The Lessons of Sulphur Water

The Spring House at The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for a reason.  Sulphur water is what attracted people to the area in the first place.  The Greenbrier’s iconic logo is the Spring House, a Greek revival structure that marks the head of the sulphur spring, and one of the rooms at the Greenbrier features fountains where guests used to be served glasses of sulphur water to drink.  Imagine, voluntarily drinking a glass of sulphur water!

The sulphur water tap room at The Greenbrier

For a long time, Americans thought that sulphur water had significant healing properties and helped cure rheumatism and stomach ailments and other afflictions.  People traveled for miles to “take the waters” at White Sulphur Springs, or sample the “Pluto Water” in French Lick, Indiana, or visit other resorts found at the heads of sulphur springs.  Eventually, of course, tests confirmed that there were no health benefits to consuming sulphur water — or for that matter, steeping in hot sulphur water versus other hot water — and sulphur water became a nuisance to be addressed rather than a boon to be celebrated.

I think of sulphur water when I see a new pop-up website ad touting a simple way to reduce belly fat, or increase energy, or enhance sexual potency.  Americans have always been targets for the snake-oil salesmen preaching about the latest miracle cure — because we don’t want to believe that the only way to a flat stomach is a good diet and plenty of exercise.  At least the sulphur water health phenomenon had the benefit of producing some fine resorts along the way.