What Does Embalming Do to A Body? Know The Details

What Does Embalming Do to A Body? Know The Details

We always want to spend more and more time with our loved ones. It’s really painful and heartbreaking when our loved ones pass away. It is quite natural that when our loved one dies; we want to see them in their natural state as they appeared before death.

Let us gather some points that will give us a deep understanding of the meaning of embalming and insights into the following basic yet important points so we can take care of our loved ones when they are no longer physically with us:

Meaning of Embalming

Embalming originally meant “to put on balm.”. Generally, the word today is described as a less superficial procedure—the introduction of agents into the body to ensure preservation.

Embalming is the process of preserving by delaying the natural changes that occur in a dead body, or, as we can say, as soon as the person is dead, embalming helps to keep the body in a natural state without causing decay for the time being.

Why are bodies Embalmed?

Embalming is an ancient process that has taken the shape of a ritual to preserve the body. There are several logic and reasonings behind Embalming. Bodies are Embalmed due to either religious reasons or sanitization concerns.

Let us look at some of the reasons for which bodies are embalmed:

  • Bodies are Embalmed to slow down the decomposition process.
  • Pigments of embalming enhance the natural color of their face and hands.
  • Restoring the person’s appearance gives the impression of peaceful sleep and calm posture.
  • The person may have died while away from home and the body must be transported back
  • To make the deceased suitable for public or private viewing as a part of the funeral ceremony.
  • Keep the body preserved for medical purposes in an anatomical laboratory
  • In some states, it is mandatory to embalm a body within a certain timeline.

Now let us summarize: what are the methods involved, or what is the process of embalming?

The Embalming Procedure:

To begin with, here is the answer to the most important question: how is a body embalmed? The embalming process is a series of procedures that involve different steps.

A.  Preparing the body for Embalming

  • The body is washed with a disinfectant solution
  • Limbs are massaged to relieve the stiffening of joints and muscles.
  • Eyes are closed using plastic eye caps or glue
  • The lower jaw is secured by wires or sewing

B.  Surgical Steps in the Embalming Process

  • Blood is removed from the body through the veins
  • Blood in the body is replaced with formaldehyde-based chemicals through the arteries.
  • A small incision is made in the lower part of the deceased abdomen, where an embalmtrocarocar (a sharp surgical instrument) is inserted into the body cavity and formaldehyde-base chemicals are then injected.
  • Incisions and holes made in the body are sewn closed or filled with embalming trocar buttons and the procedure continues afterward with washing and drying the body.
  • The body is fully embalmed once the incision is sutured.

C.  Cosmetic Preparation

  • Nails are manicured and any facial features are molded from wax.
  • An appropriate amount of makeup is applied to the deceased.
  • hair is washed and set.
  • To absorb oils and mask odors, application of Powder befalls.
  • Dressed in clothing as provided by the family.

This embalming procedure should be initiated within 45 minutes to an hour. It also adds up to the time spent dressing the person who has died and applying the basic makeup. After all these processes, your loved one is ready to be placed in their casket or for the final rituals.

How long does Embalming last?

The next question that pops up in our mind is how long embalming lasts and how long it takes for an embalmed body to decompose in a coffin. To answer this question, we must understand that Embalming is meant to be temporary preservation only to get through the funeral. The embalmed body doesn’t need to look the same after some time as they did on the day of their burial. Also, the fact here is that an embalmed body takes eight to twelve years to be buried six feet down for the complete decomposition of the body.

The bodies that are donated for medical research are embalmed and are generally kept for a couple of years before cremation.  In the right conditions, embalming fluids can preserve a body indefinitely, but many other factors may affect the final result of embalming and give us insights into how embalming works.

Factors such as:

1.       What was the condition of the deceased at the time of death?

2.       How long have they been dead before embalming?

3.       How and when was the aspiration performed?

4.       What material of the casket is used— wood or metal casket?

5.       Weather conditions e.g. humid conditions, attract bacteria to form and the process of decay begins soon

Embalming a body only delays the inevitable.

Standard Embalming will help maintain the body’s appearance for a week or so. If we need the process to last longer, then additional steps need to be taken into consideration. Depending on the strength of the chemicals and method used, and the humidity and temperature of the final resting place, the rate of decomposition varies.

Is it necessary to embalm a body?

Embalming is purely a personal choice in most cases. It is not at all compulsory for a body to be embalmed. In case of direct cremation, the body is taken straight to the crematorium for the cremation. To maintain a body while awaiting a funeral service or when there is a delay in making arrangements Refrigeration can be used. Embalming is required if the body is presented before the cremation. In some cases, funeral homes may require the body to be embalmed for the safety of the community and the people around it.

To cross some state lines while transporting a body, it may be required to embalm the body. Embalming is not typically required by law, except in exceptional circumstances. A viewing of the body without embalming is allowed in private for family and friends if desired.

