Soaked to Health: Does Natural Healing in Hotsprings Work?


I was born in Kitagata Hospital in what is now known as Sheema District in Western Uganda. I suspect the question in your head after reading where I was born is “so?” Stay with me… I’ll tell you why and this could probably explain my love for nature.

A short distance away from this hospital are the Kitagata Hotsprings. In Western & South Western Uganda these hotsprings are synonymous with healing.

Kitagata in the local dialect means a warm and nice place. To drive this home I would equate it to finding yourself by the fireplace on a cold rainy day.

There are two hotsprings in this place- Ekyomugabe meaning “the one that belongs to the king” because only the Omugabe of Ankole used it- his natural outdoors jacuzzi so to speak.

The one used by everyone else, also believed to hold more healing powers is called Mulago named after the national referral hospital.

The water in the springs gets as hot as 80°C. Now that’s very very hot! It’s estimated that approximately 800 people seeking cure for their ailments flock these springs every week.

You must be wondering whether they actually get healed or is it some sort of superstition. Not to worry… I’ll let you in on the truth in a bit. Meanwhile this land of ours has these hotsprings strewn across her.

In the Semliki National Park are the Sempaya Hotsprings and these could as well be Semliki’s most famous attraction.

These hotsprings are in two sites and are distinct from each other in both location and importance. The female spring has water boiling at 103°C- beat that! It also spurts hot water up to 2metres above the ground. This spring is visited by women looking for a cure for infertility and other ailments. Further away from the female springs are the male springs. These are visited strictly by men who sacrifice goats to the spirits hoping for a blessing and good fortune in life and success in whatever they set out to do.

Up north in Panyimur in Nebbi District are the Amoropii hotsprings. In Alur this means hot water; amoro-hot, pii-water. Here too it is believed that along with other ailments women who are unable to have children bathe in the springs and are cured of their barrenness. Women looking for softer and lighter skin complexions are said to flock Amoropii too.

So… do people actually get healed? Well… apart from the springs in places like Semliki boiling eggs, cassava and matoke there is some scientific explanation.

Cracks form in the earth’s crust and extend to the centre of the earth where it’s hot. They are then forced back up under pressure to bubble. As a result several minerals and chemicals like sodium chloride, potassium chloride, lithium sulphate, calcium sulphate, calcium phosphate and magnesium chloride which contain medicinal or healing properties are found in these hotsprings.

So our people of old actually did have a few ailments cured and it probably is still happening otherwise we wouldn’t have multitudes thronging Nyansimbe, Mumbuga, Kagoro, Buranga, Kibiro, Rwagimba or even Ihimba hotsprings across the country.

I hope after this you plan on visiting more than just one hotsprings to either boil an egg or experience a natural spray outdoors sauna. Who knows you could even choose to soak therein.