It has been used to build houses, make pottery, keep creatures cool, and is one of the oldest words in the English language. Mud.
The word dates back to at least 1400 and is derived from the original term “muddle”, meaning the lowest or worst of anything.
This ‘lowly’ material can also make you happier and healthier and possibly, more productive and smarter.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of the day a friend and I set up a mud pie stall in the street where I lived.
We had so much fun making those mud pies and the wonderful thing was the good-natured neighbours who paid real money to buy our pies and feign delight at eating them.
INCREASE HEALTH AND HAPPINESS BY PLAYING IN MUD
We didn’t know it at the time, and I dare say we would not have cared, but we were increasing our health and happiness by the simple act of playing in mud.
Studies have shown that microscopic bacteria present in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae stimulate nerves to release serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for making us feel happy and relaxed.
There are claims this bacteria could be as effective as antidepressant drugs.
The release of serotonin has also been shown to improve cognitive function.
If that isn’t good enough reason to go out and play in muddy puddles, then how about the fact that early childhood exposure to bacteria found in mud can be a protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood?
It also works to boost the immune system.
Scientists at the University of California found that another bacteria found in mud, staphylococci, can reduce inflammation after injury, when present on the skin’s surface.
This bacteria acts to calm down overactive immune responses which can lead to rashes and cause cuts and scrapes to become swollen and painful.
Animals love playing in mud. Mammals such as pigs, rhinos and elephants regularly ‘bathe’ in it to help keep cool.
MARVELLOUS MUDDY HOMES
Mud provides the perfect home for many animals, such as worms, frogs, snails, crayfish and clams.
The Australian mud crab lives in mangroves in shallow areas below the low tide mark and buries itself in mud during the day.
The Mud snake lives in the mud around streams and cypress swamps.
The Mud-dauber Wasp uses mud to make its home.
That is smart thinking as buildings made from mud store energy for long periods of time, meaning interior temperatures change little from day to night.
The walls absorb the sun’s heat during the day and radiate this at night as temperatures drop.
An added bonus is they are fireproof, resistant to damage from termites and requite very little maintenance.
Ancient Egyptians built their homes from mud they gathered from the Nile River.
South Asian people constructed their mud-brick homes between 7000 – 3300 BC
The Mesopotamians used sun-dried bricks in their city construction.
The mud walls built in China, India and Africa, and even in the cold and wet climates of northern Europe have provided shelter for hundreds of years.
SKIN BENEFITS OF PLAYING IN MUD
Mud has been used in cosmetics for centuries. Various cultures have used mud for war paint, rituals, and make-up.
Ancient Romans regularly enjoyed the benefits of mud baths and many facial masks are made from mud that has been purified.
Mud’s healing properties work to detoxify, cleanse and soothe the skin.
MUCH MALIGNED MUD
And yet, this humble substance is often used to express negative feelings.
- “My name is mud” – means my reputation has been ruined.
- Similarly, you can “drag one’s name through the mud” – speak badly about someone.
- “Mud sticks” – means malicious allegations are difficult to dismiss.
- A “stick in the mud” is someone who is dull and resists change.
Perhaps the only time the word ‘mud’ is used with a positive connotation is when saluting a fellow drinker with “here’s mud in your eye”.
This is supposed to mean you wish the other drinker good fortune. The origins of this particular saying are, well, as “clear as mud” – not clear at all.
Despite all this mudslinging at one of the earth’s most important substances, mud is truly marvellous.
PLAYING IN MUD FOR ART
As an art medium, it offers so many opportunities to inspire creativity and imagination.
Mud costs nothing and there is plenty of it around. If you don’t have any mud around your area, make your own by mixing water and dirt.
Using mud in art means you are connecting with nature. Read, How to Spot Nature’s Hidden Treasures.
It also encourages creative thinking – a must if you want your children to get the most out of their education.
Mud was used to make some of the earliest artworks. Its variety of pigments means it is a wonderful base for homemade paints.
Mud that contains enough clay to hold it together makes an amazing sculptural medium.
Mud has been used to make clay pottery for thousands of years. Some of the pottery discovered by architects dates back to 27,000 BC.
If you would like some fun ideas for using mud for artworks, read, HOW TO MAKE MAGNIFICENT MUDDY MASTERPIECES.
In the meantime, here’s mud in your eye and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.
Beverley GoldenMay 4, 2017 at 7:46 am
When I was very ill, one of the suggestions from a variety of Anthroposophic doctors was to engage in clay sculpture, because this works on the metabolic system and gets you into your body. This aligns with what you are sharing in this post, Tami.
The interesting thing is that when I was young, I hated getting dirty! If I went outside to play and got dirt on myself or my clothes, I would come running inside and plead with my mother to change me. She said that she often changed me 4 or 5 times a day! Maybe that is a contributor to my early childhood health issues. I just didn’t like getting down in the dirt!
Things have changed, as I do love gardening and do not at all mind having my hands in the mud. There are even vitamins now that have the micro-organisms that are present in mud in the supplements because of how good they are for the intestinal tract. Thanks for the reminders of how important it is for us to make sure to connect with Mother Earth and to play in the mud, even as an adult!
tamuriaMay 4, 2017 at 9:35 am
No wonder I loved making my pottery so much, Beverley. Back then I had no idea of the health benefits, I just had to play with clay. I don’t have my potters’ wheel and kiln anymore, but I still love to sculpt whenever I get the chance. Most of my adult students with disabilities hate getting dirty too so it was challenging when I had them all making their own pottery mugs and bowls. I think I must love being dirty. If I don’t have a bit of paint, glue or clay on my hands, something is wrong.:)
Susan Mary MaloneMay 4, 2017 at 9:04 am
Oh, my! “Mycobacterium vaccae stimulate nerves to release serotonin in our brains.”
