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Psammotherapy in Porto Santo Island (Madeira archipelago).

Keywords: Porto Santo Island; Biogenic Carbonate Sand; Mineralogical, Morphological, Thermal and Geochemical Properties

Psammotherapy is a practice that uses sand-baths for therapeutic purposes. Sandbaths in the biogenic carbonate sand from Porto Santo Island, in the archipelago of Madeira, constitutes a good example of the positive interaction of minerals on human health. Recent studies provided much information on relevant physical and chemical properties that could explain this sand's 200-year-long use, although on a much empirical manner, for the treatment of muscular-skeletal (rheumatic and orthopedic) diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.

The biogenic carbonate sand from Porto Santo Island consists mainly of bioclasts of calcareous red algae (Rhodophyta), sand-bathing traditionally taking place outdoors in the dry and warm sand of the transition zone beach/frontal dune, along the southern coast of the island. However, since 10 years ago, sand-bathing can be carried out indoors, as is the case of the Geomedicine Clinic of Hotel Porto Santo, in conditions that try to replicate the outdoors sand-bathing conditions.

The biogenic carbonate sand is essentially composed of calcium carbonate in the forms of calcite, Mg-calcite and aragonite. The amount of grains derived from volcanic rocks, as a rule, is less than 10%.

Analysis of chemical data shows that Ca, Mg and Sr are the major elements of the biogenic carbonate sand from Porto Santo, elements which are bio-essential for human health. P, S, Si, Al, I, Br, F, B, V, Zn, Cu, Fe, and Se are the minor/trace elements identified in the same sand.

The average grain size of this biogenic carbonate sand is estimated at 0.200mm, all sand grain sizes ranging between 0.063mm and 0.500mm: > 0.250mm-0.5%; 0.250mm-0.125mm-85.5%; 0.125mm-0.063mm-13% ; <0.063mm-1%.

Also, the shape of sand grains is mainly tabular or platy, an essential characteristic for a good adhesion to human skin.

In order to be therapeutically effective, sand-bathing in the biogenic carbonate sand from Porto Santo requires sand temperature to be slightly higher (40-42[degrees]) than body temperature (37[degrees]), so as to promote body sweating, an essential condition for the interaction sand/human body.

The healing properties of sand-bathing in the biogenic carbonate sand of Porto Santo could be explained on the basis of its peculiar mineralogical, morphological, thermal and geochemical properties. And, the dermal absorption of the bio-essential elements liberated from sand dissolution is an ultimate and essential mechanism.

In short, the sand properties that justify its therapeutic benefits are as follows: 1) Special chemical composition and easy chemical dissolution--bioavailability of bioessential elements, Ca, Mg, Sr, P, S, etc.; 2) High heat storing capacity due to the porosity of most of the biogenic carbonate grains (in sunny days sand temperature in the transition zone beach/frontal dune can reach 65[degrees]; 3) Sand temperature above human body temperature-essential for sweat formation ; 4)Tabular shape of sand grains--essential for their adhesion to the skin; 5) Sand dissolution by the acid sweat.

Due to the excellent characteristics of its maritime mild climate, Porto Santo' island gathers all the conditions for the practice of maritime climatotherapy.

The main meteorological data determined in the island are as follows: Air temperature: 16[degrees]C is the minimum annual temperature measured in February and 24[degrees]C is the maximum measured in August. Mean annual value of thermal amplitude: It is estimated at 7[degrees]C. This classifies Porto Santo's climate as maritime. Sea water temperature: 18[degrees]C is the minimum mean annual value in February and 24[degrees]C is the maximum mean annual value in October; for long periods sea water temperature is higher than air temperature.

Gomes CSF (1), Silva JBP (1)

(1) GeoBioTec, University of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal
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Title Annotation:Scientific Sessions: Climatotherapy--Thalassotherapy--Dermatology--Session 04; texto en ingles
Author:Gomes, C.S.F.; Silva, J.B.P.
Publication:Anales de Hidrologia Medica
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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