Sebastian Kneipp was by no means the inventor or the first one to use ‘water’ for healing. The Persians used water therapy 5000 years ago, the Romans did several hundred years ago followed by a decline caused by an outbreak of venereal diseases. (Too many unwashed bodies sitting in the same pool) Two medical doctors, Father Siegmund and son Johann Siegmund Hahn are credited with bringing the idea of using water to improve health back to life in the very early 18th century. The little book “The Effect of Water unto and into the Human Body” (loosely translated) was the next BIG step in the developing water therapy. Before S. Kneipp discovered this book and used its recommendations, got well and is now known as “The Water Doctor” several other personalities using their own form of water therapy need to be mentioned.
A farmer’s son, Vincent Priessnitz in Austria with similar experiences as the later living Kneipp. Johann Schroth, who developed the “Schroth Kur” involving some water therapy, extreme fasting with very light vegetarian food, walking and interesting ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ drinking days. The ‘wet’ days starting with a glass of light wine. This “Kur” is still offered in Oberstaufen, Bavaria and people from far and wide attend. Another, a very sick man coming from USA was Benedict Lust who spent time with Father Kneipp as well as attending the Oberstaufen Kur, got well and started the “natural healing movement” in America. He studied medicine and became one of the founders of modern Naturopathy on his continent. There were a number of others, especially in the UK, who contributed to the development.
Father Kneipp started out with just cold water. He insisted to get warmed up before any treatment through wood splitting or fast walking and having a bed rest covered in blankets after the treatment to induce the body to heat up and sweat out the disease causing impurities. The rule is “no cold treatment on a cold body.” To go back to bed for up to an hour after any prescribed water treatment is still followed to this day. The reason is to get the body to respond, create warmth and thereby also affect the immune system. During the last twenty years of his life (he died 1897) Father Kneipp gradually changed his approach. As he saw not just tough hard working men but more and more aristocrats, weaklings in his estimation who had to be ‘built up’ he came from cold water to alternate and from full body immersion or ablutions to partial body treatments and warned ‘no two treatments on different body parts one after the other.’ So if the legs were treated in the morning you did not get a treatment for the arms or the upper body until the afternoon. There should be at least three hours between applications. For physiologic reasons the medical profession confirmed the wisdom of it, once they got involved.
“I bequest my system to the medical profession with the challenge to keep it, improve it but mostly, make it accessible to all.” That was written in his testament. Over the years following his death there were disagreements between the Brotherhoods who had received his sanatoria and different doctors. After WWI wounded and recovering soldiers were sent to Wörishofen for rehabilitation. During the time of the Great Depression until after WWII there was a decline but the flood of wounded soldiers during and after WWII caused a resurgence of the “Water Cure”. A few years after the West German Republic was founded and life had stabilized, the German Insurance companies paid for a “Kneipp-Kur” for their members when prescribed by a medical doctor. It proved less expensive than other methods of rehabilitation. In the nineteen-eighties the Insurance companies even started to build their own sanatoria. The Austrian Government approved a study with 15.000 people led by trained Kneipp-Doctors which proved without a doubt that the group treated with conventional PLUS Kneipp treatments recovered much faster than the group treated the old way and reduced the health care cost by three times.
An International Kneipp Organisation and a Kneipp Doctors Association were founded before Kneipp died and they encompass now thousands of people worldwide. You’ll find Kneipp groups in almost every German town and in most of Austria, Switzerland and other European countries as well as Africa. More than anywhere else Kneipp Spa sanatoria are all over Germany, often the treatments combined with climatic or terrain cures. The full “Kur” consisting of three or four weeks, requires one to be under medical supervision, and now rests on five pillars:
- Water: Treatments consisting of all forms of water: Cold, warm, alternate, steam; full body treatments or partial treatments with water from washings, immersions, ablutions, packs, body wraps partial or full treatments according to the health issues diagnosed and prescribed by a certified Kneipp doctor. They are administered by a certified Kneipp Therapist.
- Herbs: The use of the healing power of herbs inside and out. Herbal infusions or extractions in all bath treatments.
- Food: Simple, healthy, wholesome nutritional food, diet if doctor recommended. Herbal teas although Kneipp also allows a wheat beer on occasion. At this point I would like to mention that Kneipp was the first to collect and catalogue herbs and healing plants which became the base for what we now know as “Naturopathy” and “Homeopathy.” Another man very much involved in this development was Kneipp’s former patient, Benedict Lust from America who is the “Father of Naturopathy” in USA.
- Exercise: Active and passive exercise. All forms of exercise from yoga to walking, biking and everything in between. Passive exercise consists of all forms of massage used to increase circulation.
- Emotional and spiritual balance: Kneipp said: “In all my years of treating people I have never found any healing taking place until emotional and spiritual balance was restored.”
“DO NOT FORGET YOUR SOUL”
The easiest water treatments are the ‘water stepping’ and the cold ‘arm bath’. All Kneipp Spa cities and most Kneipp Groups in villages and towns have established water stepping sites along their hiking and walking trails in forests, meadows, and many resting places in parks. After a good hike the water stepping is very refreshing and surely will avoid swollen and tired legs. The water usually comes from a stream and is quite cold. You walk through the basin two or three times like a stork, lifting the leg out of the water for an exchange of air-water, air-water until the cold “bites”. Now it’s time to get out and walk on the adjacent lawn until your feet are dry and starting to get warm; sit down on a bench and put socks and shoes back on. Just use your fingers to rub the place between the toes dry to avoid the moist warm spots that fungus likes.
Usually next to the stepping basin is also an arm bath trough. A sign tells you NEVER do both, the stepping and the arm bath. Many people prefer the stepping for the incredible feeling of wellbeing. The arm bath feels refreshing as well, it especially clears your head, lifts your mood, and in general is good for your heart, lungs, brain. Take a deep breath before you dip your right arm in first, followed by the left and e-x-h-a-l-e deeply. Now breathe normally. Count to about twenty or thirty or wait until the cold ‘bites’. Lift the arms out, stroke the water off with your hands and swing the arms until dry while walking around on the nice lawn next to the stepping basin. Make sure the hands and arms get warm again. It feels good to wear a long sleeved shirt or something of that nature after the bath.
In both cases, water stepping or arm bath, – do not use a towel to dry the skin! Stroking the water drops off and letting the air dry you, is the water doctor’s prescription! By the way, you can do water stepping in your bath tub and a cold arm bath in your sink at home.
For detailed advice on how to use water for healing at home, order my inexpensive booklet with photos from: https://giselleroeder.com/bookstore/ or send me a message on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/WeDontTalkAboutThat since I still have a few copies for the special price of $7.00 plus (approximately) $4.00 postage.
Fascinating, Giselle! Thanks for the information.
You know, J.P. – if people knew MORE about “water therapy = Hydrotherapy” (and use it since everybody has the luxury of cold and hot water in the house) they could prevent and avoid a lot of pain before ‘things’ get out of control. I have found people are basically ‘lazy’ when it comes to doing something for their health and it’s so much easier and less time consuming to just swallow a pill. Everyone tries to suppress the symptoms but they never reach or even eliminate the “cause” of the trouble.
How much money do the pharmaceutical companies have to charge before we run out of money, wake up and look for alternatives? By no means “throw out the baby with the bath water”, – we do need conventional medicine but it is rewarding to use ‘complementary treatment’ as well.
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