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Rejuvenation By The Use Of Radium Baths And Mud Baths

( Originally Published 1923 )

RADIUM can rightly be considered as a symbol of eternal youth. For it is constantly giving off energy, yet remains apparently unchanged all the time.

In the earliest periods after the discovery of the radium, this strange fact created a great sensation among the scientists, for it seemed to contradict the natural law of the conservation of energy, well established by Robert Mayer, whose sad fate was mentioned in the first part of this book. This mystery was solved, however, when it was detected that there is in reality even in this case no exception to the general law, for even if slowly and almost imperceptibly, radium in the long run dissipates some of the energy which had been stored up in the interior of its constituent atoms.

Whereas this property of radium in itself suggests to us its use as a weapon with which to combat old age, there is another of its properties which makes it especially suitable as a means for rejuvenation.

As previously mentioned, it exerts a direct action upon the sex glands a fact established by experiments upon animals, radium producing, if applied in a certain strength, destruction of the seminiferous cells and sterility in consequence. Judging from the effects of the x-rays, stimulation and hypertrophy of the internally secreting portion will most probably occur likewise after radium.

Being averse to the employment of violent measures as long as there are milder and very efficacious ones at our disposal, I rather advocate the use of the radium emanations for our purpose. Their marked influence upon the ductless glands had already been shown years ago through the experiments of Bouchard and Balthazard. These investigators injected fluids containing radium emanations into animals, and at the autopsy these emanations were found to have accumulated in the ductless glands, especially the adrenals and the spleen. They lay special stress upon the preference shown by the emanations for these glands, i.e., the internally secreting glands.

The emanations are the result of spontaneous decomposition of radium substances, forming a gaseous product which occurs in most mineral waters. It is thus a product of the transformation of radium, and of course possesses radio active properties, giving off certain radiations continually, viz., the gamma rays.

This gaseous product, resulting from the trans-formation of radium, is contained in considerable quantities in some mineral waters, and in small quantities in almost all of them. There can be no doubt but that a good many of the actions ascribed to mineral waters are actually to be attributed to the emanation they contain, especially in the case of such mineral springs as are very slightly mineralized. Sometimes there are found springs which contain scarcely any mineral matter, e.g., only a little iron and lithium, and yet they prove very active. In such cases the effects produced may be ascribed to their high radio-activity, on account of the rather large quantities of emanations they contain.

Such springs are, e.g., those of Joachimsthal (St. Jachymow, in the Czech language) in Bohemia, Czecho-Slovakia, and those of Gastein, Austria, and a spring called Urgeirica, in Nellas, Portugal.

Of all the springs of the world, those of Joachimsthal and of Nellas are probably the richest in emanations, for these springs originate in mines of uranium metal, which yield radium in considerable quantities. It is in the uranium pitch-blende of Joachimsthal that Mme. Curie discovered radium, thus perpetuating her name forevermore.

It was observed a long time ago that persons taking the baths at Gastein often looked younger, more vigorous, and fresher after their cure than before. Indeed, this place was considered a special spa for gouty and rheumatic persons of advanced age. When the radio-active properties of these springs were demonstrated, a clue was given to the special action of the water. In a higher degree, like things have been stated regarding the action of the springs of Joachimsthal after they had begun to be used for therapeutic purposes, this spa having been erected scarcely more than twenty years ago.

Steinach, in his monograph, draws special attention to the rejuvenating effects of Joachimsthal and Gastein, ascribing them to the special action of these springs upon the sex glands. I can entirely subscribe to this opinion on the basis of personal observations, Joachimsthal being in the close vicinity of Carlsbad.

Among the cases treated with these springs, which I often prescribe in cases of gout and rheumatism as an aftercure to Carlsbad, I would like to mention the case of a Belgian gentleman seventy-six years of age, who was suffering from arteriosclerosis, gout, and marked muscular weakness.

After a few weeks' cure in Carlsbad I sent him to Joachimsthal to consolidate the results already obtained. 'When I visited him there two weeks later he accompanied me to my train and as I was in danger of missing it, this old gentleman to my great amazement ran swiftly up the high, steep hill before coming to the station, and strange to say, he was apparently not much the worse for it.

I was also able to make similar observations on myself.

In order to study the effects of these baths, and having much leisure in the summer following the war, I frequently went over to the neighboring Joachimsthal, walking a little over two miles from my house to the station. I noticed that after taking these baths my muscular agility was much improved, and I could walk much more easily and swiftly and with a much lighter step to my home than on the way to the station. I was using thyroid extract at the same time, as was also the above mentioned patient.

