A person I respect has recently undergone balneology at Aix-Les-Bains and claims benefit from it, so it has attracted my interest
Criticism has long been a basic element in scientific progress and I have been publishing criticisms of what I regard as shoddy science since the 1970s.
But much criticism of scientific claim seems to be frowned on these days. Criticize Global warming, transsexualism, critical race theory etc and you may well suffer serious consequences -- loss of job etc.
I have however been unbowed by such strictures and have continued to defend real science. But what I want to derogate today is a lot safer. I refer to a popular European health practice, one that is particularly popular in Germany
Germans are great fans of herbal and other "alternative" health treatments and there may be some real basis for some of them but the faith they attract is massive. You have no idea of what Camomile tea can do, for instance. It does nothing for me.
And balneology is so popular in Germany that you can get prescribed it on the government's dime. Balneology is the centuries-old practice of "taking the waters". There are many natural hotsprings or "Spas" in Europe and Europeans have long believed that dipping yourself in the waters concerned gives health benefits.
That is in principle dubious. The whole function of the skin is to keep what is underneath it from any external influences. So how is mineralized water supposed to break through that barrier and have some influence? There may be some rare molecules that can defeat the skin barrier but the simple salts in spa water would seem to be the least probable such influences, though the radioactive ones might be another matter.
There have of course been studies to check on the efficacy of balneology but none have come up with anything conclusive.
In some spas you do get to drink the water but that is a different issue. You could drink the same water out of a bottle at home. No need to attend a spa.
But taking the waters may have other benefits. It is generally experienced as a relaxing holiday and relaxation can have real benefits