It’s been coming up more and more in our day-to-day reading, for tourism, spa facilities, or general health and wellness; steam from Hot Springs’ benefits is fogging up general discussion. It seems as though our original spa encounter is making an encore to the centre stage for a healthy, enjoyable activity.
Our British Columbia location, besides having that spectacular view out over Kootenay Lake and to the Purcell Mountain Range, has the added bonus of the all-natural soak: hot springs are featured literally just a stone’s throw from our lodge, and guests have unlimited access to this marvel of nature during their stay at the Mountain Trek Alpine Lodge. For this reason, and the surge in hot springs popularity, we wanted to know: just what is so hot about hot springs, anyway?
What is a hot spring?
A hot spring is an all natural body of water that is warmed geothermally. One way to classify a hot spring is that it must be well above the temperature of the surrounding earth, and usually hot springs hover around the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark. The temperature of a given hot spring is dependent on a few different factors; the heat supplied at depth (sometimes from a magma chamber), the rate at which the water flows, and if there is a mixture of cooler groundwater into the flow of hot water.
Where are they found?
Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth. This being the case, there are hot springs all over the world; USA, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan (those going on the Mountain Trek Adventure Trek to Japan later this month are going to surely going to enjoy these), and Canada, including even right here in our own backyard at our British Columbia location.
Due to the folklore and health benefits of hot springs, it is no wonder they are a popular tourist destination, and increasingly more so these days, as well as being used regularly as a form of therapy or for rehabilitation.
Hot springs have an especially high mineral content, because heated water can hold more dissolved solids. This means a given hot spring can contain everything from calcium, magnesium, silica, lithium, and even radium. Like a multivitamin for the skin! Sulphur in particular explains that pleasant aroma springs can sometimes have – dissolved sulphur in the water is converted to hydrogen sulphide by way of bacteria, explaining this harmless but undesirable ‘rotten egg’ smell that some hot springs are blessed with.
The heat in hot springs envelopes and helps soothe aching muscles, and the minerals present in the water get soaked up by the skin, and stimulate certain bodily processes. So how exactly do the combination of these minerals and this hot water, help us?
Musculoskeletal problems: Documented in Chinese and Japanese history, hot springs have been used to aid with swollen joints, arthritis, muscle fatigue, ligament damage, and more.
Eczema: Chronically dry, flaky skin, otherwise known as eczema, is a skin condition that affects up to 15% of Americans and Canadians. Regularly soaking in hot springs has been found to reduce eczema itching, redness, and cover.
Nasal Congestion: The heat of the water combined with sulphur makes for a winning combination to combat nasal congestion, whether this is due to common cold, allergies, or even chest congestion.
Circulation: Specifically, sodium bicarbonate and calcium found in mineral hot springs help with good circulation in the body. This can have numerous positive impacts, including lower blood pressure. The weightlessness that comes with floating in the water also helps for good circulation.
Relaxation: Never to be underestimated, is the power of de-stressing and relaxation. A stressed state can lead to all kinds of health complications, such as high blood pressure, depression, and an increase in the output of the stress hormone, cortisol. When Cortisol is released in stress-induced doses, this can mess with our hormonal balance, which in turn, unfortunately affects just about everything, including our mood, our immune system, and our metabolism. As in, the key to a faster metabolism and being able to shed those pounds, is having balanced hormones, not stressed, unbalanced hormones. So whatever your method of choice, whether you relax with hot springs, a good book, or both, make sure you do invest in yourself through stress reduction and relaxation.
Conversely, let’s look at it from the perspective of the different minerals present in hot springs, and how they help our health:
- Magnesium: aids with clear complexion, and healthy looking skin
- Potassium: eliminates toxins and promotes healthy skin
- Sodium: decreases inflammation in swollen joints, and can help the lymphatic system
- Sulphur: helps with respiratory problems and skin inflammations
And depending on the hot spring you are visiting, there are likely many more minerals present in the water. As a word of caution, hot springs can sometimes be too hot for those with very high blood pressure, certain heart conditions, and less robust immune systems, such as pregnant women, seniors, and kids. These people should take special precaution if they choose to delight in one of nature’s most sacred playgrounds.
Something we have been enjoying for thousands of years, hot springs have made it to the top of our activity, relaxation and health list for a reason! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to go for a soak…