Using natural thermal and mineral waters as a healing approach – which is studied medically as balneotherapy – has a history of over 4,000 years, and is used all over the world as part of traditional therapies. It includes not only hot and mineral springs bathing, but mud packs/treatments and drinking and inhalation therapies. The general guidelines for balneotherapy are thermal/mineral waters at a temperature of at least 20°C and with a mineral content of at least 1 g/l.

While hydrotherapy is a general term covering any type of water intervention, balneotherapy refers to the use of thermal water and waters with minerals, salts, sulfur, and other organic elements as an approach for treating conditions ranging from pain to stress.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Hot Springs Bathing Lowers Stress in Japan’s Bathing Monkeys
    A small 2018 study from Kyoto University analyzed snow monkeys from the Nagano region famous for soaking in natural hot springs, and found that these macaques’ stress hormones declined significantly when they were bathing. There appears to be evidence of not just physical – but social – value of thermal bathing: the higher-ranking monkeys spent more time in the pools.
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  • Hot Springs Found to Relieve Chronic Pain, Depression and Insomnia 
    A 2017 study from Australia’s RMIT University (surveying 4,265 hot springs users) found that bathing in hot springs provided significant relief for severe back pain, arthritis, injury, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
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  • Hot Springs Bathing Improves Cardiovascular Functions and Reduces Inflammatory Cytokines in Heart Failure Patients
    A small 2012 randomized trial from Kyushu University (Japan) found that bathing inhot springs (40°C) for 10 minutes daily for 2 weeks, while not changing heart rate, significantly improved various cardiovascular functions and reduced inflammatory responses for patients with chronic heart failure.
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  • Hot Springs Bathing Has Positive Impact on Stress, Joint Pain and Sleep Quality for Sub-Healthy People
    Long-term studies on hot springs bathing are rare, but a 2017 randomized trial (362 participants) from Chongqing Medical University (China) analyzed their impact over five months, and found a significant, positive impact on issues like stress, sleep quality and joint pain in sub-healthy people.
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  • Mineral Water Bathing + Hot Mud Treatments Relieve Osteoarthritis Symptoms
    A small 2019 study (92 participants) from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences compared two weeks of physical therapy, to two weeks of physical therapy plus salt mineral baths and hot mud packs, for patients with knee osteoarthritis. Those in the mineral bath + mud therapy group saw significantly reduced pain and stiffness, and improved physical activity and anthropometric measures, than the physical-therapy-only group – with results lasting a month.
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