances

that were beneficial to health and established industries in the

area for the production of perfumes and beauty care products.

Various compounds, essences and ointments were produced

or compounded from the waters of the Dead Sea together with

plants that grew along its shores and in the area of Jericho. Of

these, the most important was the balsam tree, a member of the

pine family, whose branches, trunk, leaves and seeds were used to

make products for beauty care and an ointment to treat sores. In

Europe, where widespread use was made of the ointment, it was

called Jerusalem Balsam. Medicines derived from this tree also

were used in the treatment of headaches and visual impairments

of various types, including impaired vision due to cataracts.

Material produced from this tree was also used to improve the

taste of wine. Local residents, who earned their living in this

endeavor, kept the secret of the processes used for production of

the medicine and perfume made from the balsam tree.




   The Nabateans living in the region used to sell the Egyptians a

black material known as bitumen (similar to black tar) that they

extracted from the seawaters. The Egyptians used bitumen for body

stuffing and mummification. The bitumen was also used for calking

and sealing boats and was called Jews’ tar. It was also used as a

medicinal substance to prevent muscular spasms (of the abdominal

muscles, for example), to heal wounds, to mend broken bones and

stop bleeding from skin wounds. Gladiators who fought in the arena

frequently used bitumen ointment to stop bleeding and hasten the

healing of their wounds, and Muslim doctors used it as a medicine

for the treatment of infections caused by worms. King Herod, who

built the famous winter palace at Massada, also built therapeutic

and pleasure pools for the use of the soldiers of the Roman legions.

Josephus Flavius mentions the waters of these hot springs and notes

that it is even possible to drink the water for therapeutic purposes.

When Herod became ill, his doctors recommended bathing in the

spring waters, a treatment that in the end didn’t prevent his death,

apparently from end stage kidney failure. The rich residents of

Rome used to import by sea large containers of Dead Sea water

for bathing at home in luxurious baths. As is well known, ancient

scrolls of great scientific and historical value were discovered in

the Dead Sea region, but to our great surprise, there is almost no

reference in them to the therapeutic properties of the region.

    In the Byzantine period, several monasteries were built in the

area and many Crusaders made pilgrimage to them. Bedouin tribes

have also lived in the area for hundreds of years, but we have no

information about use made by the Bedouin or the Crusaders of

the therapeutic products of the Dead Sea, or of their bathing in its

waters for therapeutic purposes.

    In 1772, the French scientist Lavoisier (whom most of us

remember from our chemistry lessons at school) published the

first analysis of the composition of Dead Sea water, and in 1889

the famous French scientist, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, published

a further analysis of its composition.




    The visionary founder of the Jewish State, Benjamin Ze’ev

Herzl, mentioned, in his speeches as far back as 1902, that the

waters of the Dead Sea are rich in bromine, sulfur and phosphates

that can be produced, used and even traded commercially. In 1911,

the Russian Jewish mining engineer, Moshe Novomeysky, who

later immigrated to Israel, visited the country and was highly

impressed by the enormous commercial potential in the production

of different minerals from the Dead Sea. In 1920, he applied to

the British Mandate authorities for a franchise to produce these

minerals. In 1930, Israel Potash Industry, Ltd., was established

and in 1932 it began the production of potash.

    The first plant to be built was situated in the northern area of the

sea, around Kalia. Jews and Arabs worked together in the plant

and produced potassium and potassium salts. My father, blessed

is his memory, Dr. Shmuel Sukenik, to whose memory this book

is dedicated, worked for two years in this plant as its only doctor,

treating both Jewish and Arab workers with dedication. A second

plant was built later, in 1934, in the southern region, near Sodom,

and this is the plant now known as the Dead Sea Industries, which

is the fourth largest plant in the world for production of potash.

Other important materials, required by various industries, are

produced from the waters of the Dead Sea including magnesium

chloride, aluminum chloride, industrial salts, antifreeze, cooking

salt and raw materials for the cosmetics industry.

    Following the creation of the State of Israel, scientists and

physicians from all over the world began to show interest in the

unique healing properties of Dead Sea water and since then have

written and published hundreds of studies proving the importance

of the region as a unique therapeutic site.




The Unique Climatic Conditions at the Dead Sea


According to the well-known author, Mark Twain, “Everybody

complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

The weather in the Dead Sea region is far from being pleasant for

those who live there, but it has unique qualities that alleviate the

suffering of patients with a wide variety of illnesses, including

joint disease, skin disease, heart disease and lung disease, among

others. In this chapter we will describe and explain the unique

climatic conditions of the region and the effect they have on

various illnesses.



Ultraviolet Rays


Ultraviolet rays are invisible to the human eye. There are two

kinds of ultraviolet rays, distinguished one from the other by their

wavelength: UVA, whose wavelength is between 320 and 400

nanometers, and UVB, whose wavelength is between 280 and 320

nanometers. UVB rays, which cause sunburn, are more harmful

to humans. As a result of the high temperatures characteristic of

the region on most days of the year and the paucity of clouds

that block the sun’s rays, the Dead Sea region is characterized

by evaporation of large quantities of water from the sea surface,

which creates a vapor haze. This haze blocks the UVB rays (the

harmful rays) more than it blocks UVA (the good rays). The fact

that the Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth – 400 meters (1,312

ft) or more below sea level – increases the distance traveled by

the ultraviolet rays before they reach land, UVB more than UVA

rays. The ratio between UVB and UVA, therefore, is the highest

anywhere on the face of the earth. In fact, this difference in the

nature of ultraviolet radiation between this region and all other

regions makes it beneficial in the healing of several skin diseases,



including psoriasis. The unique radiation in the region also reduces

the risk of sunburn due to exposure to the sun and allows patients

to remain in the sun for longer periods of time than they could do

in other places.



