The180

A new use for Alberta's oil: spa treatments

Buff Parry wants to use Alberta's oil for more than just fuel: he's working on a plan to open a bitumen spa. Buff joins us to explain why he thinks people will pay to bathe in the black stuff.
A client soaks in a bath of naftalan oil at a health centre in Azerbaijan. (YouTube)
Listen6:34

Next time you need to relax a little, why not try soaking yourself in some of Alberta's finest bitumen? 

It may sound preposterous, but Edmonton's Buff Parry says bitumen baths have a long history, and are all the rage in places like Azerbaijan. Now, he wants to set up a bitumen spa in Alberta

The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length. 

So if we're talking about a product that many people are afraid to have running through a thick steel pipe near where they live, why would anyone want to take a dip in it? 

Because it does have some of these medicinal qualities, and relaxation qualities. People rave about it once they've tried it, especially in Azerbaijan, where there is a highly specialized type of bitumen used. We would come close to what it is they're using, naftalan. [People will want to bathe in oil] for the same reason that people have all through human history used warm solutions to sink into  for relaxation purposes! 

Now, have you tried a bitumen bath yourself? 

I have tried it up to my ankles. Not because of fear or anything like that, just because I made a rush visit to the Dead Sea, and so I just wanted to try it. But there have been a lot of interviews with a lot of different people, who have immersed themselves in these bitumen oil baths, and even the cruder bitumen, and they rave about it, they come back for more. 

How do you know it's not dangerous? 

Because there's absolutely no evidence over the course of many, many years. Again, going back to Azerbaijan, these baths have been going on for centuries. They've now recently become popular in the spa resort context, but this is a practice that goes back to the time of Alexander the Great, who observed these baths being taken and made careful note of them, and in that entire history there's not a single incident of there being anything negative about the health consequences. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.