Do hot springs really have magical powers? Although not scientifically proven to be “magic”, hot springs are known for their healing properties, which is why humans have been taking advantage of them for thousands of years.
Other than being beneficial, there are various other facts about hot springs one might be interested in knowing before your next visit. Not only are mineral pools used as tools for rest and relaxation but also can cause natural phenomena and support certain ecosystems. Moreover, there are even some that shouldn’t be visited at all due to toxic or deadly waters.
Fun Facts about Natural Hot Springs
Hot springs are formed when underground water is heated by the earth’s geothermal activity. It then may rise up to the surface, where it might form or be used to form a pool to soak in.
1. Balneology is the study of the treatment of disease by bathing, and the practice of using hot waters for treating and preventing diseases.
This healing practice dates all the way back to the bronze age when Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians used the waters for their potential healing powers. Not only do the properties of hot springs help the body physically but also mentally. While people of the past had little to no access to scientific proof, ancient wisdom proves true due to years of research.
2. Chinese philosophy believes that mineral hot springs have 5 specific elements that balance and rejuvenate the mind and body.
While the philosophy itself is not scientifically proven, it’s a fact that having a balanced lifestyle, mentally and physically, is important for human health. Old Philosophy believes that these elements include:
- Water, from the mineral water
- Fire, from the high temperatures
- Metal, from the minerals
- Wood, from nature
- ‘Qi’ or Earth, for origination
3. Mineral hot springs can cause Geysers to form due to extreme heat and pressure.
Hot springs are formed mainly where there is volcanic activity or faults in the earth. When the water reaches boiling temperatures, the steam that is produced causes a lot of pressure underground. While intense pressure is rare, some of the steam that is produced does have the possibility to escape, creating a geyser.
4. Naturally occurring minerals that are found in hot springs are the main reason the waters are said to have ‘magical powers.’
Because of the abundance of different minerals that have been found within hot springs water, it’s no wonder this has become an attractive alternative to pharmaceutical healing medications.
Some common minerals found in hot springs water include:
- Magnesium | Improves skin complexion
- Iron | Helps boost the immune system
- Sulfur | Helps with nasal congestion and respiratory problems
- Silica | Decreases skin irritations and improves dry or flaky skin
- Sodium | Improves the lymphatic system and decreases swelling and inflammation in joints
- Potassium | Eliminates toxins, improves skin
- Carbon Bicarbonate | Reduces high blood pressure and increases circulation
- Calcium | Helps with blood flow and circulation
You can purchase healthy mineral salts (affiliate link) on places like Amazon and make your home bathtub a rejuvenating and reparative experience.
5. Hot springs have therapeutic benefits and have been regularly implemented in forms of therapy, rehabilitation, and spa treatments.
For thousands of years, people have been soaking in natural hot springs for peace and relaxation. Nowadays, the practice of using hot springs as forms of therapy and to improve mental and physical health conditions is widely used in various ways, such as:
- Relaxation & De-Stress: Relaxation and de-stressing have an enormous number of underlying health benefits. High levels of stress can lead to increased long-term health problems, and being unable to relax can cause damage to the body physically and mentally. The act of ‘Hot Potting’ itself and the peacefulness of nature increases relaxation.
- Detoxify: Elimination of toxins within the body improves circulation. Minerals within the water hold positive and negative ions that detoxify the body.
- Promote Sleep: Relaxation in itself can help promote sleep. Additionally, the temperature of your body rises due to the water, then cooling off when exiting causes your body to fall deeper into sleep.
- Boost Immune System: High levels of iron found in some mineral hot springs have been known to increase the immune system and better fight off diseases. Since Japan has a long history of hot spring use, this may be a factor in the longer lifespans of residents of Japan.
- Circulation & Blood Pressure: Minerals present in hot springs water such as calcium and sodium bicarbonate helps increase circulation in the body, as well as improve hypertension and reduce blood pressure levels.
- Eczema & Skin Irritations: Hot spring waters contain high levels of silica, which is found to smooth and soften skin, as well as sulfur, which holds other medical properties. Skin irritation and conditions such as eczema can be improved by the properties found within the waters. This is one of the oldest known health benefits from hot springs.
- Swollen Joints & Arthritis: Various studies and methods have been found that prove hot springs help relieve pain caused by diseases such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. Additionally, the water itself gives easier movement for swollen or stiff joints due to buoyancy.
- Nasal Congestion: The sulfur contained in the water, combined with the hot temperatures, helps to combat nasal congestion due to colds or allergies.
- Liver & Kidney Function: Surprisingly, it’s common in European countries to drink hot springs waters. Drinking this mineral-rich water is known to help liver and kidney function as well as to treat urinary infections such as UTIs.
6. There are many animals and organisms that use mineral water for survival reasons, especially in areas that have prevalent cold temperatures.
Mineral hot springs are a key factor for certain organisms and ecosystems. Science has shown that many hot springs around the world are home to thermophiles, organisms that thrive in hot water, as well as archaea, organisms that are able to survive without oxygen, which up until recently were believed to only be present on the moon or other plants.
One example of this is snow monkeys, which live high in the mountains in Japan where snow is present most of the year. Who’s to say that they are not only using them for warmth, but for relaxation just like you and me.
7. Keep in mind that some hot springs are too hot for human use which can cause deadly burns and become dangerous for people with high blood pressure or heart disease.
While some hot springs are ideal for soaking, others have extreme temperatures and can be deadly if used. Boasting temperatures of 200°F+ and coming in many shapes, sizes, and hues, people are often drawn to the beauty of rainbow-colored hot springs, however, they are lethal.
Some waters not only contain helpful minerals but also toxic ones such as sulfides of arsenic. These types of minerals mixed with microbes are the cause of the color change, as well as deadly side effects for humans.
In general, it’s best to take proper precautions if you are pregnant, elderly, have diabetes, or use prescription medication. Be sure to drink plenty of water during your stay to avoid dehydration if soaking for a long period of time. Too much hot water temperatures can be hard on the heart, so opt for shorter soaking times if you are prone to high blood pressure.