Atmospheric and Barometric Pressure


Atmospheric pressure is the force exerted by the weight of air in

the earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure is measured in units

called “atmospheres.” One atmosphere is the pressure exerted by

a column of air at sea level. Heat and cold affect the weight of air

and thus the atmospheric pressure, but their effect is small and

insignificant. The atmospheric pressure at the Dead Sea, which is

the highest in the world, has a beneficial effect on a broad range

of diseases, particularly on joint diseases, chronic lung diseases,

heart diseases and others.

    Atmospheric pressure is measured with a barometer, which is a

tube filled with mercury, closed at its upper end and immersed in

a bowl of mercury that is open to the air (similar to the instrument

used for measuring blood pressure, which is also based on a

column of mercury). The pressure of one atmosphere at sea level

at 0°C (32°F) is equal to a mercury column 760 millimeters

high. In fact, “barometric pressure” and “atmospheric pressure”

are interchangeable terms. Atmospheric pressure, for example,

decreases by 50% for every ascent of 5.5 kilometers (3.42 miles).

The lower the point below sea level, the greater the barometric

pressure, so that in the Dead Sea region it is the highest in the

world – about 800 millimeters of mercury.

    Studies conducted in the United States in the 1960s proved that

an increase in barometric pressure usually results in alleviation

of joint pains. When an American millionaire heard the report of

studies conducted with his funding, he replied in surprise: “That’s





it? – you could have gotten all of that information about the effect

of weather from my wife, without needing studies like these.”

And in fact it is well known that arthritis patients can occasionally

serve as weather forecasters, predicting oncoming rain. The

explanation for this is simple: before the onset of rain, there is a

decrease in atmospheric pressure, called a barometric depression.

This depression causes an increase or reappearance of pain, so

that the patients know that rain is on the way.



Humidity and Relative Humidity


“Humidity” is the degree of moisture in the air. It can be measured

in terms of absolute humidity or relative humidity: “Absolute

humidity” is the mass of water found in a specific mass of air; “relative

humidity” is the ratio, expressed in percentage, between the quantity

of vapor (water) in the air (at a given volume and temperature) and

the amount of vapor that the same volume of that air can contain

when it is fully saturated. The maximum quantity of vapor the air

can contain depends on its temperature. The higher the temperature,

the greater the amount of water vapor it can hold, and the lower the

temperature, the less it can hold. The explanation for this lies in the

fact that relative humidity is derived from the balance between the

rate of evaporation and the rate of condensation (the creation of

water vapor) of the water molecules. The lower the temperature is

the greater is the condensation relative to evaporation.

    As a result, in addition to barometric pressure, humidity and

temperature play a significant role through their effect on the

symptoms of patients suffering from joint diseases. As long ago

as 1948, Swedish investigators built special hospital rooms in

which the temperature and humidity could be controlled. They

housed patients suffering from various types of joint diseases in

these rooms for approximately 100 days and proved that at high




temperatures – about 32°C – (89.6°F) and relatively low humidity

(about 35%), most of the patients experienced improvement in

their condition. For the most part, relatively low humidity brings

relief of joint pain. At the Dead Sea the humidity is relatively low:

approximately 33% from April to September and 40-50% during

the rest of the year. The uniform high temperature, which in the

summer months ranges from 32°C to 40°C (89.6°F to 104°F) and

during the winter months ranges between 20°C and 24°C (68°F to

75.2°F), also reduces joint pain.

    The season of the year also affects symptoms. Sometimes we

see worsening in a patient’s condition during the winter months,

which is almost certainly a result of the decreased barometric

pressure and increased humidity. In the summer, on the other

hand, most patients experience relief.

    In studies conducted in Israel in the 1990s by Prof. Abraham

Weinberger and his team, it was found that joint pains were affected

by barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity. It was also

found that women are more sensitive than men to changes in the

weather. It is interesting to note that even after knee replacement

surgery, in which the patient’s knee is replaced by an artificial one,

weather continues to affect pain symptoms in the implant. Various

studies have shown that a paucity of precipitation is beneficial for

joint pains so that this factor, which is also characteristic of the

Dead Sea region, is of some importance.



Oxygen-enriched Air


As is well known, the saturation of oxygen in air decreases as

we ascend to higher altitudes (above sea level). The opposite is

also true: the lower we descend below sea level, the “richer” the

air becomes in oxygen, in addition to barometric (atmospheric)

pressure. Because of this difference in barometric pressure, the

amount of oxygen inhaled into the lungs is significantly greater

at the Dead Sea than anywhere else. The high level of oxygen

contained by the air there has a beneficial effect on patients

suffering from chronic lung and heart diseases.




Low Level of Allergens (Substances That Cause Allergies)

in the Air


It has long been known that the number of people suffering from

asthma increases in places rich in vegetation, where pollen from

trees, plants and flowers is found in high concentrations in the

air. The relatively small number of plants and trees in the Dead

Sea region reduces the amount of allergens carried by wind that

could result in an increased severity of asthma attacks, or even

cause them. It should be noted that the small number of industries

located in the region also reduces air pollution and the emission of

toxic substances that have a harmful effect on asthma patients.



The concentration of bromine in the air


Because of the high level of evaporation of water from the

Dead Sea that contains a high concentration of bromine salts,

the amount of bromine in the air is approximately twenty times

greater than in other places. When we inhale Dead Sea air over a

period of several weeks, the amount of bromine in our blood also

rises significantly. Not very long ago, bromine was used in the

production of tranquilizers, and before the appearance of Valium

most tranquilizers contained bromine salts. The soothing effects of

bromine salts explains the feeling of peace and calm experienced

by many people who stay in the Dead Sea region, so that we may

consider bromine to be the region’s quality version of Valium.



The Doctor