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May 26, 2014

Healing Waters

"The word spa is believed to be an acronym of the Latin phrase ‘salus per aqua’- health through water."

The belief in water’s ability to heal goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who knew the value of a warm bath to sooth aches and pains.  As the population ages, we are increasingly seeking healing waters.
The Romans are credited with the world’s first spas- elaborate bath houses built near mineral springs.  The word spa is believed to be an acronym of the Latin phrase ‘salus per aqua’- health through water. Doctors in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries prescribed drinking and bathing at well-known hot springs and seaside towns, such as Brighton, England and Baden-Baden, Germany.

Resorts became fashionable hang outs for monarchs and artists of the day — some for the social scene and others hoping to relieve ailments including infertility, rheumatism and gout.  Seawater therapy was termed “thalassotherapy” (thalassa means sea in Greek) by a French doctor in 1865. Patients were prescribed a strict regimen of ocean water, sea air, algae wraps, walks on the beach, massage and healthy meals.

In the U.S., many thermal springs were held sacred by Native Americans and later frequented by nobility, celebrities and presidents. Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed many a good soak in mineral waters throughout the country to relieve symptoms from his polio. Proponents of the “water cure” believed that it replenished our bodies as we absorbed needed minerals through our pores.

 A growing body of evidence shows that our ancestors may have been right. A study done in Israel in 2008 indicated that soaking regularly in mineral water can relieve pain and improve motor function in elderly adults suffering from chronic lower back pain and arthritis. Another study from the Italian Board of Medicine looked at data from over 23,000 spa goers and found a major reduction in hospitalizations, sick days and pharmacological drug use. It has been found that hydrotherapies help with common health complaints due to aging.  Others conclude that hydrotherapies help us relax more and worry less.