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Les Nouvelles Esthetics - In hot water

In hot water
by Szilvia Hickman

A glimpse at the rich history of Hungarian thermal springs

Hippocrates, the father of medicine said this first: "Nature cures illnesses".  In a world that thrives on as much science and technology as possible, it's nice to remember that medicine can come full-circle and end up back at nature. Today, people all over the world turn to natural medicine for alternatives that yield minimal side effects. Perhaps one of the most beneficial natural therapies for the skin is thermal water. Loaded with natural trace elements, these spring waters have been known to cure a myriad of skin ailments and afflictions.

Nature was very kind to Europe: this continent is the richest in thermal and medicinal water. And Hungary - also called "the cradle of spas" - the small country lying in the Carpathian Basin, an ancient sea bed, is the richest in thermal water springs. The legendary Hungarian spa traditions date back 2000 years; ruins, frescoes and remains of mosaic pictures prove that already the Romans had discovered and used these springs.

Hungary's spa history
Bathing was widespread in the ancient empires that had reached a certain level of cultural development. Some cultures - such as Babylon, Syria, Persia, India - linked bathing to religious customs, while the systematic, purpose based bathing - the base of today's spa culture - was developed by the ancient Greeks and primarily the Romans. The Romans also discovered that water can treat certain illnesses. They started to build common bathes with huge pools. As the area of Rome is relatively poor in natural water sources, they drew the water from the far away Apennine Mountains. At the golden age of the Roman Empire an estimated 80 gallons per person was the daily water supply of the city! Rome had 14 luxury spas and more than 800 public bathes during the era of Constantine. The bathes were lead by doctors and they also played an important role in the social life of the Romans.

The Romans also built spas in other cities, all around the Roman Empire. During their conquests, they built their cities on abundant mineral and thermal water springs, such as Aquincum, the capitol city of Pannonia, a Roman territory that is called Hungary today. The ruins of Aquincum are exposed and spread throughout Budapest.

Later, during the conquests of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks ruled Hungary for 150 years. They built their famous Turkish bathes all over the country, several of them are still operating in Budapest and other cities as public spas.

Currently there are approximately 1300 thermal water springs registered in Hungary and there are countless untapped resources under the ground. Approximately 300 of these thermal springs are used for public spas, and 130 of the thermal and mineral water springs are located in Budapest, the capital city, making it one of the world's richest cities in medicinal water. But let's take a step back and first define the terms surrounding the spa culture.

Mineral Water: water containing minerals or other dissolved substances that alter its taste or give it therapeutic value. There has to be more than 1 gram per liter minerals in the water, or in addition to 0.5-1 gram per liter mineral content there has to be certain components (biologically active substances) in defined concentrations in order to call a spring a mineral water source. Salts, sulfur compounds, and gases are among the substances that can be dissolved in the water. Mineral water can often be effervescent. Mineral water occurs naturally but can also be prepared.

There are numerous kinds of mineral waters based on their content. From dermatology and cosmetology points of view mineral waters rich in Chlorides treat extreme dryness, scaliness, psoriasis, eczema; waters rich in Sulphur are anti-bacterial, treat seborrhea and psoriasis; while the Iodine-Brome rich waters are also very beneficial for dry skin, psoriasis and eczema.
Traditionally mineral waters would be used or consumed at their source, and such sites were referred to as spas, baths or wells.

Spa: the site of a mineral water spring when the water is consumed and bathed in for its curative values.
Bath: the site of a mineral water spring when the water is not generally consumed but pools are formed for bathing.
Well: the site of a mineral water spring where the water is not generally bathed in but rather consumed.
Medicinal Water: spring water with mineral content that has medicinal effects and these effects are proven by research. In Hungary, for instance, years of research are spent proving these medical benefits.
Thermal Spring: natural spring water that exceeds 70 oF and is rich in gases, salts, Iodine and other minerals.
Hot Spring: thermal water exceeding 85oF.
Baneotherapy: A range of treatments with warm mineral water, from bathing or underwater massage jets to simply drinking a certain mineral water. Alkaline water helps stimulating the secretion of bile, while hypotonic water has diuretic effects and is often used for treating kidney stones.
Thalassotherapy: Therapeutic use of the beneficial effects of sea water and maritime climate in a seaside resort. Treatments loaded in trace elements and revitalizing mineral salts provide energy restoration.

