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Europe's Thermal Water Spas

By: Caroline Rushworth
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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The thermal springs of Spa originate from the swampy region of La Fagnes River in the Ardennes Mountains. Located at an altitude of more than 1,968 feet, this natural reservoir is replenished every year by precipitation and melting snow. The water filters through the ground and picks up valuable minerals and elements, such as calcium and magnesium, believed to help maintain the skin’s balance, enable it to perform its barrier function and combat fatigue. Naturally low in sodium, it also is infused with trace elements, such as silicon, that aid in the reconstruction of skin tissue, reducing the rate of connective tissue aging, in addition to providing tone and elasticity.

Germany

Undisputedly, Baden-Baden, meaning “baths-baths,” is the most prestigious and historic thermal spa in Germany. Fed by 23 hot springs, the area produces more than 200,000 gallons of mineral water a day—hence the name. An absolute must for gesundheit, or good health, the hot springs of Baden-Baden have been known as a curative resort since Roman times. Perched at the northern border of the Black Forest, the city’s development peaked in the second century. People throughout the Roman Empire, including the emperors, came in search of a medicinal cure for their illnesses. The Baden-Baden spas persisted as a social center for European nobility into the 19th century.

The waters of Baden-Baden contain small amounts of minerals, such as lithium, cesium, silica, boric acid, magnesium, cobalt, zinc and copper. These elements are believed to have a healing effect for ailments such as cardiovascular problems, metabolism distress and respiratory conditions. In addition, the warmth of spring water improves blood circulation in the muscles, joints and skin.

Today, one of the most famous spas in the area is Friedrichsbad. More than a century old, this spa has been revered as a temple to the art of bathing. Visitors enjoy a two-hour, 16-step Roman-Irish bathing experience. The ritual begins with a shower, followed by thermal steam baths at various temperatures, a cold water immersion bath, a soap and brush massage, and, finally, a session in the inhalation room to absorb the water into the body.

Hungary

It seems that no other country subscribes to the belief in the therapeutic powers of water more than Hungary. Doctors are resolute in their claims that the minerals potassium, magnesium and sodium within thermal water can cure an array of health problems. It also is maintained that thermal water treatments can lessen the symptoms of everything from digestive disorders to psoriasis. In fact, so ardently is this belief held by Hungarians, that many medical spa treatments are provided as part of the national public health system.