Embalming is forbidden in law if the person dies from a notifiable infectious disease. The Embalming fluid contains many chemicals that may be harmful to the environment, so embalming is strictly prohibited in some areas.

What is Embalming Fluid?

Embalming as discussed is a process of preventing the decomposition of the body temporarily and restoring the natural appearance of our loved ones after death. A variety of preservatives, sanitizing, and disinfecting agents, and additives are used to embalm a body. These mixtures of chemicals are known as Embalming fluid.

Typically, what is an embalming fluid made of?

Embalming fluid primarily is a mixture of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol, and other solvents. The range of formaldehyde content is from 5 to 37 percent and the methanol content may range from 9 to 56 percent. The function of Embalming fluid is to kill the bacteria and fix the cellular proteins of the deceased body.

Embalming fluid is injected into the arterial system of the deceased. Many other bodily fluids may also be displaced and removed from the body using the arterial system. In the case of cavity treatment, all the blood and other fluids from the body are aspirated and replaced with a specialty fluid known as cavity fluid.

What Happens If the Body Is Not Embalmed?

Whether or not embalming is the right choice for you is another one of those questions you have probably never considered before. Let us see what happens in the scenario if you don’t get the body embalmed and understand how long it takes an embalmed body to decompose.

Embalming delays the process of body decomposition. When the body is not embalmed, it starts getting decomposed quickly. The bacteria in the body begin to break down the soft tissue.

The body becomes bloated, due to gases that build up, which eventually begin to liquefy.

The intestines are packed with millions of microorganisms that do not die with the person. As soon as the decomposition process starts, the bacteria spread all over the body, and the rotting of body parts begins.

This rotting produces foul-smelling matter, which includes hydrogen sulfide gas and methane gas, which can be compared to the smell produced by rotten eggs. Further, these internal gases push the intestines out through the rectum, the tongue may protrude and fluid from the lungs oozes out of the mouth and nostrils.

It is a well-known fact that when a body is not embalmed and is buried six feet down, without a coffin, in ordinary soil, it normally takes eight to twelve years to decompose to a skeleton. However, if placed in a coffin, the body can take many years longer, depending on the type of wood used. Without embalming, the body’s extremities will naturally turn blue within 8–12 hours.

On the same note, let us figure out what happens if a body is not embalmed

In cases where the body is well embalmed, It can take decades for a body to decay, as many factors affect the rate of decomposition, such as

  • how well the person was embalmed
  • how much to embalm a body
  • what type of casket and vault they were placed in, humidity, heat, cold, soil type, water level, depth of burial, the availability of oxygen, accessibility by insects or scavengers, body size, and weight, clothing?
  • The surface on which a body rests determines how fast a fresh body will skeletonize or mummify.

Do Embalmed Bodies Smell?

Body smell indicates the proper application of embalming the body. To begin with, it is important to know what embalming fluid is made of so that the cause of body smell can be well taken care of. Embalming fluid is made of so many different chemicals, depending on the condition of the deceased, which have a distinctive smell.

The main source of the chemical smell is Formaldehyde. The odor of strong, pungent-smelling substance formaldehyde is very unpleasant. Medical problems associated with formaldehyde exposure include watery eyes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, and difficulty in breathing. It has also been observed that high concentrations may trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma.

Cavity fluid is a special kind of embalming fluid used to treat the chest and abdominal cavity and has an even stronger smell than arterial fluid. Some bodies smell, either they have “leaked” out of an end, they have decomposed or they just smell. Other times, it is due to the chemicals used by the embalmer.

How much does it cost to embalm a body?

Families opt for the process of embalming, particularly if they choose to display it publicly or if the burial or cremation is to be done after a few days. Funeral embalming is a combination of embalming and cosmetic enhancements that make a dead body more attractive and lifelike for public viewing.

It has been observed that the body that is embalmed and cosmetically prepared has a beneficial effect on mourners, giving them comfort and closure. Embalming, which is usually done by funeral homes or mortuaries, usually charges in the range of $200–$700, depending on local rates and the size and condition of the body.

Embalming a body that has been autopsied or has extensive injuries often costs more than embalming an uninjured and intact body. Embalming the body is one thing while preparing it for the final display is another thing.

Normally, the embalming fee mentioned here does not cover the related tasks of washing, dressing, cosmetically preparing the body, and placing it in the casket. These charges further add up another $95–$400 or more, depending on the local rates and the amount of cosmetic restoration needed.

Embalming fluids are not eco-friendly, so another option is to replace the traditional embalming fluid with a non-toxic, non-carcinogenic, formaldehyde-free embalming fluid, which is often made from biodegradable essential oils.

Green embalming will not only protect the health of the embalmer, but it also does not pass harmful chemicals to the earth once the body is buried and disintegration begins. Thus, it is advisable to check with your religious leader to see whether or not embalming is an acceptable method of body preservation.

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Liyana Parker

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