The legend of the "hot gold"

The medicinal thermal water that is used in some of the ilike organic skin care products is sourced in Hajdszoboszl, a town in Eastern Hungary. Geologists had been searching for natural gas for a year there, when in 1925 as a result of deep drilling, a steaming, hissing column of water about 15 yards high and accompanied by a large amount of natural gas, spouted up from a depth of cca 1100 yards. It was thermal water at 163oF!

For a while, the smelly, hot "blessing from God" was just flowing and pouring into ditches, then some practically-minded women started washing their laundry in it, while the men and children started splashing about in the water. And wonder of wonders! After a few weeks of working and bathing in the water the splitting pains were relieved in the backs and knees of the women. Researchers took note and meticulous chemical analyses were performed.

The treasure famously called the "Hot Gold" is nothing else but the waters of the ancient seas of the Triassic period, present there in the depths of the Earth, in enormous quantities. Even after 81 years of exploitation it appears to be inexhaustible and not diminishing. Its chemical composition is so greatly favorable that there is hardly any illness for which it is not beneficial.

The wonderful medical effects are due to the mineral content of the water: Iodine (antiseptic, decreases oedema), Brome (antiseptic, nerve calming), Natrium Chloride (keratolytic, dehydrating), Kalium Chloride (keratolytic, dehydrating), Hydrogen Carbonate (a buffer in blood maintaining homeostasis), Bitumen (formed from ancient algae) and the Estrogen (phytoestrogen) binded to it, while the water is also rich in trace elements: Titanium (white pigment, increases resistancy), Copper (antibacterial, antiviral), Zinc (anti-inflammatory, calming), Silver (antibacterial, antibiotic, binds oxygen), Barium (protecting from higher absorbtion of the heavey metal), Strontium (strenghtens bones, treats sensitivity), Vanadium (treats eczema) etc absorbs through the skin. The gases dissolved in the water are also inhaled by the bathers. The water can also be consumed, this way the mineral content is absorbed in the body.

The hot temperature of the water also adds to its medical benefits: the blood circulation improves in the skin layers, the capillaries expand, the muscles relax, the blood supply of the internal organs improves, the pH level of the tissues changes to the better, more alkaline levels, the urinal acid and sugar level of the blood decreases, while metabolism increases.

The town of Hajdszoboszl opened its spa a year and a half after the discovery of the water, back in the late 1920's. The different temperature pools and the balneo- physico- and electrotherapy treatments have a positive effect on these health probems: surgical-, neural-, interial medicine-, dermatological problems, locomotor disorders, eczema, psoriasis, pruritus, brain hamorrhage or orthopedic surgical recovery, paralysis, accute neurological pains, gynocologycal diseases, infertility, prostata problems, archritis etc. There are over 40 kinds of treatments available at the Hajdszoboszl spa, plus their combinations: bathing and inhaling, massage, mud wraps, weight bath, underwater massage, soft laser etc. Experience shows improvements in 90% of the patients. The hot water also provides unforgottable relaxation.

Under the spell of the "Hot Gold" Hajdszoboszl became a resort destination of international repute with more than a million tourists visiting its spa every year.

Thermal water in skin care
Luckily for spa-goers here in North America, it is not necessary to travel all the way to Hungary to reap the benefits of its therapeutic waters. The process of infusing this water and all of its curative effects into skin care has made this ingredient attainable to the masses. While mineral water can be manufactured, there is something to be said for the infusion of these minerals in their natural form. After all, isn't that what Hippocrates would have suggested?

Szilvia Hickman is an owner and srenior vice president of Szp let, the exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care in the American markets. For more information on ilike products, call 1-(888) 290-6238 or visit www.szepelet.com. Hickman can be reached at shickman@szepelet.com.

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