The rejuvenating effects of the radium bath can no doubt with full justification be ascribed to their special effects upon the endocrin glands, particularly the sex glands and in my opinion also the thyroid gland. Increase of sexual desire and potency after the use of these baths. has been noted by several authorities. Sommer reported an increase of sexual desire in a monograph on radium and radio-activity. Waldes made the same observation in diabetics after the use of baths containing a large amount of emanations. Gottlieb records an improvement of potency in neurasthenic patients after the baths of Joachimsthal.

The effects on the thyroid gland are evidenced by the fact that after the use of radium emanations, as has been demonstrated experimentally, there follows an increase of the processes of oxidation, a rise of temperature, and a number of other evidences of increased activity of the thyroid gland. Increased elimination of uric acid is one of these, and the same effect can be produced by giving thyroid extracts.

There is no doubt that uric acid plays an important rôle in the production of old age, premature old age often resulting in this way, according to my recent observations. With an increased content in uric acid of the blood there is almost constantly an elevation of blood pressure, and with it a long step forward is taken toward the development of arteriosclerosis. The findings of Prof. Hiss show clearly that through the use of radium emanations the blood entirely loses its content of uric acid, and the patient feels, as he says, "born all over again!" This explains the excellent effects of these emanations in gout and rheumatic disturbances.

As with thyroid treatment, the use of radium baths is followed by a marked increase in the out-put of urine, and in addition uric acid and sodium chloride are eliminated in larger quantities a fact of great importance in diseases of the kidneys. I would personally not advocate the use of such baths in the latter disease, however, for such emanations have been found to act very unfavorably in renal disease, increasing the albumin con-tent of the urine.

Radium baths also have a marked influence upon the blood pressure, and a considerable drop from a high blood pressure can often be observed after their use.

Upon combining the radium baths with gland treatment the results obtained are more satisfactory, as I was able to observe in several personal cases.

Similar effects can also be obtained with mud baths. There have been published a series of communications demonstrating a drop of the high blood pressure following the use of mud baths, provided too high a degree of heat was not applied.

These baths contain iron compounds and other mineral substances, and also the shrunken remains of plants and animals that lived hundreds of thou-sands of years ago. Some of the most active of this muddy earth is found in the neighborhood of Franzensbad in Bohemia, a spa used mainly for the disorders of women and having a special effect upon disturbances of the ovaries and uterus, and also, according to my observations, on the prostate. The same mud, transported to the two other spas in the neighborhood Marienbad and Carlsbad is used there also in the form of baths.

These baths produce effects which, although not equalling those of Joachimsthal, may nevertheless be considered as approaching those obtained there. Very probably also the mud obtained from a place in the neighborhood of Joachimsthal embodies radio active properties. It seems to have special stimulating effects upon the sex glands, owing to its content of iron.

I have often observed, especially in women, a rejuvenating effect following the use of these mud baths. They also impart marked vigor to the muscles, but only if excessive heat in their use is avoided, for where employed too hot they may, on the contrary, induce a sensation of great fatigue. With excessively hot baths, too, the radio active properties are lost.

It has often been noted that women using such baths look much fresher and become more slender, the baths producing a considerable loss of fat, like thyroid treatment. At the same time there is a very marked effect upon the functions of the ovaries, menstruation reappearing sometimes after an interval of months. They have been used since a long time as one of the most efficacious measures against sterility in women.

These baths also have a marked effect on sexual impotence in men. They likewise increase the sexual desire, but only if they are not applied at a high temperature, otherwise the contrary effect may result. They produce hyperemia in the pelvic organs, and it is probably on account of the improved blood supply to these organs and also to the tonic effects of the baths (if used at a moderate temperature) upon the nervous system, that a decided improvement of the functions of the male as well as the female sexual glands can be observed after their use. The rejuvenating effects are the consequence of their stimulating action upon these functions.

I hope that in these lines on rejuvenation I have succeeded in showing that our therapeutic arsenal is not lacking in means for bringing about rejuvenation without having recourse to forcible measures such as surgical operations or other violent agencies. Here and elsewhere, in all our therapeutic activities, the main rule should be to give preference and first trial to the milder and more harmless methods. There is a Latin proverb which says : "Quid quid agis prudenter agas, et respice finem" "whatever you do, do it prudently, and reflect upon the possible consequences."

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