Gill Meets Sophie Benge

Gill Meets Sophie Benge

What is your background?

I’m a journalist by trade doing the route from local newspaper to glossy magazine editor for Elle Decoration in Hong Kong. Interiors still excite me almost as much as products and practices that make us feel well. I thank my years in Asia for taking me into the world of beauty and healing, which is such a rich part of culture there: a potent garden pharmacy, spiritual people, age natural therapies and the beauty secrets of Javanese princesses (lots of yogurt and turmeric on the skin!) inspired my book ‘The Tropical Spa’ nearly 15 years ago. I’ve never looked back.

What is your passion?

Professionally I get very excited to discover new and unsung products and practices, people and places that inspire wellbeing. This happened for me again last month when I visited the rose valley in Bulgaria at harvest time. I’m now even more passionate about rose after picking petals at dawn, tossing them into sacks and stirring them in vats as part of the steam distillation process. Nature and technology combined to produce the most precious oil of all. It takes 3500 kg of petals to produce just 1 kg of oil. It all starts here and ends up – down the line – in Chanel No 5. That’s a ‘wow’ experience for me.

Your philosophy?

Experience is teaching me to follow my ‘heart’ – without letting too much ‘head’ get in the way. I believe that if we pursue what genuinely fires us up and spend time with people who energise us – only good can come. With positive intent, the universe holds our hand and sychronicity follows. Whenever I’ve trusted this – and not pondered on the commercial end game – opportunities arise unexpectedly and life fizzes. ‘Gratitude’, even for the sun on the river on a morning bike ride, and ‘being in the moment’ are also watchwords of mine.

How did you find Hungary Mud?

There’s always a gem somewhere down the aisles of a trade show. Almost ten years ago a bubbling vat of silky grey-green mud caught my eye among all the branded bottles. Anything raw and natural claiming health benefits gets my attention. So much so in this case that I went to Hungary to find out more. Here was a product, seemingly so simple, yet so effective. Long time personal use turned into a business when I found a partner in my friend Nicola Ellis, who was equally smitten by the mud – alleviating her psoriasis and her husband’s sciatic hip. She has all the commercial skills I lack to bring a product to market. We knew we found something special.

There are varying ‘mud’ products on the market, why is Hungary Mud different?

There are ‘carrier’ clays, which are used as a base to hold the real active ingredient in a ‘mud’ product on the shelf. There are also muds with their own unique mineral content that have healing properties. Hungary Mud is one such, as is the more well-known Dead Sea Mud, plus many region-specific muds from all over the world. These may be peat muds formed from centuries of decomposing vegetation, volcanic deposits, mud from the sea or mud from mineral spring deposits. I’ve been wrapped and slapped with buckets-full of mud on a recent journey from the Baltic to the Black Sea, every time feeling genuinely more relaxed, clearer headed, looser….. as though I have had a therapeutic uplift. In Latvia and Romania mud is used in fertility treatments and mud from Piestany in Slovakia is used to carpet the bottom of an indoor mineral water bathing pool – just two examples.

They all have profound healing abilities due to their mineral make-up – for locomotive, gyneacological and skin disorders and general detoxification. Hungary Mud, mined from a nature reserve in Hungary, is the only one that I know of, that comes in a dry state as opposed to wet. This means it can be easily transported, has an indefinite shelf life, can be blended and therefore goes further at less cost……. very versatile. It has an unusually small granule size so is soft on the skin and flushes easily down the drain!

Hungary Mud is described as ‘curative’; can you extrapolate?
I’ve seen its ‘curative’ properties with my own eyes, a few years ago in a medical spa in Hungary, on the beaming smile of a woman whose hands had been clawed with arthritis. She was five days into a three week course of daily dunking her fists in a bucket of warm hungarymud and her fingers were starting to unfurl. She was one of 1000 people who are treated with this mud every day in Budapest’s medical spas and the National Institute for Rheumatology and Physiotherapy, where doctors have prescribing it for more than 100 years. Not only does history rubberstamp the curative powers of mud, the Hungarian Ministry of Health has officially certified it as a therapeutic medical cure.

How does Hungary Mud work?

When warm mud is applied to the skin, in the form or a face mask, packed onto tight muscles or joints and areas of stagnation like the belly, it stimulates blood flow, aiding release and detoxification. The mineral content penetrates into deep and more superficial layers of tissue. As minerals are drawn in so toxins are drawn out. When mixed with cold water the mud has an anti-inflammatory effect on skin, nerves, joints and muscles.

Your top tips for using Hungary Mud?

Be creative and have fun with the mud! Blend it thick or thin, pour it into the bath, put it on your face or a sore muscle, even a bloated tummy. However you use it, take 20 minutes for optimum effect. Less time still works wonders. It’s wholly natural.

Although Hungary Mud is used medically, it is a potent beauty product too. Our trials with leading chemists and product developers here in the UK as well as with our loyal friends, have shown the mud works wonders as a face mask. The increased blood flow pumps up the skin and flushes out stagnation and the injection of minerals results in a brighter, tighter complexion. Our eyes tell us it helps iron out fine wrinkles and it is a perfect pre-party pick-me-up.

The joy of Hungary Mud is its versatility – a couple of tablespoons in the bath when feeling tired and sluggish, clears the head, grounds the body and for me it guarantees a good night’s sleep. It calms my psoriasis when it gets hot and scaly on my elbows and a dollop on the tummy helps ease constipation and is a real diuretic.

What are your hopes for Hungary Mud?

My long-term dream is that Hungary Mud will be used outside Hungary to help alleviate degenerative disorders of the spine, joints and muscles and also to help support arthritis and rheumatism.

What are you currently working on?

I’m researching and writing a book on the healing traditions from the Baltic to the Black Sea, with a focus on the natural healing sources from this region of Europe. I’m also launching my own website,, which will be about things I love about healing and wellbeing gathered from my journeys.

How do you see the future?

To keep learning and discovering more ways to achieve wellbeing.