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Thermae & Spa Medicine March 2012 Vol. 1, N°1
Csaba Varg
components of medicinal waters
should play considerable role in the healing
mechanisms (“organic hypothesis”). The author
first made an attempt to survey medicinal waters
of a country representatively, on their volatile or
volatilizable organic composition. Measurements
reviewed here are limited to four characteristic
types of spa waters in Hungary. The gas chro-
matograms indicate very different distributions of
quantity and quality of organics in spa waters of
different hydrogeological origin. The chromato-
graphic fingerprints (together with the exact stud-
ies of therapeutic characteristics) may provide sci-
entific bases of a novel classification of medicinal
waters. Since Carpathian Basin is a distinct geo-
graphic unit this investigation should be extended
to its entirety.
Abbreviations: GC: gas chromatography, MS:
mass spectrometry, RT: retention time, TDS: to-
tal dissolved solid, WWI: 1st world war
1. Introduction
According to the classical approach inorganic
compounds of medicinal waters should be ther-
apeutically effective due to their high concentra-
tions. Exact evidences, however, have been lack-
ing for the vast majority of inorganics, so far
(Varga 2012). On simply theoretical basis, or-
ganic components of these waters should play
considerable role in the healing process and bal-
neoprevention (Varga, 2010). If this statement –
the “organic hypothesis” – was supported by exact
evidences, it could initiate a change of paradigm
in balneology, and especially its medical applica-
tion. Simple gas chromatographic (GC) measure-
ments and the resulting chromatograms – GC fin-
gerprints, together with the exact studies of ther-
apeutic/toxic characteristics – may provide scien-
tific bases of a new classification of medicinal wa-
ters. Measurements reviewed here are limited to
some typical spa waters selected by hydrogeolog-
ical origin, in Hungary. Hungary is located in
the centre of Carpathian Basin but this latter is
a distinct geographic unit therefore these studies
should be extended to its whole area, regardless
of the recent political (non-geographic) borders.
Several spas have been known since the Roman
era in the region, involving Pannonia Superior,
Pannonia Inferior and, in part, Dacia provinces.
For as long as 1000 years, until 1918 one state
– the Hungarian Kingdom (Historical Hungary)
– involved the whole Carpathian Basin. (The
present Hungary is a consequence of a reduction
to the one third part of its original territory, after
the WWI.) Therefore the most famous, important
and popular local spas have already been reviewed
– in Hungarian language – from geological, ana-
lytical and medical points of view, from the 19th
century. Indeed, first analytical data on the in-
organic contents of hot springs registered during
reign of Queen Maria Theresia were published in
the 18th century (Kiss, 2008). While their healing
effects were mentioned as early as in 1549. (Bale-
gová, 2008). Carpathian Basin – and especially
the central Pannonian Basin, characterized by a
thin crust resulting high heat flux – is very rich
in hot springs and wells. Other important spas
are fed by thermal-karstic sources or Oligocene-
Miocene aged aquifers. Nowadays over 1300
thermal wells are recorded just in Hungary. Some
of these thermal waters contain high amounts of
dissolved organic matter (several tens of mg/L)
as indicated by chemical oxygen demand or to-
tal organic carbon measurements (Kárpáti et al.,
1999). The aim of the present study was to deliver
some data to support/reject the “organic hypothe-
sis” by (i) mapping medicinal waters with differ-
ent origin on volatile organic compounds propos-
ing correlation among organics and health effects,
(ii) searching for a simple method to characterize
waters for quality assurance of balneological use
and finally (iii) supporting the need of reclassifi-
cation of waters applied in medical balneology.
Csaba Varga, Department of Environmental Health, University of Pécs, Hungary