Geothermal waters have a list of aliases that are as long as their history as an anti-aging treatment. People have sought out mineral baths and their health benefits for millennia. In certain areas of Europe and Japan, this is regarded as a natural health treatment to counter the effects of a variety of ailments. And for good reason.
Nature’s healing swimming pools
It’s interesting to note that mineral baths are the world’s original spas. They have traced the word ‘spa’ back to a town in Belgium with the same name. This town has long been known for its hot springs. Its first mention dates back to Roman times when warm and cold baths were an important part of social interaction. In 1326, Spa was rediscovered and has enjoyed visits from spa-lovers ever since. In the 18th century, European royalty seeking out the healing properties of the waters enjoyed patronizing the town. Today, as the health center of Belgian state medicine, Spa also produces bottled water, features as a winter sports center and tourist resort, and still provides its visitors with ample relaxation.
Where do mineral baths come from?
Mineral baths or springs are bodies of water that the earth has warmed through the geothermal process until it is several degrees above the temperature of the surrounding soil. It is normally over the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. They usually spring up when volcanic activity or magma chambers are nearby. This might also be a reason for the high mineral content in the water. Fault lines in the earth can also cause them to appear.
We’ve been using them for millennia
The history of geothermal therapy for health reasons goes back to the times of the Greeks and the Romans. Back then, mineral baths, both natural and man-made, posed as centers for healing, socializing, worship and relaxation. The Romans, in particular, liked to seek out natural mineral bath sites wherever they went and conquered. When they found a suitable one, they would build their own thermal baths around it. The ruins of these constructions can still be found across Europe, with those located in the city of Bath in England perhaps one of the most famous ones. Mineral baths are found all over the world, and today, visitors still flock to their favorite locations in Iceland, Italy, China, Japan, North America, India, and Turkey.
The use of mineral water in medicine has attracted and lost interest over a long period and across nations. During the Middle Ages, for example, bathing in all its forms was considered dangerous, and people living in Europe avoided mineral baths for centuries. In medicine, geothermal therapy was first considered to have healing properties, then to be harmful, and later to have beneficial qualities again.
Today, the claims on the benefits of geothermal waters are quite vast, and balneotherapy is still being studied for its ability to treat these ailments. And to be fair, a dip in a hot spring can certainly make you feel rejuvenated. But what does science say about its ability to improve the way we age? What is fact and what is fiction?
1. Your skin gets a decent treat
Most hot springs are high in silica and magnesium, both of which are good for treating dry skin. Not only that, skin issues like psoriasis and eczema can be relieved through the properties of the sulfur in the hot water. While the rotting egg scent that comes along with some minerals might not be too pleasant initially, the soft, smooth skin you may walk away with is sure to be worth it.
2. Relieve the pain from aching joints
If you have painful joints and struggle to ease the sensation, geothermal therapy can help to relieve it, at least to an extent. A study conducted in Israel and published in Rheumatology International discovered that people who partook in warm mineral baths experienced pain relief and relief from fatigue. Other studies have shown there are benefits for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia when partaking in geothermal therapy. When we float in the water, we can move more easily. This allows for our joints to be better supported and stretched.
3. Improved blood circulation
If you have ever enjoyed soaking in a warm bath filled with Epsom salts, you will know how much better your mind and muscles feel afterward. This is because of the minerals found in these salts, which are beneficial to our bodies. When it comes to geothermal therapy, minerals like calcium and sodium bicarbonate help to improve circulation and overall oxygen flow in the body. When we spend time in mineral baths, our bodies absorb these minerals over time. They then get transferred to the bloodstream, where we can function better overall. Even if you cannot get to a natural mineral bath, there’s always the option of having one in your own bathroom. Here’s how you can use Epsom salts as a tool for both beauty and recovery.
4. You can get better quality sleep
It’s a well-known fact that a warm bath can help you to fall asleep easier. The same principle goes for geothermal therapy. When we immerse ourselves in warm water – with the added benefit of mineral content in the water – our muscles slowly stop tensing and relaxing. Especially if you’re suffering from sore muscles, or you’re stiff from hard exercise, this can calm your body and mind. The study was published in Archives Rheumatology, looking at patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis and getting inadequate sleep. After being treated with balneotherapy and physical therapy, the subjects reported both improved sleep and reduced nocturnal pain. Enjoy those z’s!
Before you jump into geothermal waters
While science has indicated that geothermal waters can indeed help to treat various conditions, there are always contraindications that we need to consider. Ensure that the practice is safe for you by checking with your doctor or medical provider beforehand.