This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips. Also available from Amazon: Materia medica and therapeutics.
Eaux-bonnes, department Basse-Pyrenees, two thousand three hundred feet above the sea, situated in a narrow sheltered ravine at the foot of the Pic du Gers, about twenty miles from Pau, is rich in grand natural beauties, and has a remarkably pure fresh climate, though it is subject to great changes of temperature during the day.
The waters contain 0.18 cub. in. sulphuretted hydrogen to the pint, with but 2 gr. chloride of sodium, and 2 gr. of other salts, sulphates, and iodides, at a temperature of 90° F.
The dose at first taken is but small, often a tablespoonful, but this is increased gradually to a pint or more, and the good results are said to be so remarkable in tuberculosis and pneumonic consolidation of lung, in asthma, granular pharyngitis, pleuritic effusion, and scrofulous deposits, as well as in chlorosis, amenorrhoea, and atonic dyspepsia, that many physicians "have supposed the cures to be due to some as yet unknown element in the otherwise very poor water." The high situation of the Spa is probably a main agent in its action. The season lasts from June to mid-September, and residence is usually arranged for a month at a time during one or two seasons. Bathing is not much practised, but the patient is recommended to live as much as possible in the open air, and to complete the treatment by a course of sea-bathing at Biarritz.
Eaux-chaudes, situated four miles further on in the same valley, has water containing sulphuret of sodium, sulphate of lime, etc., which are used more for baths than for drinking, in muscular rheumatism, neuralgias, chlorosis, etc.
Ponticosa, in Arragon, a day's journey from Eaux-chaudes, is situated in a valley of the Pyrenees, nearly six thousand feet above the sea. The waters contain much nitrogen and sulphuretted hydrogen, with chlorides and sulphates. They increase the secretions and the appetite, but without exciting the circulation. They relieve the cough of laryngeal phthisis and bronchial irritation, and are suitable for cases of haemoptysis, but not for softening tubercle. The best months are July and August.
Cauterets, department Hautes Pyrenees, three thousand two hundred feet above the sea, in a narrow winding valley, has a pure and fresh, but rather variable climate. It contains more than thirty warm saline sulphuretted springs, some of which are highly stimulating, and give rise to fe-verishness and headache. The Raillere, which is famous for the cure of chronic bronchial catarrh, contains in one pound only 0.14 gr. sulphuret of sodium, 0.3 gr. sulphate of soda, 0.3 gr. chloride of sodium, 0.4 gr. silica, nitrogen, and traces of sulphuretted hydrogen, but the water is very warm (102° F.). It is used both internally and by bath, and sometimes gives strikingly good results in early stages of phthisis and strumous deposit, in gastric catarrh, uterine congestions and fluxes, also in chronic rheumatism and skin diseases. Animals, especially horses, with catarrh or abnormal discharges, are also benefited at Cauterets. July, August, and September are the best months.
Bareges, department Hautes Pyrenees, four thousand feet above the sea, with a bracing rough climate, is "the most famous of Pyrenean Spas." The sulphurous stimulating waters are hot (107° F., Bain de l'Entree), warm (98° F.), and tepid (84°). They are limpid, have an oily nauseous taste, characteristic odor, and contain nitrogen and sulphuretted hydrogen, with small quantities of sulphuret, sulphate, and chloride of sodium, etc. On their surface is found a gelatinous pellicle called baregine or glairine, which is a nitrogenous organic substance, found in most sulphur waters, emollient, and supposed to be efficacious in chronic rheumatism. Sufferers from this complaint, and from sciatica, lumbago, and stiffness of muscles and tendons, visit Bareges in large numbers; it is celebrated also in paralysis, in strumous ulcerations, and especially in bone disease and old gun-shot wounds. The swimming-baths are much used, and the waters are taken internally. They are not suitable for "irritable nervous subjects, nor in heart disease, nor tendency to inflammatory disorder" (Tanner). The season extends from early in June to mid-September. In July and August the crowding is sometimes so great that "invalids must leave their beds soon after midnight for their turns at the baths, and the air in the ' piscines,' from the small space allowed to each bather, is almost intolerable" (H. Weber).
Saint Sauveur, four miles from Bareges, has similar, but milder waters, which are much used by women and children for hysteria, neuralgia, leu-corrhcea, and uterine derangements - "pre-eminently the French ladies' Spa" (Braun). The season begins earlier, and lasts later than at Bareges.
