Relax, and let the nibbling begin

Use of 'doctor fish' has spread from a Turkish resort to Asian and European spas.
The doctor fish of Kangal, members of the carp family, have gone from local myth to a sales product and the subject of Internet testimonials. But you don't have to believe in wonder cures to try them. The fish are used for simple enjoyment, too, in spas from Ireland to Japan.
For many years the Turkish spa resort called Kangal small fish help people recover from psoriasis and other skin diseases. The beneficial waters contain myriad small fish (2-10 cm long), which play a vital part in curing various skin diseases.

Word of fish with healing abilities first spread in 1917. A local shepherd dipped an injured leg in a spring, and fish gathered to eat the damaged skin around the wound, prompting locals to try them out for other maladies. The story has grown in spurts since then. In the 1950s, locals walled off the spring to prevent the fish from escaping.

During treatment with the doctor fish, fish eat flakes of dead skin of the patient. Fish-doctor or Gara Rufa (Gara Rufa) - one of the fish species that inhabit the natural-rich minerals sources. Currently they are used for the treatment of patients with psoriasis and other skin diseases.

Michal Lisyak, 26-year-old Pole, patients with psoriasis, swim in the pool with mineral water.
Fish-doctor, also known as kissing or Asian fish live and breed in the hot spring near Kangal, a small town located 100 kilometers south of the central Turkish city of Sivas. In the picture - fish eat dead skin particles ill patient from Germany, 62-year-old Gangora Aslan, who came for treatment in the Kangal.

Michal Lisyak swims among the fish in the pool filled with water from a hot spring Kangal. This water is useful for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, neurological disorders, skin diseases and more. However, most often come here just patients with psoriasis.
Patients from all over the world who suffer from psoriasis come in Kangal. Fish that are found in local sources they eat dead tissue from the affected areas of skin, and healthy skin is not damaged.

Not only patients but healthy people visit the resort to see these amazing fish. For them, the procedure of the resort will help get rid of the old and calloused skin cells.
Fish surround a man in the water and begin to lick and bite lesions caused by psoriasis or other skin diseases, which have already softened in warm water thermal springs.
Thanks Fish- doctor, the skin is cleaned of dead skin particles, resulting in minor bleeding may begin. After that cleansed skin is exposed to water and sunlight.

Living in water at 37 ° (fish die at a temperature below 28), the unique and the unique fish-doctor are divided into two types:
Therapeutic effect on skin and mucous membranes provides a selenium-rich water, and fish-doctor.
Duration of treatment is 21 days, subject to the daily 8-hour water procedures. In carrying out all instructions to guarantee high efficiency of treatment of psoriasis.

Brother Aslan helps him Gangora piling of diseased psoriasis skin while bathing in the pool with mineral water.

In 1979 came a five-storey hotel. Five Turkish brothers leased the spring and environs from the government in 1992 and added villas, a playground, restaurant and Internet café. The resort, the Balikli Kaplica (Fish Spring), is 15 kilometres from the village of Kangal, at the end of a road snaking through foothills. About 3,000 people a year visit the carp, known as Garra rufa in the science world and called doctor fish or nibble fish by cure seekers. Most who come suffer from psoriasis, a recurring skin condition that causes red blotches topped with silvery flakes. They drink from the spring's mineral-rich water before breakfast and then feed themselves to the fish, waiting in four large pools, sometimes for four hours a day. While the nibble fish eat away the diseased skin within three weeks, the blotches and flakes typically return within months.

The Balikli Kaplica drew international attention in 1999 when psoriasis patients from Germany came on a buying spree, scooping up fish to take home from several areas in the country. Supply now comes mainly from breeders in Europe and Asia. Prices peaked at roughly $90 a fish in 1999, though they now go for $35 to $70 apiece, said Thomas Gularas, a psoriasis sufferer in Fernblick, Austria. He breeds and sells fish and owns a psoriasis-treatment spa there. There are two other such clinics in Austria, and more in Croatia, Serbia, Germany and Ireland. The European spas usually offer individual bathtubs, each stocked with 150 to 300 carp, which some prefer to the group pools in Turkey.

The fish are a natural fit in spa-mad Japan, where they are used to clean dead skin from feet. There are at least 27,000 natural-spring spas there, many touting esoteric treatments such as facials using bull semen, nightingale droppings or gold leaf. Hakone Kowakien Yunessen, one of Japan's first spas to feature Garra rufa, also offers soaking pools of coffee, green tea, sake, wine or water with salt imported from the Dead Sea.

At least three other spas in Japan use the fish, as does one in South Korea at Daemyung Resort, near Gyeongju. The fish are also deployed at Underwater World, a Singapore marine theme park that is adding spa capabilities and marketing the Garra rufa as "fish reflexology."

In China, a company called Chengdu Joyda Amusement Co. claims to have trained its carp in massage therapy.

"People will not feel the slightest pain or discomfort, but a very nice feeling when the joy fish are nibbling their skin and massaging their bodies," according to the company's website. The next fish-fuelled idea may come from Canada. London, Ont.'s Radostina Zaharieva, who studied music therapy in her native Bulgaria, wants to combine the fish's exfoliating abilities with classical music to induce relaxation and lower blood pressure. She is still looking for an investor and import permits.

Turkey's Balikli Kaplica may have lost its monopoly on doctor fish, but the owners aren't worried about the competition. The Garra rufa lose their powers outside their native spring, they say.

When we dipped our hands into that spring, Yunus, the son of one of the brothers, explained that the fish know how to check for problem skin while nibbling. A rumour nurtured on the Internet even claims the fish secrete dithranol, a common psoriasis cream invented in Germany in 1916.

Turkish biologists and doctors have debunked all that but say the spa can still be beneficial. It offers a mix of factors that commonly send psoriasis into remission: strong sun, mineral water, clean air and relaxation. As for the fish, they say you would get the same results from a good scrub.

These particular Garra rufa eat dead skin because the spring's water, at a constant 34 C, is too hot to host enough algae, their staple food. This makes their reproductive systems weak, according to a Turkish biologist's study. Dead human skin becomes a bonus sustenance. The fish prefer eating psoriasis blotches and flakes because they are easier for their toothless mouths to nibble away. And the extra food comes at the perfect time: Most people visit in summer, when the carp are breeding and need nourishment the most. So the cure-seekers actually help the doctor fish more than the fish help them.

At a time of growing curiosity about alternative therapies, and with the Internet a natural amplifier for all things unusual, the truth has a hard time competing. At the Balikli Kaplica, mentioning the facts causes management to switch from talk of "opening" and "checking" wounds to a reminder that a psoriasis recurrence is likely. Without the plateau sun, mineral water and fresh air, they insist, the nibble fish have no therapeutic value.

The growing number of Garra rufa at Europe's psoriasis clinics and Asia's spas suggests the legend lives on. The latest academic study, expected to be completed this year by an Austrian doctor, could provide more clarity. But even a negative finding is unlikely to dispel the myths about the doctor fish of Kangal, swimming proof that a colourful fantasy trumps a boring fact.


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