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The Healing Waters: Mineral Hot Springs January 24, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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3 comments
Hot mineral springs, mineral spa, thermal water, travel

Heat and minerals combine for natural healing

More accessible than thalasso spas or hammams, mineral hot springs are natural geothermal waters heated through contact with volcanic magma or the earth’s crust. Temperatures range from 15° above ambient ground temperature to 176° F. Hot springs have been used for healing purposes by indigenous peoples since prehistoric times all over the earth.

Mineral Therapy

Interaction with several layers of earth and clay contributes essential minerals to the waters. Even trace amounts of minerals can have a significant therapeutic effect when absorbed through the skin. Mineral content and chemical compositions most often found include:

Arsenic: while toxic in large quantities, trace amounts encourage plasma production and tissue growth; beneficial for fungal infections on the skin; arthritis.

Bicarbonate gas: increases circulation and opens peripheral blood vessels. Use in tepid to warm waters can alleviate symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease, hypertension and mild atherosclerosis; relieves stress.

Boron: increases brain activity, strengthens bone and builds muscle.

Chlorides: beneficial for rheumatic conditions, arthritis, stress, arthritis.

Iron: increases blood production and strengthens the immune system.

Lithium: alleviates depression; helps with digestion.

Magnesium: converts blood sugar to energy; promotes healthy skin.

Potassium: regulates heart rhythms and decreases blood pressure; eliminates toxins.

Sulfates: treat respiratory ailments and skin infections. Also beneficial for liver  and gastrointestinal conditions.

Help Yourself

Balneology is the scientific study of naturally occurring mineral waters, and is incorporated into routine medical care in Europe and Asia. It is not practiced in the United States where preventive health has been pushed aside in favor of morbidity treatment. Given the number of mineral hot springs in the US, this is unfortunate. Two-time Nobel Laureat (for chemistry and peace), Dr. Linus Pauling noted, “Every sickness, every disease, every ailment can be traced to a mineral deficiency.” Being in charge of our own health destinies, however, we may avail ourselves to the many therapies of mineral springs.

In the late 1880′s, Doc Holliday, gunslinger of OK Corral legend, ended up living in Glenwood Springs, CO where he used the hot springs to treat his tuberculosis. In the early 1900′s, Teddy Roosevelt occasionally hunted in Colorado, and found the hot springs and vapor caves there beneficial for his health conditions.

Carson Hot Springs in Nevada, was enjoyed by settlers on their way to the Gold Rush, and a resort there even began bottling a healing “new Mineral Water” as early as 1895.

Three thousand years ago, American Natives occupied what is now known as Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The Quapaw and Caddo tribes there still consider the hot baths a sacred and integral part of their culture.

Check for mineral hot springs in your area or when traveling. Many websites offer mineral content of their springs, and you will be surprised at how many more elements are common than the few listed above. Also be aware of rules and regulations–some spa settings will be pricey, and more natural settings are likely to attract nudists. But there are so many mineral hot springs, you can be sure to locate the perfect one. A handful of US hot springs:

Glenwood Hot Springs, CO.

Faywood Hot Springs, NM.

Crystal Hot Springs, UT.

Virginia Hot Springs, Allegheny Mountains, VA.

Goldmeyer Hot Springs, WA.

Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic National Park, WA.

*Caution*

Some springs are extremely hot and can be fatal. Check with your doctor to know your body’s tolerance with your health conditions. Surrounding ground is also hot and has often melted soles off of shoes.  

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The Healing Waters: Hammam January 17, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , ,
5 comments
Hammam, healing waters, communal bathhouse, medicinal spa

Traditional hammam, Morocco

Snowed in and shivering this week, my mind wanders to other forms of medicinal healing waters, specifically those of the traditional hammam, “spreader of warmth,” also known as “the silent doctor.” Originating from Roman thermal baths, hammams were, and in many places still are, communal bath houses common in Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and a variation in Japan. In eastern cultures, hammam visits may be the only time women leave the house, so it is also a place for socializing. It’s possible to find old hammams still frequented by weekly bathers, or updated experiences in sterile spa settings. But the wash routine remains and you will leave the hammam refreshed and cleaner than perhaps ever before.

The hammam is reserved for women to use during the day and men at night, or on separate days of the week. It is customary to bring your own toiletries, undergarments, towel, kiis (exfoliating mitt), two buckets, optional small bowls for rinsing, optional floor mat, and something to wrap around your wet head upon your departure. Spa hammams, of course, use their own skin care products and allow men and women use of separate areas of the spa.

Hammam rooms are centered around a gushing flow of thermal water. The first room you will enter is the preparatory warm room. You will wear dark underwear but no bra. Fill your buckets with warm and cool water. Use the cool water bucket to rinse off the marble or stone floor space where you will sit, and to rinse your body. Spend time here to relax, allow your pores to open and your cares to flee.

Move to the hot room where you will spend ample time sweating to detoxify and cleanse your skin.When you reach your tolerance for heat it’s time to move on.

Enter a second warm room where you will wash. As a courtesy, someone may offer to wash your back. Do not interpret this as anything else. Or, an attendant may assist you if you have previously asked and paid for that service. After your skin is washed with the kiis, and also your hair, use the warm water bucket to rinse.

From here, you enter the cold room to begin to adjust to outside temperatures. Often there are benches and showers to use for a final rinse before a deep-pressured, abrasive massage on the stone floor. Remaining dirt and several layers of skin are removed, joints are cracked. Your skin is olive-oiled and then covered with a special lotion and you’re ready to be on your way. Remember to cover your wet head, as is custom, or someone is likely to do it for you.

Arabs tailored bath houses from early Greek and Roman ones, became an important hygienic aspect of religion and were often connected to Islamic mosques. Residents of and travelers to Cairo 500 years ago supported over 300 bath houses. You will even find some there today dating back to 1300. It’ll cost you between 2 and 3 of today’s dollars in a traditional hammam, or upward of 200 at a spa.

Heat, steam and massage have been enjoyed and used medicinally from ancient tundra dwellers to Jordan. “The silent doctor” still has us yearning for renewal from this ancient water therapy.

HAMMAM Spa, Toronto.

Riad Kniza, Marrakech.

Amanjena, Morocco.

Miraj Hamman Spa, Vancouver.

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