Throughout history, the appeal of natural hot springs has held a fascination from the global populace. Researchers gauge that the activity of visiting natural springs for health and wellness benefits, predates even the Greco-Roman culture of doing so.
Wellness tourism is a very specific form of tourism which, by sustainable standards, would involve the patronage of natural sites which are managed in a sustainable manner with health, medicinal or emotional benefits such as calming and relaxation effects.
Why springs have historically been considered healing waters
Aside from a natural temperature which makes for either an instantly relaxing moment or a cold refreshing and crystal clear body of water, natural hot springs consist of a mineral content specifically their own. The water from the thermal springs has long since been said to heal a variety of maladies including arthritis, insomnia, pain, flu and even leprosy. This healing effect most likely has its connections not only to the temperature and pristineness of the waters but also the mineral make-up of the water itself.
Cities such as Bath, UK which have been built up around long-treasured natural hot springs, such as the resolute roman bath, exist all over the world.
The science behind it
The therapeutic effects of thermal springs have been academically referred to as ‘thermalism’ or thermal medicine. Aside from the general thermal warmth which can offer a sense of instant relaxation and a general feeling of comfort, there is a mineral element to these natural hot spring waters which, when absorbed through the skin, flush the body with certain chemical compounds akin to pharmaceutical medicines.
One example of this is the minute, trace amounts of naturally occurring lithium which can be found in the waters of some natural hot springs. These tiny, yet sufficient amounts are enough to provide a calming effect and to help bathers which are afflicted with late night sleeplessness.
Sulfates are another medicinal mineral which can be found in natural spring water. As sulfates are cited to help reduce inflammation, it is no wonder why these natural hot springs are said to be healing waters.
Visiting natural springs as a sustainable activity
When visiting a thermal spring area, one is fully immersing themselves in nature. It is prudent to be aware of one’s surroundings and the effects a person could have on the delicate natural balance of the area.
As an eco-friendly traveller, one should be aware of the circumstances and refrain from using any types of lotions, oils or other items on the body, face or hair which could have the potential to wash off into the thermal spring water when one is bathing. If any of these items were to get into the water it could be potentially harmful, as well as being a clear pollutant to the pristine healing waters.
It is always advised to never leave rubbish behind. Always have a bag for rubbish items which can be kept on one’s person until a proper receptacle is available.
If the traveller wishes for a truly sustainable and safe journey, it is recommended to utilise the services of a local ranger. Rangers generally act as guides, usually as a part of ecotour services. This not only is to the advantage of the traveller by providing information regarding safety practices in the thermal spring area in addition to valuable cultural education – as local rangers have the good stories and know the best spots – but also contributes to the local communities in the thermal spring area by directing tourism monies back into the local communities. Some hot springs are located within National Parks, nature reserve areas or some other areas may be areas that are managed by the local municipality. Taking steps to ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’ when visiting these areas is a truly sustainable thing to do.
Visiting a natural hot spring is a unique experience where the traveller is able to relax in nature’s warm healing waters and be completely surrounded by a peaceful and harmonised natural environment.
As our modern day medicinals are derived from naturally occurring properties, it should be no big surprise that thermal spring waters which are full of minerals, could contain some of these properties. As people over time have bathed or ingested these waters and felt better, be it physical or mental, it would stand to reason that the waters do have, in some way or another, healing properties. So wouldn’t it then be worth the time to visit these natural hot spring healing waters when one finds themselves in a destination within proximity for a visit?
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