Mineral or hot springs are also known as geothermal waters and are often used for therapeutic treatments, as well as for revitalizing and relaxing the mind and body. The three components in mineral baths that are used therapeutically are the temperature of the water, dissolved minerals and gases in the water, and mud.
Mineral springs are located all over the world, with hundreds of them located in the United States alone. Many of these mineral springs have been made into formal mineral baths around which a spa was built. Several of the most famous include Saratoga Springs, New York, White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, Calistoga Springs California, and Hot Springs in Arkansas.
Mineral springs and baths have been used in every culture since the beginning of mankind. In the United States mineral springs were used by the indigenous populations and revered as places of healing. Later, when European settlers populated the country, they created the spas that we are familiar with today. The height of popularity for mineral baths and spas was from the early 1800s until the 1940s, when they fell out of favor as places of therapeutic healing. The benefits of mineral baths have only recently been rediscovered.
What Are The Benefits of Mineral Baths?
Balneology or the study of bathing as it applies to therapeutic mineral baths, is a respected field of study in Europe. Spa therapy is an accepted medical treatment there as well. Always consult your doctor before undergoing mineral bath therapy, as treatment over several weeks is necessary to achieve the full benefits. Very hot water-hotter than the normal temperature of bath water at home—is contraindicated for hypertension, heart disease, pregnancy, and several other conditions.
The water temperature of mineral baths may be hot, warm, cool, or even cold. Mineral waters can have an acidic, basic or neutral pH, depending on the types of dissolved solids in the water. Some mineral waters contain arsenic or other toxic substances and should never be used for drinking water unless specified that it is all right to do so.
Mineral baths differ in chemical composition and in the types of gases that are present. Mineral baths used for therapeutic purposes must contain at least 1 gram per liter of dissolved solids. The most common dissolved minerals and gases include calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, silicon dioxide, iron, bicarbonate, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.
Bicarbonate and carbon dioxide gases are thought to increase blood circulation by opening up the blood vessels, and treat hypertension and hardening of the arteries. Increased blood circulation means that more oxygen is delivered to the cells improving their performance.
Mineral baths are often recommended when recuperating from surgery. Dissolved mineral salts and sulfur compounds in the mud are used to treat skin inflammations such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as reduce stiffness and inflammation in joints due to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Arsenic, if present, is used to treat fungal infections.
Mineral baths may benefit the endocrine system as well, simply by allowing the body to fully relax over a period of time. The adrenal glands produce stress hormones such as adrenaline. Under conditions of chronic stress, they work overtime, which throws the endocrine system out of balance. By soaking away stress the workload of the adrenal glands is decreased, restoring balance to the endocrine system.