In Depth

Chenot Palace Gabala review: ‘ageing successfully’ in Azerbaijan

The Chenot Method aims to blend state-of-the-art medical technologies with ancient knowledge – but does it work?

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I am lying on my back with a needle in my forehead in a white room in Gabala, a 2,000-year-old town in Azerbaijan surrounded by sky-scraper mountains and yawning canyons. “When you go home, meditate. It will change your life”, my doctor whispers, observing me thoughtfully from his desk.

My strung-out body is mid-way through The Chenot Method, an intensive detox programme devised by wellness guru Henri Chenot almost 50 years ago and offered at a handful of outposts around the world. Chenot Palace Azerbaijan is the groups first “purpose-built cure facility” and it’s both impressive and addictive - politicians, footballers and A-listers return regularly in their droves. Such is the intense popularity of “the Method” (as it’s known to devotees), plans are in place to open in Switzerland in 2020 and Marbella in 2022. The Week’s Portfolio made the pilgrimage to the Silk Road to see what all the hype was about.

The Chenot Method

Henri Chenot is obsessed with “successful ageing”, believing that the answer to a long and healthy life lies in the correct combination of genetics, lifestyle and environment. A Chenot experience is not just about detoxing, but stimulating cells into a new echelon of wellbeing through a three-stage process of elimination, assimilation and regeneration.

A union of Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western medicine, the Chenot Method blends state-of-the-art medical technologies with ancient knowledge of our energetic flow, triggering a bliss-like balance between body, mind and soul. Based primarily on the principle that our bodies are polluted with toxins thanks to our hectic modern lifestyles, the programme aims to cleanse the intra-cellular environment, regenerating cellular energy via a sequence of prescribed daily treatments and a strict food plan. According to Chenot, “in a future time, man will be able to live to the age of 150. It’s all written in the genetic code”. Suddenly I feel rather tired.

My detox begins in a long corridor with a series of consultations in startlingly white rooms, where I fully expect the slew of doctors I meet to drily denounce our pill-popping, laissez-faire Western attitude to health. Instead they talk animatedly of their respect for our advances in medicine, and express a deep desire for it to work in concert with centuries-old wisdom rather than in place of it.

All programmes begin with in-depth medical and nutritional consultations to create optimised treatment plans for each guest. The most popular are the detox and weight-loss (no surprises there), but as one doctor firmly tells me, any weight loss should be a side effect, not an aim. The idea is that once your body is relieved of the toxins holding it back, it will naturally gravitate into the best shape of its life - internally and externally.

I am prescribed daily hydro-aromatherapy, for which I must clamber into a huge, hot bath with changing lights and angled jets while a specialist enters at regular intervals to drop alternating shots of essential oils into the water. This is followed by a phyto-mud session, where I am briskly painted from head-to-toe with warm mud on a water-bed before being wrapped in plastic, cocooned in a duvet and left for 30 minutes. Finally the hydro-jet sessions involve standing in a room while a fireman’s hose is blasted at my startled body.

I also have regular massages, from Chinese cupping to lymphatic drainage, acupuncture, bio-energic check-ups and “cellular resonance treatments with energy control” - a kind of acupuncture using high-frequency radio waves to stimulate points rather than needles. Recovery from stress and re-energising treatments are also offered with LED bio-photomodulation, high-tone power treatments and more. Weight loss and metabolic optimisation programs are slightly different and focus on metabolic rate assessments, cardio workouts, body composition analysis and lipolytic technology sessions. 

Despite the presence of some very high-profile guests (I share the lift one morning with a prime minister and his wife), the unified pursuit of wellness levels out any hierarchical undulation. Everyone is dressed in the palace’s signature uniform - a huge fluffy white towelling robe in which we shuffle between bed, treatments and dining for the entirety of our stay.

The food

Trail-blazing scientists studying human bacteria around the world are proving that the gut acts as our “second brain”. The good news is that unlike our inherited genes, which are more or less fixed, the genetics of our gut bacteria can be transformed via our diet. The Chenot diet leans heavily on Chinese medicine and modern-day scientific research, believing that poor digestion is at the core of many health problems.