Bagneres de Luchon, department Haute Garonne, two thousand feet above the sea, is charmingly placed in a broad valley, close to splendid scenery, enjoys a mild climate, has excellent arrangements for recreation and abundant sulphurous water, double the strength of those already mentioned. There are about fifty springs, varying in temperature from 63° to 132° F., and containing sulphuret and sulphate, sulphite, and chloride of sodium, other sulphurets, silica, lime, etc. Analysis detects only traces of sulphuretted hydrogen in the waters at the springs, but almost as soon as drawn, they become milky on account of some decomposition with development of this gas, and so much of it escapes from the large bath that the atmosphere above it contains more than 1 per cent. They are used in the same cases as Bareges and Cauterets, etc.
Aix-les-Bains, in Savoy, near Chambery, seven hundred and ninety feet above the level of the sea, in a sheltered picturesque valley of the Alps, is a celebrated watering-place - the Agnae Gratinae of the Romans -greatly resorted to for its sulphurous springs, which are often of much value in chronic rheumatism, gout, neuralgia, and some skin diseases, as well as in paralysis. The temperature of the water varies from 100° to 117° F. They are chiefly employed for baths, the douche-bath being the one most in use. The hot water is made to fall in streams from a height of about 8 to 10 feet upon the patient, who is afterwards thoroughly rubbed, wrapped in blankets, sent home in a sedan-chair, and then put to bed. The climate is mild and relaxing. During the season the place is often unpleasantly crowded.
Aix-la-Chapelle, five hundred and thirty-four feet above the sea, is the principal German sulphur bath. "The amount of sulphuret of sodium in the springs is small, compared with the Pyrenean baths, but the sulphate of soda is rather more, also the sulphuretted hydrogen, and in addition, there are 20 gr. of chloride, and 5 gr. of carbonate of soda, with traces of iodide and bromides. This combination is of much importance for drinking" (Braun). The temperature of the water taken internally is often 130° F.
Warm baths (95° F.), prolonged from half to three-quarters of an hour, are also much used at Aix, with vapor baths, douches, and frictions, and the results of the combined treatment are very satisfactory in rheumatism, gout, chronic eruptive disorders, acne, psoriasis, and abdominal plethora; they are often good, though not so markedly, in paralyses, metallic poisoning, and chronic syphilis, but Braun throws scientific doubt upon the supposed special efficacy of the sulphur in these maladies, and connects the therapeutics more with the temperature and the amount of saline liquid. Mercury is also commonly used in the treatment of syphilis at Aix, not internally, but by inunction of mercurial ointment, from 1 to 1 1/2 dr. being used daily after a warm bath. The value of the baths and water in the treatment of this disorder lies in their (1) increasing the specific action of mercury; (2) preventing salivation and other injurious effects of the drug; (3) keeping the skin in an active state, the glands secreting, and the pores free. The patients are directed to live well, eat freely of animal food, drink wine, and to be constantly in the open air. Rheumatoid arthritis is also treated with some success at Aix. The season begins early in June, and ends in September. As the treatment is highly stimulating, it is not suitable for apoplectic and hemorrhagic cases.
Weilbach, in the Prussian province of Nassau, in the valley of the Main, on the eastern slope of the Taunus range, has a good sulphurous spring for internal use, the quantity of sulphuretted hydrogen amounting to 0.16 cub. in. Carbonic acid is also present; the amount of salts is small, a few grains only of chlorides and carbonates of soda, magnesia, and lime. "The life here is quiet, and almost solitary." This Spa is specially indicated in some cases of lung disease, catarrhal or tubercular, when hyperaemic enlargement of liver exists, or congestion of the abdominal viscera with haemorrhoidal tendency, and it will sometimes relieve when Carlsbad and other soda springs cannot be borne. Roth has given reasons for believing that sulphuretted hydrogen, taken in solution into the stomach, acts directly on the blood in the portal vein, forming a sul-phuret with the iron of effete blood-corpuscles, and thus hastening their destruction, for the diminution of swelling in the liver under the influence of Weilbach waters is accompanied by a darker and, at length, black coloring of the faeces, in which a large amount of sulphuret of iron is found. This does not come from the water (which contains none of the metal), but either from the food or the blood, and in favor of its being from the latter is the fact that, as the liver decreases in size, an anaemic condition manifests itself in spite of plentiful nutrition. Roth, indeed, insists upon full meat diet during a course of these waters, and a chalybeate course is frequently required afterward. Dr. Braun agrees with these statements, and himself derived much benefit from the waters when suffering from haemoptysis connected with "haemorrhoidal enlargement of the liver."
Generally they have rather a constipating effect, and do not increase the intestinal secretions like sulphate of soda waters, though irritation and diarrhoea may be occasionally excited. The refreshing feeling and appetite caused by saline gaseous waters are not felt at the time of drinking these waters, but real hunger occurs in the course of the treatment. Besides their medicinal use, already mentioned, in bronchial catarrh, etc., they are valuable in chronic metallic poisoning.