Ancient Hormetic Hot Springs

Radioactive Healing Hot Spring

The History of Radioactive Hot Spring Healing Spas

The idea that certain springs have miraculous healing power is not a new one. For thousands of years, the sick have journeyed long distances seeking cures at the waters of Bath in England, Badgastein in Austria, in Japan, Germany, Poland, Russia, Czech Republic, USA, Canada and countless other healing hot springs worldwide.   Many if not all of these hot springs are still in operation today.

The ancient springs-town of Ikaria was buried after a landslide. It was on a peninsula 300 meters east of where Therma is today. As the findings prove, there was a settlement and organized facilities for the bathers about 2500 years ago.  Today all that survive are ruins of a small part that remained on the surface and some buildings dating from the Roman Period.

The island inhabitants are being studied right now by a team of researchers who are trying to determine what lifestyle factors have left 30% of the island residents over the age of 90.   The ancient springs are still very popular with the inhabitants and most of the old timers visit the spring monthly.    If radiation were as hazardous as many people believe, why would the island with the highest percentage of people 90 years of age and older be the one.   The residents bathe regularly in radioactive hot spring water.   Good food and lifestyles are important too and the island foods are being studied by scientists.  The residents are noted for their very low occurance of all diseases as well as their very long average lifespan.

In the United States, the most famous curative waters are those at Hot Springs, Arkansas. Indeed, the properties of these waters have been valued so highly that in 1832 Congress established the Arkansas Hot Springs as the first federal reservation, a forerunner of the national park system.  Even the military recognized the importance of these waters and established the Army and Navy General Hospital there in 1879. At first, personnel undergoing treatment were required to lie in tubs of water that was pumped in directly from the springs. However, the 140-degree temperatures generated grumbling from patients who did not appreciate what was good for them. In response, cooling towers were installed to reduce the temperature.

In Canada Radium Hot Springs is a village of approximately 800 people situated in the East Kootenay region of British Columbia. The village is named for the hot springs located in the nearby Kootenay National Park. From Banff, Alberta, it is accessible via Highway 93.

The Radium hot springs were named after the radioactive element when an analysis of the water showed that it contained small traces of radon which is a decay product of radium. The radiation dosage from bathing in the pools is inconsequential; approximately .13mrem from the water for a half-hour bathing. The air concentration of radon is about 23pCi/L which is higher than the level (4pCI/L) at which mitigation is necessary at residences; but is also inconsequential (about .7mrem for a half-hour bathing) from a dose impact perspective.

Canada also has Harrison Hot Springs near Vancouver which does not speak of the levels of radon but is known to have low levels, as do all hot springs.

In 1903, the discoverer of the electron, J.J. Thompson, wrote a letter to the journal Nature in which he described another remarkable discovery of his, the presence of radioactivity in well water. This led to the discovery by others that the waters in many of the world’s most famous health springs were also radioactive. This radioactivity is due to the presence of radium emanation – what we now call radon gas – produced by the radium that is present in the ground through which the waters flow.

Who could doubt that it must be the radioactivity that was responsible for the curative properties of the health springs? Certainly not Surgeon General Dr. George H. Torney, who wrote (ca. 1910) that “Relief may be reasonably expected at the Hot Springs in . . . various forms of gout and rheumatism, neuralgia; metallic or malarial poisoning, chronic Brights disease, gastric dyspepsia, chronic diarrhea, chronic skin lesions, etc.”

Further details were provided by Dr. C.G. Davis, who noted in the American Journal of Clinical Medicine that “Radioactivity prevents insanity, rouses noble emotions, retards old age, and creates a splendid youthful joyous life.”

Professor Bertram Boltwood of Yale explained the scientific basis for the cures in the following way: The radioactivity was “carrying electrical energy into the depths of the body and there subjecting the juices, protoplasm, and nuclei of the cells to an immediate bombardment by explosions of electrical atoms,”  and that it stimulated “cell activity, arousing all secretory and excretory organs . . . causing the system to throw off waste products,” and that it was “an agent for the destruction of bacteria.”   Radon was believed to be so important to water that it was considered its life element. Without it, water was dead. Radon was to water what oxygen was to air.

Now that turn-of-the-century in 1900 science had an explanation for the curative properties of the springs, the health spas and resorts associated with them began to do a booming business. Names were changed to include the magic terms radioactive or radium. Visitors came from near and far to soak in the waters and inhale the air. Marble palaces (still open for business) were built over the springs in Joachimstal in what is now the Czech Republic, and luxurious spas sprouted like weeds in hot springs worldwide.    North America does not mention the radioactivity of its healing hot springs anymore, but people still use them.

Modern Medical Associations’ Use of Radioactive Healing Hot Springs

Germany, Poland, Japan, Austria, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic and many European states offer through their official medical plans a chance to be healed through the radioactive hot springs.   European studies speak of the function of radiation in the healing process.   Unfortunately the cold war based fear of radiation has made this branch of medicine disappear in North America.
Radiation Hormesis Definition
Radiation Hormesis refers to the positive effects of low levels of nuclear radiation on living organisms.   The keyword here is “low” level.    We all know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear radiation in large amounts will kill and produce cancer at ground zero.  Low level radiation refers to the levels of radiation produced by natural uranium and thorium ores contained in the Earth’s rocks.  Alpha, Beta and Gamma waves are given off by these ores.   We have evolved for millions of years to become immune to these low levels of nuclear radiation.