Hot Spring Benefits


I have an affinity for water and hydrotherapy; the beach, sauna, hot/cold treatments, and HOT SPRINGS. There’s nothing better than basking in therapeutic hot water amongst nature (with intermittent cold showers). Of recent, I have found myself driving along the McKenzie river to Belknap Hot Springs, filling my belly at Breitenbush Hot Springs, and collecting sage at Summer Lake Hot Springs. There is SOMETHING about these waters; I feel good, clean, and calm. This week I talk about hot springs: why they are MEDICINE water and who benefits most.

A HOT SPRING is a spring produced by groundwater that is GEOTHERMALLY heated, arising from the Earth’s crust. The quality of the hot spring and its temperature is dependent on the local geology of the soil in which it flows. For example, the waters in La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring water is a product of a mixture of rain water percolating slowly through chalky and selenium-rich rocks from the very old Turonian period and located in the sand of the Cenomanian period; its water composition reflects just this. Common minerals and trace elements found in hot springs include: calcium, bicarbonate, silicates, iron, sodium and magnesium salts, sulfur compounds, selenium, and metals. Immersing in these waters, absorbing and breathing in its minerals and trace elements is the medicine. 

With a simple pubmed search on the health benefits of spring waters, here is what I found:

  1. Anti-Oxidant: Cells exposed to spring water are able to survive stressors better than those exposed to demineralized water. Oxidative damage, which occurs when we are exposed to toxins and stress, reduces a cell’s lifespan. After exposure to UVB light (AKA an oxidant), the cells exposed to hot spring water survived longer than cells in demineralized water (1). 

  2. Anti-Cancer and protection against UVB-induced skin damage: Cells exposed to hot spring waters and UVB radiation took longer to produce tumors as compared to cells exposed to demineralized waters and the same UVB exposure. 

  3. May benefit inflammatory skin conditions: 92 patients with moderate psoriatic plaques were exposed to thermal hots springs 20 minutes a day for three weeks and also drank one liter of mineralized water. After three weeks, there was about a 47% improvement in psoriatic severity. Hot spring waters have also been shown to benefit contact and atopic dermatitis (2).

  4. Wound healing and Scars: In France, hydrotherapy using water from hot springs has been used for more than 100 years. In fact, in some hospitals, this is standard of care for burn victims, once the wound has sealed. Results from these treatments lead to more uniform skin structure, color, and reduced itch (3)

Not all the studies were positive. One study I came across looked at samples from five different springs (located in Ethiopia) where they were able to culture out pathogenic bacteria like Clostidrium (4). The moral of the story here is to frequent springs that practice good hygiene. During my recent stay at Summer Lake, there was always one tub down for cleaning. 

For those of you in Oregon, I like as a resource for seeing what springs are out there.