Happy Talk

‘She massaged the inside of my nostrils’: The bizarre world of modern wellness treatments

‘Wellness’ has been around for 300 years but it’s never been so expensive or bizarre. From silk eye-serums to guinea pig rubs, Christine Manby explores the numerous paths to health, wealth and happiness

Tuesday 23 April 2019 11:00
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Guinea pigs are used in the Andes to detect illness: practitioners are trained to interpret the squeaks
Guinea pigs are used in the Andes to detect illness: practitioners are trained to interpret the squeaks
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hat does “wellness” mean to you? Avocado toast and sunsets on Instagram? Fitbits and mindfulness apps? Maybe it’s a silk eye-serum formulated according to the ancient art of numerology, as offered by the Duchess of Sussex’s favourite London wellness centre Ilapothecary? Goat yoga? Or how about a guinea pig facial rub?

I wish I’d made that up, but in the Andes guinea pigs have been used in the manner of foam rollers to detect illness for centuries. Practitioners are trained to interpret the guinea pig’s squeaks as the poor thing is rubbed over your belly. It’s a matter of time before it comes to Notting Hill.

Though it sounds very millennial, the term “wellness” has been with us since the 17th century, when it simply meant the opposite of “illness”. These days it’s defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal”.

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