Historical Roots of Mineral WaterWater
The history of mineral water is intertwined in our narrative as a species.
As civilization developed at different corners of the world, the human race found ways to incorporate water into their existence. Both personal and communal, activities were focused on the enrichment of their minds and bodies, as well as religious and spiritual components.
It’s found that hot springs and mineral springs were first utilized in Europe. The Greeks used springs over two thousand years ago: first on the mainland, eventually spreading to their colonies for spa purposes. The word spa is derived from the Latin phrase, “sanus per aquam,” or “health through water.”
In the past, if one was to consume or use the mineral water at the spring sources, this was known as “taking the waters” or “taking the cure.” Although our early ancestors didn’t quite know the exact health or scientific benefits of mineral water, they were aware that water had the capabilities to cure diseases and alleviate pain, plus a variety of other social benefits.
“Spas” were known as places where the mineral water was utilized for both consumption and bathing. A “bath” was typically used simply to bathe, while a “well” was strictly for drinking.
Inspired by Greece, the Romans also appreciated the healing effects of water. During the Roman Imperial Period, a sophisticated spa-culture was established for health benefits. This had an impact on the culture, as eventually Roman physicians started to prescribe curative water, such as water from the Dead Sea being used as a healing component for rheumatism and psoriasis.
Public baths were established and utilized from the 14th century onwards. A century later, Germany had special mineral springs for healing and spa purposes. Paracelsus, one of the most renowned physicians during the Middle Ages, helped further interest in mineral water throughout the country and the world.
Much like the “eat local” movement of the modern era, Paracelsus called on people to eat domestic substances: not only food, but also water. He was one of the first physicians to recognize and emphasize the use of chemicals and minerals in medical treatment.
In his travels throughout Europe, he spent a lot of time in the Alps, studying the healing and therapeutic properties of the mineral waters at many spas and hot spring resorts.
The interest continued to develop through the 18th century, where packaged mineral waters started to be sent around the world. Due to cost and other logistics, this was reserved for the upper class. At the start, the water was bottled in stoneware (earthenware) jugs, which were later replaced by glass bottles.
In the late 1800’s, the German chemist Justus von Liebig (and his pupil Karl Remigius Fresenius) made history for their mineral water analysis of water.
Justus von Liebig, German chemist
In the year 1871, the production of “artificial mineral water” began, which imitated famous natural mineral and curative water. Since then, the interest in mineralized water has only continued to develop globally – for better or worse. One of the most pivotal (and controversial) developments came in 1973, the year when Dupont engineer Nathaniel Wyeth patented the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle.
The introduction of the plastic was the tipping point for the sales of bottled mineral water. It was also the start, although not initially, of a worldwide movement to ban plastic bottles.
In 2019, there are close to four thousand varieties of mineral water around the world. In Europe, inhabitants consume 117 liters per year on average. Since bottled water in the European Union is predominantly made up of natural mineral water, most recently noted as 83% of the market in 2016, it’s easy to see how the love of mineral water is still alive.
While the benefits are still well-known, so are the concerns: the harm to the environment, as well as the negative fallout due to production and transportation.
As the world continues to develop and evolve, so will the ways that humans interact with mineral water. By educating ourselves of both the highlights and the setbacks, this puts us on track to providing people with mineralized water that is beneficial for their hydration.
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