Bathing has gone from being illegal between November 1 and March 15 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to being covered in Germany as a health benefit (as “taking the cure” or going to a spa) (“Spa,” WP).
“Bad” (German for “bath”) begins a whole section of articles on European spa towns. I was surprised at how many spas exist in Europe and how many different types of waters there are: salt, arsenic, iodine, sulfur and radioactive.
Spas have been used to “cure” rheumatism, arthritis, overindulgence in food and drink, heart and circulatory disorders, rheumatic conditions, nervous disorders, metabolic diseases, skin diseases, obesity, constipation, and infantile paralysis (WP). I wondered if there were any scientific studies on whether bathing in or drinking each type of water had distinctive health benefits.
Wikipedia explains how attitudes toward bathing, both public and private, have changed:
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the public baths often became places of licentious behavior, and such use was responsible for the spread rather than the cure of diseases. A general belief developed among the European populace was that frequent bathing promoted disease and sickness. Medieval church authorities encouraged this belief and made every effort to close down public baths.
In the 17th century, most upper-class Europeans washed their clothes with water often and washed only their faces (with linen), feeling that bathing the entire body was a lower-class activity; but the upper-class slowly began changing their attitudes toward bathing as a way to restore health later in that century.