Hot springs and their therapeutic uses have been touted for centuries. A first mention of hot springs found in Taiwan was noted in a 1697 manuscript. Development of a small local spa, however, did not take place there until the 1890’s. Likewise, a hot spring spa opened in Osaka, Japan during the same decade.
Hot springs are found throughout the world. The definition varies, but most often is some version of a spring with water temperatures above the air temperature and/or average human body temperature. While many are a temperature safe to relax in, others may be too hot. Hot springs are geothermally warmed, or warmed by rocks heated by the Earth’s mantle. Those heated in active volcanic zones generally are the ones too hot for use.
In addition to the warmth of the water relaxing the muscles, hot water dissolves more solids than cold, making hot springs higher in mineral content. Many believe in the medicinal values of these minerals in recovering from injuries, or reducing pain and inflammation of arthritis. Soaking in a hot spring can be wonderful therapy, for a number of reasons. The heat and subsequent sweating have a deep-cleansing effect on the skin, as well as the entire body-to-mind realm.
Hot springs and their therapeutic properties have been written up in medical papers for decades.
In a 2014 paper, Scientific Evidence-Based Effects of Hydrotherapy on Various Systems of the Body, the abstract reports in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences:
The use of water for various treatments (hydrotherapy) is probably as old as mankind. Hydrotherapy is one of the basic methods of treatment widely used in the system of natural medicine, which is also called as water therapy, aquatic therapy, pool therapy, and balneotherapy. Use of water in various forms and in various temperatures can produce different effects on different system of the body. Many studies/reviews reported the effects of hydrotherapy only on very few systems and there is lack of studies/reviews in reporting the evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems. We performed PubMed and PubMed central search to review relevant articles in English literature based on “effects of hydrotherapy/balneotherapy” on various systems of the body. Based on the available literature this review suggests that the hydrotherapy has a scientific evidence-based effect on various systems of the body.
The report went on to reveal positive results of hydrotherapy on the cardiovascular system with an increase in blood flow, the muscular-skeletal system and the nervous system to name a few.
Based on available literature, this review suggests that hydrotherapy was widely used to improve immunity and for the management of pain, CHF, MI, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, asthma, PD, AS, RA, OAK, FMS, anorectal disorders, fatigue, anxiety, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, hyperthermia, labor, etc. It produces different effects on various systems of the body depending on the temperature of water and though these effects are scientifically evidence based, there is lack of evidences for the mechanism on how hydrotherapy improves these diseases, which is one of the limitations of hydrotherapy, and further studies are required to find the mechanism of hydrotherapy on various diseases.
California Hot Springs
In California, we are lucky to have several outlets of hot springs. Within the South Valley, California Hot Springs is a region named after its therapeutic springs – is a short distance and can be visited for a day, or longer. The area, first discovered by the Yokut Indians, was later founded by settlers in 1882, and developed as a health resort. The Yokuts would fill hollowed out logs to soak in, to relieve the pain of rheumatism caused by sleeping on the damp ground.
In 1902, a hotel was being built followed by a commercial center, swimming pool, and therapeutic area around the springs in 1920. Fires destroyed the hotel in the ‘30s and commercial center in 1968. Abandoned for years, restoration began in the mid ‘80s and the facilities were reopened with a pool, RV Park and hot springs-fed showers, and a main building with a breakfast and lunch delicatessen, and dining area.
California Hot Springs Resort is open year-round. For more information, visit www.cahotsprings.com/index.html.
Paso Robles Hot Springs
When visiting the Paso Robles area, you may want to save an afternoon, or entire day, to spend at Franklin Hot Springs. Opened since the 1960’s, this facility is open daily with a large swimming pool and a mortared hot tub pool. According to the facility website – “the water is a positive-charged, ionized mineral hot spring made up of potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and fluoride. It exits the ground at 100.1 F. and the swimming area stays at a constant 97.3 F. The hot tub stays at a constant 100.1 F.”
Here there is also small boating and fishing on a pond with no license required. Barbecuing is available and Franklin Hot Springs is open into the evening hours. Overnight camping may be available, contact the facility for information. Visit franklinhotsprings.com/ for more.
Mono Hot Springs
Located between Kings Canyon and Yosemite, the Mono Hot Springs Resort is closed during the winter. It opens mid-May each year and is available through October. Here you have the chance to stay in rustic cabins where pets are welcome, however, furry friends may not enter the spa or eating areas. There is also a campground located across from the resort along the San Joaquin River, managed by California Land Management
The area was first discovered by the Mono Indians, who later shared the location with visitors, while only accessible by horseback in the 1920’s. Water from the hot springs are now piped into a bathhouse for soaking tubs, showers and an outdoor mineral spa surrounded by breath-taking views. Massage therapy is also available.
Other local activities include swimming, boating and kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and fly fishing with fishing guides available.
While closed now, you can book for the 2018 season. For more information, visit www.monohotsprings.com/.
Death Valley Hot Springs
Open year-round, but perhaps the best time to visit the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort, in Shoshone, is in the fall and winter, where the hot springs can ward off the winter chill. Just east of the southern end of Death Valley, this resort offers hot springs, cabins, a motel, camping and RV park, and weekend dinning. There are private soaking tubs in the motel and a bathhouse. Water temperatures range between 101F and 104F per health department regulations. Twenty-four hour access to soaking is available to guests utilizing camping or lodging with no extra charge. Day access to the facility is also available.
For more information, visit www.tecopahotsprings.org/TecopaHotSprings/Home.html
While the therapeutic properties of hot springs have long been established, for those with any medical condition, it would be best to consult your doctor before you partake in utilizing a hot springs spa. With a green light, a visit to one of the many hot spring facilities throughout the state, or while on vacation elsewhere, would be well worth a try. You may just become a regular.