What are the benefits and side effects with natural hot springs?

What are Hot Mineral Springs?

Hot mineral springs are naturally occurring springs of water which travel up from the crust of the earth. Due to the increased temperature (110-150 degrees) of the water as it makes it passage through the earth it produces high concentrations of dissolved minerals, salts, sulfur compounds and gases. It is these dissolved substances that have been used for therapy and healing for thousands of years.

There are many benefits to natural hot springs

There are many benefits to natural hot springs


Lagoons in Iceland: What Are They?

You’ve likely heard of the Blue Lagoon, but you might be wondering, what exactly is a lagoon, and how do you find the best lagoons in Iceland? A lagoon is a body of water separated from a larger body of water by a narrow landform. For example, this could be a reef or a peninsula.

The Reykjanes Peninsula has the best lagoon in Iceland – the world-famous Blue Lagoon. There are five lagoons across the country, and each one is unique. The new Sky Lagoon just outside Reykjavik has become a favorite among locals and visitors. 

The allure of these areas is that they’re smaller and more concentrated, giving you an Iceland hot spring experience to remember. 

Where Are The Best Hot Springs Spas?

Oh, boy. That’s a tough one. There are fantastic hot spring destinations all over the world.

Japan takes its hot springs (onsen) seriously and have beautiful soaking pools.

The Canadian Rockies have gorgeous hot spring settings, but could go a lot further on boosting the ‘spa and wellness’ aspect of them, and could also up the luxury factor.

My favourite thermal spa destinations have to be spa towns in Europe, particularly Baden-Baden, Germany; spas in the Czech Republic; and Switzerland. Thermal spa resorts in Tuscany are regular stops on my Italian vacations. 

I also enjoy visiting thermal baths in Budapest.

The reason I’m such a fan of European spas is that they often combine historical architecture with gorgeous settings, state-of-the-art spa therapies, vast sauna complexes and, of course, beautiful hot spring pools.

Fonteverde, a hot springs spa in Tuscany
Fonteverde, a hot springs spa in Tuscany

When Should You Not Go To a Thermal Spa?

Consult your doctor before soaking in a hot springs if you’re pregnant or have certain health conditions such as high blood pressure or a heart condition. Don’t go in if you have open sores. Thermal spas and hot springs are more powerful than you might think.

Also, just because it’s a hot springs doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It depends on the make up of the water.

Hopefully this article will whet your whistle for hot springs. To read more about spas and spa culture visit my spa and spa travel article. If you’re intimidated about going to a spa for the first time here’s how to spa.

Saunas: The sauna is a key part of a thermal hot springs experience but make sure to follow these important sauna safety rules. And as for sauna culture in Europe, you might want to check out my guide to German Sauna Etiquette.

Top 5 ‘No Bathing’ Hot Springs Pools in Iceland

If you are not familiar with hot springs, it may be hard to tell the difference between those that are safe to enter and those that are not if there are no warning signs.

There are plenty of hot springs, pools, hot tubs, and geysers in Iceland, both natural and human-made, that you should not attempt to bathe. 

Most of the time, this is because it’s simply too dangerous, either because the water is too hot, too unstable, or too cold.

It should go without saying that any hot spring with large boiling bubbles is too hot to enter.

These hot springs are fenced off in the most famous geothermal areas and will have a warning sign telling you to be careful. However, that may not be the case with all hot springs in Iceland. 

Any lake with icebergs floating in it’s too cold to enter. Don’t bathe there, and don’t stand on the icebergs as they can tip over at any given time and trap you in the water.

1. Geysir

Although it has almost entirely stopped spouting water into the air, Geysir geyser still contains boiling water that is far too extreme to enter. 

Geysir’s geothermal area has smaller geysers, including the famous Strokkur, which erupts every few minutes. 

Several steaming pools and springs look incredibly alluring on a cold winter’s day.

As Geysir is one of the most frequently visited areas in Iceland, these hot springs are all fenced off, and you’ll find warning signs detailing that they’re up to 212 F (100 C) hot.

However, in the year 2000, Geysir erupted unexpectedly. A large gathering of people that had been standing nearby had to run for their lives, and the water burned several peoples’ feet and legs. 

The earth surrounding the geysers can also be extremely hot, which is why people are asked to keep to the paths, so their feet do not sink into the burning mud.

It’s always wise to be careful at any geothermal area you may visit in Iceland.

Where are they found?

Hot springs truly are the world’s original spa – interestingly, the term ‘spa’ originates from the town of Spa, Belgium, made famous for its hot springs. Typically, hot springs are found where there is volcanic activity or magma chambers, or where there are fault lines in the Earth. This being the case, there are hot springs all over the world; USA, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Canada, including even right here in our own backyard at our British Columbia location.

Hot Springs Health Benefits

Each of these minerals can have a direct effect onBecause of the unique nature of different hot springs, the exact mineral content of each one will vary to some degrees. Regardless of the differences, most Oregon hot springs contain over 13 different minerals: sulfur, silica, calcium, sodium, bicarbonate, boron, magnesium, selenium, potassium, bromine, fluorine, lithium, and iron.

Each of these minerals can have a direct effect on our health and well-being. Each mineral in hot springs has some function in the human body, some more essential than others. The human body can absorb these minerals in trace amounts through skin.

Minerals in the water are not the only benefit of hot springs. The heat itself can provide a positive effect on the body, especially in combination with a variety of minerals it has. The increase in body temperature causes an improving blood circulation helping to optimize body functions and overall rejuvenation. For example, improved circulation helps relieve the pain that is associated with muscle and joint problems.

