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The History of Carbonated Waters and the Nauheim Baths

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Sussanna Czeranko, ND

Today, the almost fabled carbon dioxide bath is not known by many in North America, yet there was a time that a simulated Nauheim bath of German fame was central to the treatment
of many conditions and especially cardiovascular diseases on American soil.

The carbon dioxide bath originated from Nauheim, Germany, the site of a mineral water spring with a high

concentration of carbon dioxide, “varying from 1.8 to as high as 3.9%”. (Bovaird, 1909, p. 75)

It was discovered that this carbon dioxide rich water was quite efficacious for several

conditions. The Nauheim bath became synonymous with carbon dioxide bathing and had

many names such as ‘effervescent bath’ and ‘carbonic acid bath’. The Nauheim or carbon

dioxide bath continues to be utilized in several European countries as part of a flourishing

network of medical balneotherapy clinics. Here in North America, this remarkable modality

has simply vanished in thin air.

Since 1835, the Nauheim mineral spring has attracted many, drawn by the therapeutic

benefits that this water offers. One famous visitor, U.S. President Roosevelt when a young

boy, came to Nauheim with his father who was suffering from heart disease. He and

thousands of others have benefited from the effervescent carbonic acid baths which were

used in the treatment of neurasthenic conditions and insomnia, (Hoegen, 1916, p. 61) as well

as anemia, loss of appetite, impotence, old age, circulatory disturbances, hemorrhoids,

inflammation of the female reproductive system (menstrual irregularities), functional and

organic heart diseases, rheumatism, gout, and skin diseases. (Kellogg, 1903, pp 564-566;

Hoegen, 1916, p. 267; Baruch, 1920, pp. 104-106)

Diseases traditionally treated with the Nauheim Baths

  •  Arteriosclerosis

  •  Hypertension

  •  Angina

  •  Chronic nephritis

  •  Cardiac weakness (Endocarditis, Mitral insufficiency, Cardiac Hypertrophy,

  • Aortic and Mitral Stenosis)

  •  Rheumatism

The term ‘Nauheim bath’ meant “a cold brine bath in which free carbon dioxide gas is

liberated.” (Swan, 1911, p. 30) The utilization and specifications of such a water therapy

were not well known even among naturopaths these days. The temperature of “the Nauheim

bath was rarely given higher than 95 F, nor lower than 86 F”(Baruch, 1917, p. 182) which

may have felt to the patient a bit chilly initially. However this chilliness was quickly replaced

by “warmth and well-being” (Harveian, 1903, p. 6) as soon as the bubbles of CO2 gas began

to accumulate upon the skin. As Hoegen pointed out, “The skin shows decided hyperemia

wherever it is in contact with the gas bubbles.” (Hoegen, 1916, p. 534) Dr. Swan, who studied

the Nauheim bath literature in 1911, concluded that “the most important effect is the

equalization of the distribution of the blood in the skin and the viscera by the vasodilation

produced in the vessels of the former organ, the skin (Swan, 1911, p. 31), a contention also

supported by his colleagues Colebeck, Hare, Bishop, Anders and Merklen and explicated

variously among doctors in the first decade of the last century. [Colebeck, 1904; Hare, 1907;

Bishop, 1909; Anders, 1905; Merklen, 1908]

Having personally experienced these baths, the sensation is like bathing in ‘a tub of

champagne’. The body becomes covered with a film of tiny bubbles and despite the

coolness of the water, the body feels very warm due to vasodilation of the capillaries.

Whatever the patient’s experience of the waters, the Nauheim bath became famous for the

treatment of heart disease and was considered by some as the panacea for all cardiac

ailments. Swan, though, cautioned against the “promiscuous use of these carbogaseous

baths”. In his view, the therapeutic indications of the different cardiopathies needed to be

considered and the Nauheim practitioner needed to be prudent in their prescription. “The

best cases for the Nauheim treatment are those with myocardial weakness from whatever

cause. For vulvular heart disease in the stage of broken compensation with dropsy, it is not

suitable.” (Swan, 1911, p. 44) A

Harveian reported that physiological effects included “heart sounds [that became] clearer and

stronger” and “respiration [that became] easy and slower and deeper”. (Harveian, 1903, p. 6)

The physicians who worked at Nauheim “ascribe[d] the effects of the baths to mechanical

stimulation to the skin, with a reflex effect upon the heart or upon the circulatory system.”

(Bovaird, 1907, p. 76) The Nauheim physicians found the baths to “raise a low blood

pressure and lower a high blood pressure.” (Swan, 1911, p. 29) In fact, Beneke’s very early

18 month study published in 1859 of patients utilizing these rich carbon dioxide waters,


The cases of organic cardiac disease which have resulted from

rheumatism or endocarditis furnish no contra-indication to the use of

the saline bath… I should not hesitate an instant to bathe persons

who in consequence of rheumatism have become afflicted with

cardiac disorder. (Harveian, 1903, pp 1-2)

Dr. Brown found the “the cases peculiarly fitted for Nauheim treatment are cases in which the

heart muscle acts insufficiently, either from dilation, poor blood supply from anemias or

arteriosclerosis with changes in the muscle, poisoning, acute or chronic and notably tobacco

poisoning and fatty changes of moderate degree.” (Brown, 1906, p. 92). Baruch later

reported, “The principal guide to a prescription of the Nauheim method, whether natural or

artificial, is adaptation of the bath in duration, temperature and gas and mineral contents to

each case, and a careful watching of the response of the heart.” (Baruch, 1917, p. 182)

Doctors who use this therapeutic tool then and now recommend rest as essential before and

after the Nauheim bath. Patients would “not leave the bath house without resting at least an

hour.” (Baruch, 1917, p. 180) Indeed, the carbon dioxide baths were sometimes augmented

by exercise that was introduced by the Schott brothers and subsequently used by many.

“These baths are given methodically, according to the indications of each case and the effect

of each bath, and they are accompanied or followed by certain passive or resisting

movements, which offer a systematic but mild exercise of the principal voluntary muscles of

the body. “ (Hoegen, 1916, p. 532)

Treatment Protocol

In Nauheim, the standard protocol for Nauheim baths consisted of a series of 18 baths and

did not exceed 24. Doctors, such as Baruch and Hoegen, counseled their fellow colleagues

in North America who were in the habit of prescribing fewer baths, to abide by the standards

and protocols established at Nauheim. However, not only the fewer number of treatments

came under criticism in America, but also the way in which the baths were delivered.

In Europe, volcanic mountains were abundantly available and necessary for carbon dioxide

rich mineral waters. In America, this was not the case and the number of hot springs rich

with carbon dioxide was limited to a very few such as Saratoga, NY and some in California.

To make the Nauheim bath available in America, doctors devised formulas to simulate the

carbonated waters. To create the carbon dioxide found naturally, doctors would create

formulas such as the one used by Kellogg at his Battle Creek Sanitarium: sodium carb,

sodium bicarb, calcium chloride, sodium chloride and sodium bisulphate. (Kellogg, 1903, pp.

562-3) Although, the effect was similar to naturally occurring carbon dioxide, discussions and

debates pursued as to whether these simulated treatments deviated too far from the original

Nauheim bath.

Replicating the medicinal properties of the Nauheim baths were also attempted at Saratoga,

NY. Baruch calculated that adding sodium chloride and calcium chloride to each bath would

enhance the effects of carbon dioxide. It was agreed that the waters at Nauheim also had a

distinct mineral composition which also enhanced carbonic acid delivery into the body. The

formulas that were created tried to replicate the minerals at Nauheim.

Natural vs. Artificial

The natural carbonated waters were considered to contain finer bubbles and more dissolved

CO2 than artificial waters. “The artificial, on the contrary, contains more free CO2 gas which

escapes more easily.” (Baruch, 1917, p. 599)

Here in America, Dr. Simon Baruch was determined to understand the effects of CO2 baths.

In a scientific manner he investigated whether there was difference between the artificial

baths and those baths found naturally. There was little choice for American doctors who

wanted to include carbon dioxide baths. The naturally occurring CO2 springs also had the

therapeutic addition of minerals or ‘salines’. The early doctors were engaged in determining

the actions of the minerals versus the carbon dioxide on the body. Studies initiated by

Baruch found that “absorption of CO2 is furthered by [minerals] and escape of CO2 [were]

prevented by [minerals]” (Baruch, 1917, p. 111) when minerals were added to a CO2 bath.

Today, there is renewed research interest in the merits of carbon dioxide baths. (Falagas et

al., 2009; Delahaye, R., et al, 1993; Fabry et al., 1992) The carbonated waters of the

Nauheim are among the rich heritage of modalities and nature-cure resources in our tradition.

It behooves us to know these roots and to sustain them in our eclectic repertoire.


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