How incredibly cool is that! Which explains why I’m always so happy when digging in the dirt 🙂
tamuriaMay 4, 2017 at 9:36 am
Yes, it’s the same for me, Susan. I love having my hands in the soil and refuse to wear gloves when gardening.
Lori EnglishMay 4, 2017 at 9:51 am
This is a great article and I did hear about soil and Serotonon. It was a great article just got to be careful children don’t eat it. I understand the reason you wrote it and it is interesting. I think you are doing a wonderful job with your blog. Thanks great article.
tamuriaMay 6, 2017 at 2:38 pm
I agree, Lori, probably best if the kids don’t eat mud. Glad you enjoyed this. 🙂
Joyce HansenMay 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm
So many people and kids not experiencing all the therapeutic and fun value of playing in the mud. Also, it a way to ground ourselves and align with the magnetic properties of the earth. And, you wonder why people are out-of-touch with reality.
tamuriaMay 6, 2017 at 2:39 pm
So true about the grounding, Joyce, and feeling the earth’s energy. It’s sad how many of us have gotten away from that.
Cathy SykoraMay 5, 2017 at 3:07 am
This is so refreshing to read! Thank you for shining some light through this muddy puddle 😉 I wish it didn’t have such a negative connotation. I was just recently doing some spring gardening and had my nose buried deep in a clod of dirt because it had recently rained and the scent was so pleasant!!! Something I’d missed all winter. And wow, so interesting to learn of its actual health benefits. Wonderful article, Tami!
tamuriaMay 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm
That really is a delightful smell, isn’t it Cathy? Nothing quite like the smell of rain on the earth. Even better to know about the various health benefits.
Reba LinkerMay 5, 2017 at 10:15 am
Lovely post and your title really says it all! You would love the children’s show, “Peppa Pig.” The whole family loves playing in muddy puddles. (Said with a British accent it’s especially charming!)
tamuriaMay 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm
Haha, Reba, I’m very familiar with Peppa Pig as she and her family have been favourites with the Goddesses for a few years now. She certainly knows all about the joy of playing in muddy puddles. 🙂
Teresa SalhiMay 7, 2017 at 1:33 am
How fun is this! I have said about myself, I may be a bit prissy at times but I LOVE GETTING DIRTY!
tamuriaMay 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm
Haha, love that Teresa. And your happy demeanour shows you are reaping then benefits. 🙂
CandessMay 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm
Tamuria, I often say “we are all the ages we have ever been” and this blog on Mud takes me back to many of my earlier years! Last weekend I spent time in my backyard with my granddaughter Gracie. She helped me clean off the bench and we sat and contemplated how to use the lower level space. We got dirty and had fun. Now, I want to create an area where we can have mud-play! Thanks for making this even funner knowing there are big benefits! Love your blog!
tamuriaMay 10, 2017 at 3:11 pm
It sounds like you and Gracie have some fabulous times together, Candess. It is so much fun gardening with the grandkids, isn’t it? I so appreciate your kind words.
Tandy ElisalaMay 10, 2017 at 11:25 am
Oh my goodness, Tamuria. I learned a lot reading this insightful article. I HATED playing in dirt;.. much less mud. I think the health benefits of playing in mud is really striking (and may be why I had so many health issues). Whenever I’ve seen mud events, everyone always looks so happy! Hmmmm. Maybe they (and you) are on to something!
tamuriaMay 10, 2017 at 3:15 pm
I think I’m a bit of a slob at heart, Tandy, as I LOVE playing in mud. It’s very rare for some part of me – skin, clothes, hair – not to be covered in something weird like mud, clay, paint, glue or glitter. I was pleased to discover that, at least with the mud, it is actually good for me. 🙂
Sonya KolodziejskaMay 10, 2017 at 8:09 pm
It makes me cringe a little because i hate to be dirty, but kids absolutely love it don’t they. I let mine garden and i do my very best to look past the filth and let them carry on and have fun.
tamuriaMay 11, 2017 at 3:36 pm
It can be a real challenge for some, Sonya. I was at the park with one of my daughters-in-law and her two girls the other day and the youngest one was getting filthy – and loving it. Her mum wasn’t so happy about it but, to her credit, allowed the youngest Goddess to continue, despite the filth. She felt a lot better about it all when I told her what my research had uncovered. 🙂
Apolline AdijuMay 11, 2017 at 6:42 am
Oh, my! This sounds like so much fun! I did not know this much about mud even though it’s all around us. This is an example of the treasures of life which most of us seem to ignore
tamuriaMay 11, 2017 at 3:39 pm
Mud is one of those things that is so easy to ignore, or even avoid. It truly is an example of the treasures of life.
zicoNovember 12, 2020 at 9:50 pm
so easy to ignore, or even avoid. It truly is an example of the treasures of life.
tamuriaMarch 3, 2021 at 1:55 pm
I absolutely agree. Thanks for commenting.
zelleFebruary 14, 2021 at 12:24 am
I spent time in my backyard with my granddaughter Gracie. She helped me clean off the bench and we sat and contemplated how to use the lower level space. We got dirty and had fun. Now, I want to create an area where we can have mud-play! Thanks for making this even funner knowing there are big benefits! Love your blog!
tamuriaMarch 3, 2021 at 1:58 pm
Thank you so much Zelle. I too love playing in mud. 🙂