Balneotherapy and Hydrotherapy

Relaxing in the water

People have been treating diseases by bathing since Roman and Turkish times. This treatment of diseases that is usually practiced in spas is called balneotherapy. People are immersed in either mineral water or mineral mud in order to receive full benefits of balneotherapy.

Balneotherapy can be administered in either hot or cold water, and may include massage through the water, similar to bubble bath which would provide relaxation and stimulation of nerve cells to increase production of serotonin and induce calmness. There are outdoor mineral spas, which usually are situated where natural, hot or cold springs are. Such waters are usually rich in minerals, especially selenium, radium, silica and sulfur. Some hot springs also contain medicinal clay, which is widely used for various skin conditions.

Diseases that are usually treated with balneotherapy can vary from arthritis to fibromyalgia. Most studies on balneotherapy are not reliable, yet people have used this form of therapy since ancient times and find it to be very effective. This brings us to an important conclusion. Even if there is no reliable data to show that balneotherapy is effective form of treatment for various diseases, people still use it in order to ease their symptoms or find the cure to a specific illness. Our brain is a powerful tool and if we believe that something might help us, then most likely it will.

When it comes to anxiety and depression, there is something about water that immediately calms us down. Feeling of purity and cleanliness when the drops slip through our fingers, watching them fall while moving our body through the water. We feel refreshed, we absorb various minerals through our skin and we inhale scents that calm our mind.

Many people go to spa for a day, sometimes even a week or more, depending on severity of symptoms to be treated. Peace will come to you just by sitting outside in nature, in a hot tub and observing everything around you. Become mindful of the blue sky, birds chirping, water sounds. We can practice mindfulness meditation almost anywhere, and balneotherapy can be perfectly incorporated to bring us awareness of our surroundings, concentrate on our breathing and just observe. Accept and relax. We will instantly feel at ease. People usually say that they feel better right after the shower as many think that they do not have time to lay down in the bathtub and relax. Sometimes, even 15 minutes of lying in a bathtub can bring us calmness, relieve of us our stress and refresh every pore in our body.

There was a study conducted in France where it was concluded that treatment of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with thermal waters was far superior to an antidepressant drugs. Improvement in symptoms of GAD was maintained for 6 months by patients who responded positively to balneotherapy. Same study concluded that anxiety and depression symptoms were not only improved by balneotherapy but symptoms of insomnia and weight loss or gain were almost nonexistent. In this study, patients were immersed in a bubbling bath that was warmed up to 37°C for 10 minutes, followed by the shower with firm massaging options for the total of 13 minutes. Water therapy is found to be safe and has no side effects. Study was conducted for 21 days and mineral waters contained magnesium, sulfates, calcium and sodium.

Balneotherapy and hydrotherapy are considered form for naturopathic therapy. Hydrotherapy can be done at home with minimal effort and it involves movement of body through the water. Such movement can be exercise but it differs from swimming as exercise can vary in intensity and strength administered. It can usually be done with minimal effort and people with rheumatoid arthritis have been using it since ancient times.

People with depression and anxiety can easily try hydrotherapy at home by exposing their whole body to a cold shower. Shower should be started at lukewarm comfortable temperature and then slowly cooled down within 5 minutes to 68°F or 20°C. At this point, we should be able to stay in the shower for another 2 to 3 minutes. If unsure of temperature, use thermometer for maximum benefit. This type of shower can be done once or twice a day and may be continued for months with no side effects.

Shower hydrotherapy is definitely worth a try if we want to treat depression and anxiety naturally, using naturopathy and it can be easily incorporated in the changes in our lifestyle that include also changes to diet and nutrients that we consume, exercise regime and supplements we take. Patients that suffer from migraines will benefit from balneotherapy and hydrotherapy as well. Keep in mind that mild cold water is good in improving our cognitive function and response to stress, however, very cold water may induce anxiety and cause unnecessary contraindications.

Even if you have no time to sit in a hot tub or lay in the bathtub at home, you can perhaps try just a footbath and sprinkle some Epsom salts with lavender essential oil in order to decrease anxiety symptoms.  Just a brief change in body temperature like a cold or hot bathing will aid in brain function.

If you are trying hydrotherapy at home, it would be beneficial to set up some kind of accepting and warm ambiance with aromatherapy bath oils, bath bombs or aromatic mix of sea and Epsom salts. If you want you can even add little bath pillow to rest your head on. Such pillows are usually induced with essential oils of lavender to promote relaxation and free us from all our worries. When laying in the bathtub, you should dedicate that time to yourself only, and just relax, enjoy and unwind.

Aromatic essential oils have their specific purpose in bathing at home. You can try creating your own blends that are best mixed with carrier oil first, such as grapeseed, sweet almond or olive oil.

  • Relaxing essential oils: lavender, vanilla, rose and ylang-ylang
  • Calming essential oils: rosemary, lemon and grapefruit
  • Invigorating essential oils: clary sage, neroli, lavender, chamomile

Types of baths:

  • Hot baths are best to reduce stiffness to the joints, and they help body to get rid of various poisons including fungi.
  • Cold baths stimulate heart and improve metabolism. They can reduce inflammation after rigorous sports activities. Cold baths are known to increase energy levels.
  • Warm baths are best for relaxation, treatment of anxiety and depression. Warm baths assist in weight reduction.

Caution: People with diabetes should avoid hot applications to feet or legs along with hot baths and saunas. People that have multiple sclerosis, low or high blood pressure or pregnant women should avoid hot water baths.  People that have Raynaud’s disease should avoid cold water applications. As with any treatment, hot or cold water treatments should be administered slowly as you can easily become exhausted, and this especially applies to children and elderly. After your bath it is a good idea to drink a glass of water to rehydrate. As baths can be sometimes experienced as temporarily draining, they are best taken at night before bedtime.

Read more: Recipes for Herbal Bath

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