A nice long soak in hot springs can also help you get a good night’s sleep. The process of raising your body temperature and then the rapid cooling causes a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

How to Find Free Natural Hot Springs Near You

The 11 best natural hot springs listed above are j

The 11 best natural hot springs listed above are just the tip of the iceberg as far as hot springs in the United States are concerned. There are literally hundreds of other natural hot springs out there – the trick is learning how to find them.

While most developed hot springs are easy to find with a simple Google search, many backcountry hot springs, aside from the most popular and easily accessible, take a little more effort to track down.

My favorite tool to find free hot springs is this interactive map of thermal springs in the US from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The map shows the location of each hot spring color coded by recorded temperature (boiling, hot, warm, or n/a). It’s an excellent tool to find free hot springs you’d like to learn more about or simply to find regions with an abundance of hot springs to further explore in person.

Note that not all natural hot springs are safe or even legal to access. Many hot springs, especially those in national parks including Yellowstone National Park, are off limits for bathing.

Hot Springs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q – What makes hot springs smell?

A – Not every hot springs smells, and not every hot springs smells the same. The most common smell associated with a hot mineral spring is the pleasant aroma which may remind you of boiled eggs. This is the smell which is produced by the gas Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S). It results from anaerobic bacteria converting some of the dissolved sulphur in the water to H2S. The presence of sulphur is a great indicator that the water in the hot mineral spring has traveled to great depths.

If the hot mineral water travels through oxygenated waters on its trip up to the surface of the earth the resulting sulphur smell will evaporate and the water will be odorless. This can be seen in springs like Radium, British Columbia where the water reaches the surface through aerated caves which allow the H2S to oxidize before it reaches the surface – the end result – no smell!

Q – What kind of healing benefits do natural hot mineral springs have?

A – According to the FDA no organization may make health claims concerning the medicinal value of natural mineral waters without scientific substantiation, it is largely due to this that people are uncomfortable with sharing the healing properties of natural hot springs. This being said, hot spring soaking has a deep and far reaching tradition in North America beginning with the First Nations people.

Hot springs have been universally used for healing, purification and therapy.

The following minerals are known to address the following health concerns:

Carbon Springs:

  • Assists opening peripheral blood vessels and helps to improve circulation to the body’s extremities.
  • Relieve symptoms of hypertension and mild atherosclerosis
  • Assist in cardiovascular disease and nervous system imbalances

Sulfur Springs– Hot Springs rich in Sulfur are used to address a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Skin infections
  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin inflammations
  • Liver and gastrointestinal conditions

Thermal Spring– Heat from a hot spring increases the hydrostatic pressure in the body. This increases blood circulation and cell oxygenation, causing:

  • The body to capacity to detoxify to increase
  • The body’s metabolism to be stimulated
  • Improved digestion

Q – How often should I visit a hot springs for healing?

A – Even one hot soak in a hot spring can provide enormous natural healing benefits for the body. 3 to 4 weeks of regular thermal bathing can assist in the normalization of endocrine glands and assist the automatic nervous system causing longer lasting more substantial healing benefits.

Q – How HOT is a hot spring?

A – In order to be classified as a hot spring the spring must at least have temperatures of 108F degrees or higher. The geothermal areas of Yellowstone park host some of the world’s largest hot springs. The temperatures often reach an astonishing 204F degrees causing death to many that accidentally fallen into such pools.

Clearly we are not referring to such hot springs when we promote the healing properties of the pool!!

Q – Are the minerals in each hot spring the same?

A – Because every hot mineral springs is located in a different place in the world each one is unique. Thermal (hot) springs contain a high concentration of the following various minerals making their healing properties broad and effective:

  • Sulfur springs contained hydrogen sulfide gas
  • Lithia springs contained lithium salts.
  • Alkaline springs contained an alkali.
  • Chalybeate springs contained salts of iron.
  • Alum springs contained alum.
  • Calcic springs contained lime (calcium hydroxide).
  • Salt (saline) springs contained salts of calcium, magnesium or sodium.

Q – Where are hot springs located?

A. There are healing hot springs on all continents and almost all countries in the world. There are more hot springs in Canada and the United States than any other countries in the world.

Q – How are hot springs created?

A – As rain or snow falls down onto the earth it quickly gets absorbed by porous sedimentary rocks. The water descends through the rock, and as it does this it picks up a variety of materials, everything from sulphur, to radium. The further beneath the surface this water travels the closer it is going towards the hot core of the earth.

Eventually the water comes across a large crack or fault. As the cool water enters the crack it forces the already hot water upwards along the fault line until it surfaces as a hot or warm spring. The dissolved minerals in this water is what gives it the name hot mineral spring and which make the hot mineral spring such a great way to heal naturally.

Hot Spring Essential: Bright Eyes

If you can only bring one extra thing in your backpack, make sure it’s Red Wine Resveratrol Cream 0.3 oz. These natural hydrogel eye masks make the perfect travel-friendly hot springs companion. Who can resist a pair of depuffing, distressing, hydrating eye masks? You won’t even look silly while you soak, more like the object of envy — so bring along extra to share, and make some new spa-loving pals. Sit back and let our highly caffeinated eye masks brighten and depuff while you listen to the rushing water (and sometimes white water rafting groups) zip by. The longer you soak, the thinner your eye masks will become. They’re busy infusing your thirsty skin with nutrient rich hydration while you sit there enjoying nature’s original day spa.

PRO TIP: If you’re heading to any hot springs with a crew, bring along Bright Eyes Mask 5 Pack for everyone to enjoy this outdoor spa experience. Or if you’re heading for a solo session, bringing along extra eye masks will instantly make you the Mayor of Miracle Hot Springs.

We’re about to wrap up our Sustainable Road Trip series and heading back towards 100% PURE Headquarters. If you missed any of our road trip stops, check out two of our recent favorites What are the Benefits of Caffeine in Skincare? and Aloe Vera in Skincare and Makeup.


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