Surprising Health Benefits of Hot Springs
People have flocked to mineral waters for centuries, seeking the purported healing powers of hot springs. The actual medical benefits of hot springs and mineral waters for improving health or curing diseases remain unclear, but they are still sought out by many.
Hot springs and mineral baths — sometimes called onsens or spa therapy — have a rich history as being cherished tradition in many parts of the world. In Japan, it’s practically a national pastime to soak in natural hot springs. Proponents say there are many unexpected ways both hot springs and mineral baths can improve the overall quality of your health.
Studying balneology, the treatment of disease by bathing in waters containing minerals, is a field of medicine not very well known or understood, but it continues to be an area of natural medicine and preventative therapy research, especially in Japan and Europe.
Minerals in the Water
Hot springs typically measuring around 100-degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Many contain sulfur (which causes a very pungent smell) and a variety other minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, chloride, potassium and zinc. Some combinations of these minerals may have specific health benefits. For example, a sodium-calcium-chloride pool can make your skin feel more youthful, and the combination of calcium and magnesium can help with allergies and inflammation.
The hot springs can cause sweating and the opening of pores, which can increase absorption. Just be careful when immersing in hot water because it makes your body temperature, and your lose water through sweat. You may feel lightheaded and become dehydrated, so drink plenty of extra water during and after your bath.
Advocates say sitting in hot springs and absorbing the minerals makes your blood pressure drops, circulation goes up and metabolism cranks up. Also, as you relax, you lower your anxiety and stress levels. The heat and pressure of the water can relieve pain. And the concentration of the minerals helps you float a bit more, which has positive effects on your joints and muscles.
Some say it also helps treat chronic digestive diseases, constipation, diabetes, gout and liver issues. Others point to the supposed healing waters in the Dead Sea (which isn’t a hot spring, but it is filled with minerals) as providing relief from arthritis, fibromyalgia, psoriasis and eczema.
- Improve blood circulation: A study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences suggests soaking in hot springs containing the minerals calcium and sodium bicarbonate improves blood circulation and increases oxygen flow.
- Relieve stress: Heat relaxes tensed muscles, while the minerals contribute to the psychological healing process.
- Improve sleep quality: The cooling process after a hot spring bath can help you relax and get a peaceful sleep.
- Soothes muscle pain: Soaking in hot mineral baths can relieve muscle aches and provide pain relief, similar to the health benefits of a sauna or steam bath.
- Combat dry skin: A hot spring’s high silica content can soften rough and dry skin.