Balneotherapy: Healing with Water

This excerpt is reprinted from Healing Spriings: The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Waters, by Nathaniel Altman.

One of the most important activities that takes place at a traditional spa is balneotherapy, a natural approach to health and healing that uses hot spring water, gases, mud, and climatic factors (such as heat) as therapeutic elements.

In addition to bathing, modalities such as hydrotherapy, mud therapy, physical therapy, massage, steam baths, physical exercises, inhalation of water vapor, and drinking mineral water are often used as part of a complex therapy for both health and preservation and treating disease.

Over the past four centuries, the science of balneology has evolved into a medical specialty in Europe and Japan, where special courses in balneotherapy are offered to both physicians and nurses by major medical schools. Doctors believe that thermal springs facilitate healing in a number of important ways.

Eight Ways Balneotherapy Heals:

1. Bathing in hot springs gradually increases the temperature of the body, thus killing harmful germs and viruses.

2. Thermal bathing increases hydrostatic pressure on the body, thus increasing blood circulation and cell oxygenation. The increase in blood flow also helps dissolve and eliminate toxins from the body.

3. Hot springs bathing increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, bringing improved nourishment to vital organs and tissues.

4. Bathing in thermal water increases body metabolism, including stimulating the secretions of the intestinal tract and the liver, aiding digestion.

5. Repeated hot springs bathing (especially over three- to four-week period) can help normalize the functions of the endocrine glands as well as the functioning of the body’s autonomic nervous system.

6. Trace amounts of minerals such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and lithium are absorbed by the body and provide healing effects to various body organs and system. These healing effects can include stimulation of the immune system, leading to enhanced immunity; physical and mental relaxation; the production of endorphins; and normalized gland function.

7. Mineral springs contain high amounts of negative ions, which can help promote feelings of physical and psychological well-being.

8. The direct application of mineralized thermal waters (especially those containing sulfur) can have a therapeutic effect on diseases of the skin, including psoriasis, dermatitis, and fungal infections. Some mineral waters are also used to help the healing of wounds and other skin injuries.

Indications for Balneotherapy
Over the several hundred years during which the science of medical balneology has developed, physicians have been able to identify the health conditions that can best be treated by healing springs. The following list of indications for balneotherapy is based on the research of Yuko Agishi, M.D.

Chronic rheumatic diseases
Functional recovery of central and peripheral neuroparalysis
Metabolic diseases, especially diabetes, obesity, and gout
Chronic gastrointestinal diseases
Chronic mild respiratory diseases
Circulatory diseases, especially moderate or mild hypertension
Peripheral circulatory diseases (affecting the hands and feet)
Chronic skin diseases
Psychosomatic and stress-related diseases
Autonomic nervous system dysfunction
Vibration disorder (a middle ear disorder affecting balance)
Sequela of (conditions resulting from) trauma
Chronic gynecological diseases

If you have any illnesses or diseases, or are pregnant, consult with your physician before using spa therapy.

Avoid soaking in a hot spring alone and the elderly should use with caution. Don’t use a spa if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, especially heart medications. Don’t overheat, drink plenty of cool water and use private pools if you have a skin disease.

This excerpt is reprinted from Healing Spriings, The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Waters, by Nathaniel Altman. Copyright (c) 2001 by Nathaniel Altman. Reprinted with permission of Healing Arts Press.


Owen E.
Owen E6 years ago

Water is a blessing and amazing. It can be liquid, solid ice, and water vapor. Now water even goes into a vapor cigarette which allows tobacco free nicotine inhaling.


I think that what I am going to say, is a little off the point of this article.. Sorry! But is does SORT Of tie up! I too LOVE spas and bathing in natural hot springs... LOVELY! But there are times when you haven't got access to a spa and the nearest hot spring is about 6,00, miles away.. I find a really lovely substitute is to use any water passing over the body brings a feeling of health and a happy feeling.. This could be a lovely hot shower, being aware of the lovely water passing over the body .... or maybe, just wading up and down in the sea on a sunny day, so that the waves splash over your legs and you have the wonderful sensation of the water as you move along. I suppose the theory of falling water, or the great beautiful splash of the waves as they break, must be right.. that it is causing the generation of negative ions that bring a wonderful sense of well-being. .. Any way, I thought I would just add this comment, as I know that our brothers and sisters over there in America and other counties over the other side of the world from us Aussies, are going into your summer. I hope you have a lovely season and hope you get loads of access to that lovely warm water!

Brittany R.
Brittany R7 years ago

I want to try it! :)

Elena D.
Elena D.7 years ago

Thank you!

John M.
John M7 years ago

A great article! I have improved my health by taking hot water epsom salts baths with a little baking soda added to the bathwater.Very simple and it works.

Hanan W.
Hana W7 years ago

In Turkey there are many hamams (Turkish bath houses) -- many use naturally occurring thermal waters, some with sulfur and other components. For those who have not experienced the Turkish hamam, the steam and the scrubbing help to rid the body of toxins, and you leave feeling as clean and relaxed as a well-adjusted new born babe.

pandora (.
pandora (9 years ago

just been at piestany traditional SPA in slovakia - i waddled and hobbled in - and really did dance out!! this is the first time that i am relatively pain free in 6 years after car accident. I do feel that it is the combination of the waters/mud with other treatments over a concentrated 2 week period that really did help, not just now short term, but should continue. Treatments included bathing in high sulphur concentration of 38 to 39 degree entrigrade mineral waters, sulphur infused piestany volcanic mudpacks @ 45degrees centrigrade (with a cooling pack on the heart), plus electrotherapy, electro ultrasound, water exercise in the mineral water, oxygen therapy, carbon dioxide therapy and more. the doctors told me that iwth the degenerative osteo arthritis that i have i could face hip replacements, however if i do a 2 to 3 week stay each year i have the potential to AVOID the operations and stop degenreation.
i would highly recommend traditional SPA stays, especially in high sulphur waters, ad piestany SPA in slovakia has this, plus relatively good prices and good attention. Do go for a "taster" to check it out, and tell them i said they were great. They deserve to know that they are praised!!! They have really given me my life back!!! I will check out other places too but so far piestany ranks highly in my books!!! BLeSSINSG & GOOD HEALTH TO ALL x pandora at the bottom of the BOX there is HOPE - thru natural products and resources to bring health and healing and joy xx