Main Types of Mineral and Medical Waters

Mineral and medical waters can be grouped according to their chemical characteristics; their medical advantages may also vary. Below you will find a short introduction to the groups and also a list of their most important characteristics and sources and we provide you with a guide to labelling as well.

Mineral and medical waters are most frequently grouped according to their mineral content in professional literature with special attention to their medical effects. But speaking of bottled waters, it is important to make a distinction between medical and mineral waters; a healthy person can drink the latter without limits while medical waters are recommended only under doctor supervision. Medical waters are also mineral waters but with a proven medical effect. The total mineral content of natural mineral waters found in Hungary is 400-2,500mg/l while that of medical waters is 25-30,000 mg/l and sometimes even more. Medical waters are considered to be a “medical factor” while natural waters are considered to be “food”.

Back in the day the bottled natural mineral waters used to be classified according to their mineral content; this type of classification in Hungary was introduced by Szilárd Papp. These definitions are hardly in use any more on labels, since nowadays the main reason for drinking mineral waters intended for consumption is not its high salt content. That is why we give an introduction to recent definitions used on labels of mineral waters in addition to groupings and definitions according to chemical characteristics.

Ordinary Carbonated (Sour) Waters

Their mineral salt content is usually low reaching a maximum of a few thousand mg/l.  Their important characteristics, though is that besides salt they also contain carbon-dioxide in a higher concentration than a thousand mg/l. The occurrence of this type of water is not too frequent they can be found in the regions of Balatonfüred and Csopak. Due to its carbonated nature, this type of water is felt to be warmer when used as bathwater so waters of lower temperature can also be utilised for the purpose of a sitting bath. Another favourable effect of carbonic acid gas is that it expands the poles of the skin thus helping the operation of the heart. “Bathing” in carbonic acid gas is called in rustic speech “dry bath” or “mofetta” (Balatonfüred, Kossuth Well).

Alkali-Hydrogen-Carbonate (Alkali) Waters

The salt content of these types of waters exceeds 1,000 mg/l. Most of the anions are hydrogen carbonate while most of the cations are sodium and potassium. The alkali water is bottled for the purpose of so-called drinking cures mostly to cure digestive tracts. At its natural temperature it can also be used for bathing (like the mineral waters of Balf and Fonyód).

Waters with Calcium, Magnesia, Hydrogen and Carbonate (Gritty and Calcareous)

Calcium and magnesium dominates these waters which have – in most of the cases – a high hydrogen-carbonate content sometimes exceeding the value of 1,000 mg/l. A part of these waters are characterised by free carbonated acid content used to cure circulation disorders. Others are classified as thermal waters due to their temperature and are most often used to cure rheumatic troubles. (Examples include the waters of Kékkút, Aqua Mathias and Ágnes Mohai.)

Chloride (Common Salty) Waters

Majority of the material content of a minimum of 1,000 mg dissolved in 1 l of water is sodium and chloride. Waters with chloride dissolve slowly in the stomach and thus affect rhinitis and gastric juice secretion. They are primarily used to cure gynaecological and rheumatic disorders.

Sulphate Waters (Bitter Salt Waters)

They are mostly used as drinking cures due to their sodium and magnesia-sulphate content. They are fit to treat the dysfunction of the digestive system and to cure gynaecological problems. They have a laxative effect thanks to their sulphate content. (Examples include Apenta, János Hunyadi and Mira.)

Waters with Iron

They are mostly used in drinking cures. Besides iron, they also contain sodium and sulphate ions. It has been used to cure anaemia for a long time now. Their chemical effect is sour and skin irritating. (Examples include water of Csopak.)

Sulphur Waters

Sulphur is most often present in these waters in the form of sulphide-sulphur. There are two distinctive groups. One of them is the simple sulphur water in which the minerals other than sulphur which are dissolved in the water do not exceed or reach a combined 1,000 mg/l. The characteristics of the other water is that it contains different other dissolved material which are reflected in it’s name (for instance water with calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonate, with chloride or sulphur). Drinking mineral sulphur waters improves digestions. This water has a mild laxative effect and it also plays a role in the detoxification function of the liver. Sulphur water is used to treat rheumatic and gynaecological problems and skin disorders.

Iodine and Bromine Waters

They are usually classified as chloride waters due to their table salt content. When the water contains 1 mg of iodine per litre it is classified as iodine water and as bromine water if there is 5 mg bromide/l in it.  As bathing water it can be used to cure motor function disorders as well as that of the lungs, the respiratory tracts and circulation. It is also used in drinking cures. The iodine water richest in iodine among the Hungarian medical waters is found in Sóshartyán and contains 93 mg/l. The medical water is bottled and distributed under the name Jódaqua and it offers an effective cure against goitre and arteriosclerosis.

Fluoride Waters

It has been only recently discovered by medical science that fluoride has a significant effect on teeth. In the light of this discovery it is not surprising that fluoride waters are used in drinking cures to treat pyorrhoea and to prevent dental decays. Also gum and oral irrigation treatments are offered in some health institutions to maximise its effect. 

Radioactive Waters

As surprising as it can be, the medical effect of this water is thanks to its irradiative energy. The source of its positive effect is that it provokes the cells to react in a way which otherwise they would not be able to. It is used in form of bathing cures to treat patients with motor function disorders, also to cure neuritis and as post-treatment for patients who have previously had an accident. One does not have to reckon with radiation injuries in the case of these medical waters. (An example is the water of Hévíz Lake.)

A Short Guide to Labelling

One can make a distinction between the bottled natural mineral waters according to the mineral content, composition and taste. The producers cannot write anything on the labels of mineral waters on their own, the minimum limits are regulated by strict laws all over the world. The regulations and thus the contents of labels can differ from country to country. When we read the following words on the labels in Hungary we can be sure that the given mineral water contains the following:

  • Low mineral content: the mineral content calculated on the basis of dry-matter content being less than 500 mg/l;
  • Very low mineral content: the mineral content calculated on the basis of dry-matter content being less than 50 mg/l;
  • Rich in mineral content: the mineral content calculated on the basis of dry-matter content being more than 1500 mg/l;
  • Contains hydrogen-carbonate: its hydrogen-carbonate content exceeds 600 mg/l;
  • Contains sulphate:  its sulphate content exceeds 200 mg/l;
  • Contains chloride: its chloride content exceeds 200 mg/l;
  • Contains calcium: its calcium content exceeds 150 mg/l;
  • Contains magnesium: its magnesium content exceeds 50 mg/l;
  • Contains fluoride: its fluoride content exceeds 1 mg/l;
  • Contains iron: its iron content exceeds 1 mg/l;
  • Acidic: its  free carbon dioxide content exceeds 250 mg/l;
  • Contains potassium: its potassium content exceeds 200 mg/l;
  • Can be used in diets low in sodium: its sodium content is less than 20 mg/l.