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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 15, 2013


JAMA. 2013;309(19):1975. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.174836

Hot springs are found in many parts of the world. Where they are reasonably accessible they are frequently made a part of a “health resort” established to exploit the curative properties of the waters. The heating of the springs is probably accomplished by deep-seated waters which are converted by contact with heated masses in the interior of the earth into vapor. This ascends through fissures toward the surface, where it meets cold springs and heats them.

When it is remarked that “hot water is hot water anywhere,” so that this feature of hot springs need not induce patients to travel away from home to obtain the benefits of thermotherapy, the enthusiasts for these health resorts assure us that the waters contain other features than the heat. In many cases chemical analysis has failed to reveal any unusual content of mineral constituents to account for the alleged therapeutic effects. This is true, for example, of the waters at Hot Springs in Arkansas, where the government reports freely admit that the dissolved matter is low in amount. These waters, like those of some other deep springs, are radio-active; and in the absence of more convincing evidence along other lines the therapeutic value of the baths at the Arkansas Hot Springs is attributed to the radio-activity of the waters rather than to any mineral constituent. The use of the waters is, however, combined with so many other features of hydrotherapy, thermotherapy, dietary supervision and hygienic living that it must remain an open question whether in truth the waters per se have any specific curative virtues.