Kew Beach Naturopathic Clinic

Putting the "care" back in healthcare

Hydrotherapy, The Water Cure

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By Helena Ovens, ND

Hydrotherapy was introduced in England in 1697 by Dr. John Floyer. His book, entitled The History of Hot and Cold Bathing, was translated into German and the established principles of hydrotherapy were used to treat both acute and chronic diseases, especially smallpox by Dr. Vincent Priessnitz. Using hot and cold alternating treatments also worked well in cases of gout and rheumatism. The demand for his “water” cure became so great that the Austrian government built new roads to facilitate access to his office and in 1840 he treated 1600 patients from all over the world using primarily cold water and simple diets.

One of his most able students wrote the book The Water Cure Applied to Every Known Disease and later Errors of Physicians and Others in the Practice of Water Cure. The Water Cure continued to evolve over the years. The most influential water “curist” after Priessnitz was Father Sebastian Kneipp who applied for the priesthood but was denied because he had a case of tuberculosis which he subsequently cured by the use of water treatments and diet. He then was admitted to the priesthood and started treating his sick parishioners. His book My Water Cure detailed his protocols with water and herbs and he also advocated barefoot walking in dew and snow.

Father Kniepp was the first “Naturopath” in Europe. The information that he shared with others went to the United States and a number of Sanatoriums were established which focused on the water cure, good food, good sleep, good exercise, etc. A majority of people were cured at these facilities without drugs or surgery and the “water cure” became one of the most utilized forms of healing treatments.

From Austria and Germany, the water cure spread to England and France as well as the United States and Canada. John Harvey Kellogg established and ran the famous Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan. He wrote the book Rational Hydrotherapy in 1901 which is still regarded as the definitive textbook of hydrotherapy. Even though there were differences of opinion between the Naturopathic Doctors and the Medical Doctors, hydrotherapy was used by Drs. Bard and Hosack at the New York Hospital.

They successfully cured cholera, intemperance, and rheumatic fever (Robert Wesselhoeft). Priessnitz and his brother William immigrated to America and set up a water cure establishment in Vermont based on the practices of Priessnitz which was incorporated in 1845 as the Brattleboro Infirmary and became well known across North America. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe were successfully treated. Robert Weselhoeft knew Samuel Hahnemann and was well versed in the Water Cure.

The Water Cure Journal was started by Joel Shew who had been a daguerreotyper and became an invalid because of exposure to mercury, iodine and bromine at which point he made two trips to receive the Water Cure and regained his health. The Journal within a few years achieved a circulation in excess of 50,000 copies. Over the years, the water cure was used less and less. I have always been a supporter of hydro-therapy as it works, it is inexpensive, and it creates antibodies to a number of different diseases.

So this is my story. Every 5 years or so, I get about 4 or 5 problems when my immune system needs a “boost”. In 2010 I had sinusitis, ear infection, sore throat, and fatigue. Instead of giving myself any remedies, I ate simply, drank a lot of fluids, tea, etc. but did not eat protein. The “liquid” emphasis was so that I could create a fever and then break into a sweat. So what I did was go to bed early (around 7:00 p.m.) while wearing wool socks, a wool hat, and lots of blankets and sweaters. Fell asleep quickly and then after one or two days, woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. All of the problems had resolved and my body had created antibodies to these problems.

I remained in good health for 5 more years and this past year, I came down with an ear infection, sinus infection, throat infection (thought it was strep throat so gave myself a dose of Belladonna), chest infection, and the flu. Followed the same protocol as before. I did not eat anything heavy but increased fluids and went home early. Went to bed as soon as I got home and fell asleep with wool hat, socks, sweatshirts, lots of blankets and woke up in the middle of the night with a slight perspiration. Not good enough. Repeated this the next night and the same thing happened. Still not good enough. Did exactly the same on the third night and woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, and that was the end of it all. You can burn off infections when you raise your body temperature to 39 to 40 degrees Celsius or 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. In burning off the infection, either viral or bacterial, you create antibodies to these “minor” diseases and then you are good to go for a number of (in my case) years.


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