Azerbaijan Clinic Uses Crude Oil Baths as Therapeutic Treatments

A clinic in the town of Naftalan, 160 miles noth-west of Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, has found a therapeutic use for its abundant quantities of crude oil.

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s leading oil exporters, and in the country’s western plains “black gold” has been seeping out of the ground for centuries. In fact, they have so much of the stuff, that in the town of Naftalan, they use the excess crude oil as a cure for various illnesses. It all goes down at the famous Naftalan Clinic, where people from all over the former Soviet Union and even from the Emirates and Europe come to treat various skin diseases, rheumatism, arthritis and even their nerves with crude oil. Doctors here say their miraculous oil therapy is used to trat up to 100 different conditions.

The most popular treatment at Naftalan is the crude oil bath. Patients lower their bodies into 35 gallons of crude oil, at a temperature of 40 degrees. Many of them say the warm oil relaxes their joints and they’d love to spend more than 10 minutes soaked in black oil, but since it contains almost 50% naphthalene, a hydrocarbon deemed potentially carcinogenic by EU regulations, longer sessions could be hazardous to their health. The clinic’s doctors claim millions of people have been treated at Naftalan over the years, and none of them have suffered any complications, as a result. Still, to be on the safe side they limit the sessions to 10 minutes, and no more than a bath per day, during a 10-day treatment.

Photo via az-naftalan

According to dr. Alif Zulfugar, manager of the Naftalan Clinic, the oil used for therapeutic baths, known as Naftalan, is to heavy for industrial use, so it is only used for clinical purposes. It doesn’t get treated in any way, just loaded up in tankers and delivered to the clinic. Most of it is heated and poured into the basin for baths, but there are other treatments available, as well. The resin from the crude oil is extracted and painted on the patient’s limbs, helping the nervous and blood system and easing joint pain.

Even though the staff at Naftalan Clinic make sure patients are thoroughly cleaned after their baths, they all take a few drops of oil with them wherever they go, as their saturated skin oozes crude oil for a period of two-three days.

Photo by Joseph Sywenkyj via NY Times

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