Designed to “stimulate, revitalise and regenerate”, the diet is organic, alkaline, low-glycemic, unprocessed, toxin-free and of course, scrupulously calorie-counted. I am prescribed 800 vegan, alkaline calories a day – devoid of caffeine, salt and refined sugar. It’s not for the faint-hearted. The plan is also low in “PRAL” (potential renal acid load), to “protect cells and structural proteins from the damage from oxidative stress and an acid environment.” This, along with the low-calorie content assists the body by sending it into repair mode, allowing it to concentrate on eliminating damaged cells rather than breaking down heavily processed foods. Reassuring words that I mentally repeat when I catch myself eying up the grass one evening. 

The morsels are tiny but exquisite - presented fine-dining style on crisp white linen in the dining room. We start the day with fresh fruit coulis and almond milk quinoa porridge. Lunch and dinner vary daily, but they’re always three courses and always made using fresh, organic produce: pineapple carpaccio with orange; fennel, celery and lemon salad and Polenta Bastoncini with lentils for instance.

The property

The high-tech five star health palace boasts 72 spacious rooms (each with panoramic vistas of the surrounding 26-hectare park), but if you prefer more privacy while going about the business of detoxing, there are also three huge villas with private spas on offer. There are two swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), saunas, steam baths and smiling hosts who glide to your pool-side lounger at regular intervals with cool flannels and glasses of lemon water.

No expense has been spared when it comes to the technology here. There is a state-of-the-art 6,000 sq m medical spa with an innovative Human Performance Department housing a Metabolic Laboratory, Cryo Chamber at -110° C for whole-body cryotherapy and a Sports Lab with fitness screening, an anti-gravity treadmill and Normobaric Hypoxic (oxygen reduced) training.

While most of us know that if we ate better, moved more and worried less, we’d probably live longer, few of us probably realise what a big impact small changes can have on our daily lives. I was sceptical of the detox regime before coming here, confidently believing that any initial results would quickly fade rather than carry through to real life. I do lose weight - half a stone to be precise, and remarkably, not only does it stay off, two months later my energy levels are still vastly increased, my sugar cravings minimal and my mind blissfully quieter. I begin to see my body as an orchestra with many moving elements rather than a car with various parts that need fixing.

The Chenot Method won’t make you decades younger overnight, but it does have the capacity to kick-start a real step-change, inspiring a greater respect for your body and a mindful attitude that somehow sticks. The weight loss is a bonus.

The 3-Day Active Detox Henri Chenot Programme is from €1,580 per person per stay including a medical consultation, treatments, a bio-energetic assessment and the detoxifying diet with all meals. Rooms at Chenot Palace Gabala are from €277 per night.

The Fundamental Henri Chenot 7 Day Detox at Chenot Palace Gabala is from €3,000 per person per stay including medical consultations, treatments and the detoxifying diet with all meals. Rooms at Chenot Palace Gabala are from €277 per night.

Seven-day breakdown of inclusions: 
  • 3 Medical Consultations
  • 2 Nutritional Consultations at start and end of programme
  • Detoxifying Diet
  • 1 Body Composition Analysis with DEXA
  • 1 Bio-Energetic Check up
  • 4 Chenot Bio-Energetic Treatments
  • 6 Chenot Energetic Massages
  • 6 Hydro-Aromatherapy Treatments
  • 6 Phyto-Mud Treatments
  • 6 Hydro-Jet Treatments
  • Free access to the gym, indoor pool, sauna and steam bath with colour therapy.

Additional screening tests and beneficial treatments following initial medical consultation (optional, not included in the price):

  • Biochemical Analysis in blood and/or urine samples for certain markers
  • Systemic Vita-Mix Enrichments with Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals
  • Ozone Systemic Application
  • Hydro-Colon Treatment
  • 3 Day Detox Breakdown of inclusions: 
  • Medical Consultation
  • Detoxifying Diet
  • 1 Bio-Energetic Check up
  • 3 Chenot Energetic Massages
  • 3 Hydro-Aromatherapy Treatments
  • 3 Phyto-Mud Treatments
  • 3 Hydro-Jet Treatments
  • 1 Manual Lymphatic Massage
  • 1 LED Biophotomodulation Treatment
  • Free access to the gym, indoor pool, sauna and steam bath with colour therapy.
  • Additional treatments are available following the medical consultation.

Chenot Palace Health Wellness Hotel is a 30 minute drive from Gabala International Airport.

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