The philosophy of caring for the whole person started at Clifton Springs Hospital when Henry Foster, MD, founded a “Water Cure Sanitarium” in 1850 on the site of mineral springs, which had been used by generations of Native American healers. Recognizing and maintaining a deep commitment to his understanding of the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit, Dr. Foster incorporated the best of many therapies including conventional Western medicine practices, natural medicine, hydrotherapy, and homeopathy, during the time he owned and supervised the hospital. Guests came from all over the country and the world for rest and renewal at the Clifton Springs Sanitarium.
For a century, the healing waters and natural therapies were utilized for a wide variety of conditions, both as “medicine” as well as rejuvenation and relaxation. In the 1950’s, a shift away from natural remedies took place. With technological advances in medicine abounding, the hospital closed the baths and focused on the Western medical perspective.
Engaging the vision of using the waters and natural therapies, The Springs grew from the personal experience of a Clifton Springs’ nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She followed the advice of her physician colleagues, under-going surgery, chemo-therapy and radiation; but as she experienced these treatments, she recognized that she needed more for her healing to be complete. She recognized that Western medicine could not address many of her needs, and added therapies which included guided imagery, prayer, yoga, massage, Reiki, humor, diet, Chinese Medicine and acupuncture.
Re-emerging awareness of the body-mind-spirit connection has brought Clifton Springs Hospital “full circle.” In 2000, on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the hospital, Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic opened The Springs to again offer therapies that focus on the healing and wellness in the form of what is now called “integrative medicine”.
Europeans have used mineral waters for thousands of years for their healing properties. While certain springs are associated with providing relief from arthritis, others focus on skin health and therapy for conditions such as psoriasis. Spas near rich moor bogs are renowned for pain-relieving, detoxification, and metabolic effects. In these locations, doctors oversee the entire spa visit and coordinate appropriate use of services, just as Dr. Foster did during the Victorian era here in Clifton Springs. Medical treatments, hydrotherapy, massage and other rejuvenating therapies are offered under one roof.
The historical traditions of using mineral waters therapeutically (the technical term is balneotherapy) diminished in the United States over the years. Although there are active mineral springs throughout the country, most of them are not associated with medicine as we know it today. In Europe and countries like Israel, Russia, Japan, and Korea, balneotherapy is widely recognized as a therapeutic tool, and is not only used regularly, but a significant amount of research is conducted on the therapeutic use of mineral waters, seaweeds, muds, and salts. Some countries include treatment at a spa as part of the national health insurance coverage for certain medical conditions like osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, particularly those employing sulphur mineral waters.