Sand therapy is an age-old treatment adopted by desert peoples in the Xinjiang region of northwest China using only sand and sunshine to cure, or provide relief from, certain maladies that lend themselves especially to this form of treatment. The necessary accoutrements of the sand therapy treatment include an umbrella to offer a spot of shade from the burning sun, copious amounts of cool water to slake one's thirst (though some prefer hot tea, as it seems to complement the heat of the sand), and a kantuman, a kind of Uighur pick-axe, but flatter/ broader for soft-earth or sand digging, and with the metal pick on only one side of the handle, which metal pick, in contrast to the miner's almost T-shaped pick, is much more curved, hooking sharply inwards towards the handle, making the kantuman ideal to scoop up sand, though today a short-handled, broad hoe is also used. And of course you'll want a towel to keep your brow dry.
The sand therapy treatment was first recorded in The Categorical Lists of Herbs and Plants by Li Shizhen, a famous doctor during the Ming Dynasty. Dr. Shizen's original sand therapy treatment – which differs entirely from the Egyptian treatment of the same name, where the individual is buried in sand up to the neck – called for piling up a series of short sand dikes prior to the hottest hours of the day, and when the hottest period had arrived, the patient was advised to sit, or lie prone, on a suitable dike of burning-hot sand until it had cooled somewhat, then move on to the next, and so on until one had exhausted all of the dikes of sand. Thus we know for a certainty that people have availed themselves of this natural therapeutic treatment since ancient times.
Perfecting on nature's own excellent, albeit haphazard, method, the Sand Therapy Center of Turpan has collected special dark grey sands, since this color of sand attracts and retains heat better than lighter-colored sand, and moreover, it possesses magnetic properties and contains more natural minerals than lighter-colored sand. Turpan has long been called China's "Fire Capital", and in midsummer the temperature of the sands can reach as high as 60 degrees Celsius. Tourists flock to Turpan to enjoy the feeling of well-being that results from the sand therapy treatment, which is not unlike a heat massage. The sand therapy treatment is therefore a kind of health-care and disease-curing method that combines heat treatment and magnetic treatment with a gentle massage.
Not only is sand therapy popular with tourists, the local people as well make use of it to heal occasional aches and pains, to drive away tiredness, and to prevent and/ or provide relief from chronic ailments such as arthritis, lumbago, and general leg pains. The salutary effect of the sand therapy thus not only attracts tourists from far and wide – who also believe it to be beneficial vis-à-vis skin diseases such as psoriasis as well as vis-à-vis respiratory illnesses and even high blood pressure – it remains to this day a popular remedy for a variety of maladies among the local population.
Summer is clearly the best season to try out sand therapy at the Sand Therapy Center of Turpan, since the summer sun provides the highest temperatures and therefore the most beneficial sand therapy effects, but tourists passing through Turpan, regardless of the season, should definitely treat themselves to the salutary effects of the sand therapy treatment.