"Taking the Waters" Really Works
Can hot springs actually relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis? Yes, according to research done at The University of Manchester in the UK and published in the journal Immunity, proving that Victorians who visited spa towns to "take the waters" were in fact being helped by the practice of soaking salt water. The UK team showed that a solution with a high concentration of salt does in fact ease inflammation when you bathe in it.
A high salt, or "hypertonic", solution is currently used in IV drips and is known to be an effective way to reduce inflammation. A release from the university reports that the research team, led by Dr Pablo Pelegrin, was investigating "how cell swelling can control inflammation; the immune system's first response to injury or infection."
They discovered that white blood cells swell in a way that is similar to how tissue swells around a wound. When the solution with high salt content was injected, it drew the water out of the cells and shrank them back to their original size. "This in turn deactivated the signal for inflammation," the release says.
The research offers increased evidence for the use of "hypertonic fluid therapy" for the reduction of inflammation in the brain when treating stroke and epilepsy. The team also examined the benefits of hypertonic fluids outside of the body by soaking bandages in the solution and bathing the inflamed area in a hypertonic solution. In both cases, the inflammation was reduced.