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Last updated date: 19th May 2024
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What is Embalming?

Embalming is a primitive procedure of temporary body preservation, typically employed in advance of an open-casket viewing, long-distance transportation, or for medical/scientific reasons. Moreover, embalming consists of depleting the deceased’s fluids and injecting chemical solutions into the tissues, organs, and arteries. 

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Generally, cosmetic restoration follows embalming in some funeral home settings and can involve applying multiple devices, cosmetic products and reconstructive materials. Most importantly, embalming a body for medical assistance majorly emphasizes continued preservation. Certainly, it’s not a new concept as it’s a common funeral practice that’s been performed for almost thousands of years in one way or another. However, the modern process has been in practice since the early 20th century in the UK, also referred to as ‘hygienic treatment’.

In most parts of the world, excessive embalming has made people temporarily preserve and photograph with family members. Nonetheless, some religious funerals, like Muslim funerals and Jewish funerals, absolutely forbid embalming. After understanding the embalming meaning, it’s time to understand the reasons behind embalming bodies. 

Why are Bodies Embalmed?

Many people who opt to have a loved one embalmed do so to spend a little more time with them. The deceased person may be put out in an open coffin at home, in a church or a funeral home’s chapel of rest. People can appear quite different after death. Consequently, the embalming procedure allows restoring the individual’s appearance, offering an impression of relaxed sleep and wellness. It can be a way to comfort grieving families, mainly if they lost a dear one to an illness.

An embalming body can also lead to closure for families who lost a loved one in disturbing situations and did not get the opportunity to say goodbye before they died. It’s vital to understand that not anyone can perform the embalming process as qualified specialist embalmers carry out post-mortem surgery upon people who endured traumatic injuries in fatal accidents. Most funeral directors have the practical knowledge to perform embalming or appoint an embalmer to conduct the process in a funeral home. 

Another common reason for families to opt for an embalming procedure is to restore a ‘life-like' appearance to the deceased before a public wake/viewing. These open-casket viewings are traditional in some cultures, and most believe that this viewing helps with the grieving process. Watching the deceased in a calm repose may be particularly considerate in cases of tragic or unexpected death. 

Apart from this, there are practical reasons for embalming, particularly if final disposition (cremation or burial) can’t happen right after death. Suppose temporary preservation is immediately required and chilling is unavailable, embalming can be employed to prevent decomposition. In some rare cases, like specific infectious diseases, the embalming process may be necessary for sanitary purposes. 

Types of Embalming

There are two major types of embalming; arterial embalming and cavity embalming.

Arterial Embalming: This type includes the removal of blood through the veins and is restored with embalming fluids via the arteries. Tubes are embedded into the body and accustomed to a machine that directly pumps the embalming fluid through the jugular vein in the neck or femoral vein in the leg, leading the natural body fluids to be transmitted across the body. These are further drained through a tube inserted in the femoral artery or the carotid artery in the neck. 

Cavity Embalming: This type refers to removing natural fluids present in the chest and abdomen area. In this process, a single tube is insured through a tiny cut and fluids are released with a suction machine. Moreover, these fluids are then replaced by an embalming solution, and the tiny incision is sealed. 

What is the Process of Embalming a Body?

Now, let’s understand the embalming process steps in brief. In simple terms, it’s the direct introduction of a disinfectant solution into the internal environment of the body. In life, the body is maintained by nutrients through the bloodstream. To attain this, the arterial system is necessary to reach virtually each person tissue included inside it. Thus, it’s easy to understand that a disinfectant solution injected inside the bloodstream after death will be scattered around the body and lower the activity of bacteria and pathogens within it. 

Furthermore, several different disinfectant solutions utilized include several constituents well-designed to fight the effects of disease and are professional combinations employed solely for embalming purposes. In an alive person, the bacteria inside the human body that support life are held where they perform best through the internal life procedures of the body. Suppose they are accidentally relocated to other parts of the body; their functions can become flawed or trigger a reaction that can make an individual sick. 

Once a person dies, these life processes or ‘barriers’ discontinue to operate, and the natural migration of bacteria generates changes that may be apparent visibly or by odour. A funeral director explains everything about embalming in detail and recommends accordingly whether it’s the best choice or not. 


If someone is making funeral arrangements for a loved one who has recently passed away, the embalming body process should be considered. Hopefully, this guide successfully cleared some of your doubts regarding this ancient process.  

FAQs on Embalming

1. How long does the embalming process take?

Ans. Generally, the embalming process takes about two hours to complete, as it includes thorough cleaning and proper drying of the hair and body of the deceased person. However, this time frame may increase if the reason behind the death has affected the body somehow.

2. Can a person be buried without getting embalmed? 

Ans. Yes, embalming is not precisely mandatory for a burial ritual. So, if any family plans a natural or eco-friendly burial, it’s prohibited as the chemicals utilized to preserve the body are adverse to the environment. 

 3. Will an autopsy affect embalming in any way? 

Ans. When an expert embalmer brings a deceased into care, a post mortem exam or ‘autopsy’ may be carried out based on the death circumstances. However, it doesn’t have any effect on the embalming process.

4. What happens to the body after the embalming process? 

Ans. After the embalming process, the body is simply kept in a casket, shroud, or any other container and buried within the next few days, without visitation or service. Furthermore, refrigeration can be utilized to maintain a body while progressing through a funeral service or when there is a delay in initiating funeral arrangements.

5. How long does the effect of the embalming process stay? 

Ans. Unfortunately, there is no precise or correct answer to this question. Several aspects may limit this, for instance, the condition of the body or the length of time between decreased being brought into experts’ attention and the time of death. There won’t be any effect during the funeral arrangement during normal circumstances, though the funeral director will immediately inform if there are any factors to consider. 

6. Are people allowed to see the body without being embalmed? 

Ans. Yes, though there may be a comparatively short time period in which people are allowed to see the deceased.