The curative and time reversing powers of nature have long been of lore and great interest to health advocates. From such historical moments as Alexander the Great claiming to have come across a healing “river of paradise” in 4th century B.C. and Juan Ponce de León setting out to find the fountain of youth in the early 1500s, to all the time tested herbal remedies and the more recent botanical medicine discoveries, one theme remains constant: Mother Nature is one heck of a good aesthetician. That’s why Hilton Head Island embraces with loving and healing arms the natural beauty and bounty provided by the Lowcountry. In addition to several award-winning spas, you can unwind and rewind naturally with the following Lowcountry cures.
#1: Vitamin D
Vitamin D doesn’t always get the love it deserves. It is a fat-soluble secosteroid that, as a female athlete over the age of 35 (who has had three children), I truly appreciate. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Research suggests vitamin D may also provide protection from hypertension, psoriasis, several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis), and reduces the incidence of fractured bones. In addition, growing evidence has demonstrated vitamin D’s important role in defending against cancer (studies link a deficiency of vitamin D to as many as 18 different cancers).” With year-long, good weather, you can easily get your daily dose of sun-induced vitamin D just by enjoying our Island’s endless list of outdoor opportunities. Just remember what my good friend/dermatologist says, “It’s still crucial to apply sunscreen with zinc oxide.” (Note: My favorite is Blue Lizard.)
#2: Spanish Moss
Spanish Moss serves as the backdrop for every great southern scene, but according to folk medicine it is a front runner for heath, too. The scientific name for Spanish Moss is Tillandsia usneoides and it is neither a moss or indigenous to Spain but rather it is related to the pineapple (Ananas comosus) and classified as a bromeliad. Alternative medicine practitioners use Spanish Moss as a treatment for a wide variety of medical problems including diabetes and skin conditions and traditionally it was brewed into a tea to treat fevers, chills, rheumatism and contraction pains during childbirth. (Note: Because little critters like chiggers like Spanish Moss, too, it is a good idea to boil it before consuming.)
Driving over the bridge onto Hilton Head, roll down your window and you can smell the pluff mud — its earthy aroma will greet your nose with a “Welcome back, y’all!” For all you kayakers, boaters and stand up paddle boarders, you should know pluff mud is the Lowcountry’s version of quicksand and the more you try to get out of it, the deeper you sink. As a former kayak instructor for Outside Hilton Head, I can personally attest to this. Because of its high mineral content, pluff mud is rumored to have anti-aging properties but if you are anything like me when it comes to goo it’s best to go with the tried and true. That’s why I recommend getting a “pluff mud treatment” from one of the area’s luxurious spas like the Cottage Spa at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff. The Palmetto Bluff mud wrap, which was featured in the Forbes Travel Guide, includes a specially formulated and fortified mud wrap, a hair and scalp treatment, and an evergreen oil application to lock in the moisture.
We have the Gullah tradition to thank for much of our rich culture, especially when it comes to the Lowcountry’s use of herbs to heal holistically. Some of the most popular herbs used by the Gullah people include: mullein, life everlasting, ginger, boneset, bayberry, elderberry, red raspberry leaf, cayenne, horehound, asafetida, St. John’s weed, poke weed, sweet basil, horsemint, gallberry, and garlic. The Herb Room on New Orleans Road uses many of these herbs to make tinctures and teas. My favorite tincture this time of year is their elderberry syrup because it helps strengthen my children’s immune system.
Becca Edwards is the eco-wellness blogger for the Hilton Head Chamber and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE.