Daily Archives: July 22, 2013

Taking the Waters

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So of course the main point to going to Saratoga in the late 1800s was to take the curative waters from its many mineral springs. As Saratoga Illustrated pointed out in 1876, it’s just good science:

“The medicinal action of mineral waters differs in almost every respect from that of cathartics and diuretics, or eliminators in the materia medica. Medicines frequently act by counter-irritation, curing one organ by exciting and irritating another . . . The most important ingredients of the Saratoga waters are natural to the body, and are also powerful oxydizers of the disintegrated tissues, carrying out of the body the waste matter. Mineral waters are similar to the blood, minus its organic constituents, and are true restorative medicines, as well as powerful modifiers of the tissues themselves.”

Hoxsie isn’t sure which is more depressing: the utter lack of truth in any of those statements, or the fact that such statements are still made today about any number of nonsense cure-alls.

“The diseases affected by the waters are numerous. To give a list in detail would be useless and confusing, and perhaps harmful. There is but one course to pursue in drinking the spring waters for the health’s sake. Consult a resident physician, let him make a diagnosis of your case, and, under his advice, select the particular spring of most value to you, and govern yourself, in all things, by his experience and acquaintance with the waters….

“Each user of these healing waters must in a measure, be a law unto himself. To drink any and all of the waters would be simply unreasonable.”

The guide did offer a helpful, by which we mean completely confusing, chemical analysis of each of the springs of Saratoga, giving the levels (in unnamed units)  of chloride of sodium, chloride of potassium, bicarbonate of lithia, sulphate of potassa, and others, so the gullible could make an effective choice. On the other hand, it was noted that the effects of the waters were “seldom injurious,” which is more than can be said for many, many cures doled out by physicians at the time.