When skies are gray or you’re suffering from a stuffy nose, nothing hits the spot quite like a bowl of piping hot soup. Grandmothers everywhere swear by the brothy remedy that does seem to have somewhat magical soothing properties. Recently, however, people across the globe have found another, more eccentric use for soup—specifically, ramen.
While no one’s sure exactly how and when the most recent ramen trend caught fire between YouTubers and pasta-fanatics, one thing’s for sure: it’s definitely a bit strange. Still, eyebrow-raising as it may be, you might just want to try it yourself…
In 2014, Cory Williams—a comedian, musician, and YouTuber—invited cameras into his bathroom to film a rather odd moment. As if that scenario doesn’t sound odd enough, what actually unfolded was even weirder than you’re probably imagining.
Cory first provided some instructions: find a large bathtub—even a kiddie pool would work—and fill it with scalding-hot water. Then, as he put it, “it’s time to add the magical ingredient.” Just what could that be?
The special ingredient was… ramen. Seriously. He dumped it right into his jacuzzi! Soon, the hot tub water softened the noodles, and a thin layer of cheap pasta covered the surface. That’s when things got really weird.
Once the noodles were al dente, Cory hopped into the water and vigorously scrubbed at his arms and face with the ramen. Later, he described the experience as “actually quite relaxing.” But that begged a question: why, dude?
Ramen baths like Cory’s were actually becoming quite popular. Though the origin of this odd practice couldn’t be precisely pinpointed, many articles credited Ichiro Furuya, owner of the Yunessan Spa House in Hakone, Japan, as the leading figure spearheading the movement.
Ichiro’s spa didn’t only offer ramen baths for its patrons’ amusements, either. A number of zany, off-the-wall treatments included sake baths and even wine baths, as pictured here. But that wasn’t the weirdest one…
There were even chocolate baths! For just 3,500 yen—or about $29—attendees of the world-famous spa could actually stew in actual chocolate. Wonder if anyone indulging in this would be considered a chocoholic?
Believe it or not, this all wasn’t just some throwaway, novelty idea; it actually came with a medicinal purpose. “Lately, people are very concerned about having beautiful skin,” Ichiro said.
He added, “And they know the effect of collagen, which is contained in our pork-based broth. At this bath, everybody can have fun and take advantage of the healthy elements of ramen noodles.” Huh? Healthy? That couldn’t be right… could it?
Author Susanna Forrest more or less answered that question. While compiling research for a book, she stumbled across a bizarre 19th-century German passage that had her calling a professor for help. Soon enough, she was heading down the rabbit hole of research.
As Susanna wrote in a piece for Atlas Obscura, “Broth bathing appears to share a tandem history with ‘hydrotherapy,’ the therapeutic immersion of the body in warm mineral water.” In fact, 19th-century doctors once prescribed hydrotherapy for mercury poisoning!
Susanna continued, “Physicians believed that skin was permeable, so if mercury could seep out, then surely the hearty properties of spring water or bouillon could seep in.” Surprisingly, the treatment caught on.
By the mid 19th-century, legitimate medical texts discussed the benefits of broth bathing. Stories of sickly children who regained strength after a broth bath spread far and wide—even to America. But was this legitimate?
Susanna provided anecdotal broth bath support from her friend. “On a research trip in rural Armenia, she met an Assyrian woman who followed local practice and bathed her baby boy in beef broth ‘to strengthen his bones,'” she wrote. “The baby thrived.”
“Collagen is a protein that’s a major building block of your skin, bones, and connective tissue,” she told The Huffington Post. “This is why it’s smart to start adding collagen to your diet as you age.” Thankfully, supplements are easy to find in stores.
A 2014 study backed up the benefits of collagen supplements, too. So maybe it’s not so crazy to think a bath in a tub of piping hot ramen soup—flavor packets included—might actually give you smooth skin and iron-tough bones?
Adding the noodles themselves to your broth bath might be a little overkill, but you’ve got to admit, they’d probably make for a killer loofah. Just watch Cory Williams explain how much fun a noodle bath can be!
Talk about an interesting use for soup! Do you see a hot broth bath with a side of noodles in your future?
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