An African Calabash Massage is a full body deep tissue massage given with Calabashes, of which the size and shape of the type of Calabash used depends on the goal of the treatment and the body parts being massaged.
The Calabash plant (also called Bottle Gourd) grows as a vine and is utilized for its fruits. When the fruit (the Calabash) is still young it can be used as a vegetable, but ripe it’s usually hollowed out, dried, and applied as a tool. Dried it can serve as a container for liquids, as a music instrument, for decoration, or as a tool to give massage, among other applications.
When young, the fruit is light green on the outside with white flesh inside, when dried however, it becomes hard with a yellowish, beige or brown color on the outside. Calabash fruits can have a wide variety of shapes: very large and round, small and pear or bottle-shaped, or slim like a cucumber, and they can reach an astonishing length of more than a meter. The plant grows on all continents (except for the arctics), and its fruits have been used by many civilizations for thousands of years.
With the different Calabashes (various sizes and shapes), the massage therapist applies perpendicular pressure, rolls or circles on various body parts to ease tensions of muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue. Often, herbal oils are used also during a session. Additional benefits include elimination of toxins and surplus fats, stimulation of the lymphatic system and blood circulation.
A Calabash Massage therapist will typically own a complete set of various Calabashes, consisting of different shapes and sizes, some with “handles” or knobs, to be used for the trapezius shoulder area, the feet, the calves, the face and neck, or the back, and so on.
Note that Calabashes have a porous skin and can take in oils, creams or dirt, and therefore cleansing and sterilizing them before a session is important.