Photographer: Timothy O’Sullivan. 1874
What could be better than relaxing on a cold day in a nice hot tub? Well, staying in a natural hot spring might be a bit better. Native Americans may have used hot springs after a nice long hunt, but they also realized the amazing benefits that came from soaking or sipping in the waters of hot springs across the nations. These benefits would spread from increased energy to eliminating diseases.
And guess what? They were right! Hot springs can be found across the North American continent, and Native Americans of all tribes found their benefits and cherished them. In fact, there 1,661 in the United States alone. Native Americans truly discovered their fountain of youth and used their healing powers whenever they could.
An example of this is the traditional site of Manataka, or modern day Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. While the Native Americans used this for a meeting places of tribes and council leaders and for gathering rare plants and minerals, the respect they had for the hot springs there were unbound. Some would bring gifts to bond with other tribes or perform ceremonies within the area. While all of these were extremely important to the tribes, the most important aspect was the hot springs within the area.
Lee Standing Bear Moore and Takatoka explained that “Everyone sought healing and pleasure in the magical hot waters of Nówâ-sa-lon (Breath of Healing) that spewed from the sides of the mountain, creating dozens of crystal clear pools. No one was allowed to enter the sacred area, called the ‘Valley of Vapors’ carrying a weapon into the sacred area decreed by the Great Mystery as the ‘Place of Peace.’ No fighting or discord was allowed. Should anyone violate these laws, they were taken outside the valley and severely punished.”
So, what’s the big deal about some hot water? Well, as it rains, the water falls onto the rock, slowly gaining minerals and seeping farther into the Earth and heating itself. Eventually, the heat of the Earth raises the temperature of the water and once the water is pushed to the surface, it creates a mineral-rich, beautifully created hot spring.
The Native Americans knew the benefits of hot springs long before others. They realized that taking a sip of the hot spring or soaking within one created life-changing benefits or could cure ailments. Author Susan Hartzler concludes that “soaking in highly concentrated mineral water also heats up your body temperature thus killing harmful germs and viruses, eliminating toxins, increasing blood flow and circulation, increasing metabolism, and absorption of essential minerals.” Your skin is able to take in the minerals simply while you relax and enjoy your day off!
Native Americans even fought some of their more serious illnesses with hot springs. In the book “Fighting Arthritis Naturally,” Emily Thacker writes that Native Americans would use hot springs to treat their aching joints — modern day arthritis. Vern “Sonny” Johnson, in “Secrets of Native American Herbal Remedies,” wrote that he used the Ojo Caliente Springs in New Mexico to help treat his stomach cancer.
The main benefit you receive from the hot springs is the mineral content. For example, the Peninsula Hot Springs (Australia) website explain that magnesium helps your body convert sugar into energy, Bicarbonate water helps with blood flow, Boron builds muscle mass, and sodium alleviates arthritis. The Native Americans were definitely onto something.
The Native Americans did take a few precautions before going into the hot springs. They didn’t submerge their head, as there can be bacteria that can enter through the ears or nose. Also, they wouldn’t spend all day in the hot springs, because the minerals can irritate the skin after a long exposure.
Native Americans may have found the benefits of hot springs, but there are plenty of opportunities for you to go check out hot springs yourself. Visit the following website, and enjoy!
National Centers for Environment Information:
Do you have any experience with hot springs? Share your advice in the section below:
Cichoke, A. J. (2001). Secrets of Native American herbal remedies: A comprehensive guide to the Native American tradition of using herbs and the mind/body/spirit connection for improving health and well-being. New York: Avery.
Hartzler, S. (n.d.). The Ancient Healing Powers of Natural Hot Springs, by Susan Hartzler. Retrieved May 08, 2016, from http://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/3927/account/login
Hot springs therapy – mineral content. (n.d.). Retrieved May 08, 2016, from http://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/bathing/the-benefits-of-bathing-balneology/hot-springs-therapy-mineral-content
Mark, L. A. (2015, October 11). Native American-Inspired Spa Treatments: Where To Get The Best. Retrieved May 08, 2016, from http://www.10best.com/interests/travel-features/native-american-inspired-spa-treatments-where-to-get-the-best/
Moor, L. S., & T. (n.d.). Story of Mantaka. Retrieved May 08, 2016, from http://manataka.org/page2.html
Thermal Springs Viewer. (n.d.). Retrieved May 08, 2016, from https://maps.ngdc.noaa.gov/viewers/hot_springs/
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