Father Sebastian Kneipp,
Pioneer of Modern Hydrotherapy
The History of Hydrotherapy
The modern system of Naturopathic Hydrotherapy has its roots primarily in the European Alps. Vincent
Priessnitz (1799-1852), an unschooled farm boy who learned how to treat animals with cold water,
later healed himself from broken ribs and eventually treated patients for a wide range of conditions.
Despite his lack of formal medical training he was formally acknowledged by the Austrian government.
Father Sebastian Kneipp, a German priest (1821-1897), cured himself of tuber-culosis and went on to be
considered the Father of Modern Hydrotherapy. A great many of the early Naturopathic physicians trained
Hydrotherapy was hugely popular during the 1800's, both in Europe and the United States, and Spas and
Sanatoriums flourished. Eventually, with the onset of modern medicine and a greater reliance on drug
therapy, the use of hydrotherapy to stimulate our own internal healing mechanisms has waned. Here in the
21st century, it is the practitioners of Naturopathic and Ayurvedic medicine that are keeping this valuable
treatment method alive.
After the use of Herbal Medicines, the use of water to stimulate healing may be the next-oldest
form of medical treatment. We know that hydrotherapy is among the treatements used in ancient Egypt and
India, and is mentioned in the oldest writings known to still exist, the Vedas.
Therapeutic Effects of Water
Hydrotherapy usually consists of using hot or cold water, and sometimes
alternating between the two. Water can be applied to the body in packs, in sprays, or through
soaking in tubs or lakes. The water may simply be pure water, or in some instances natural
mineral springs were used which were observed to have healing effects. Even in modern times,
there are more research citations in Pub Med, a large government medical database, on the use of water than
there are for the use of aspirin.
Hot water is known to expand tissues and increase circulation. Cold water contracts tissues and decreases
circulation. When these two are alternated, a pumping effect on tissues is achieved, which accelerates
the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients into, and accelerates the removal of wastes and
toxins from the affected area. When these alterations are carefully choreographed, the body's parasympathetic
nervous system, responsible for healing, can be stimulated.
When using mineral baths, minerals are absorbed through the skin into the blood, having direct physiological
effects. Minerals and bath salts can be used in home tubs if you are not able to travel to natural
mineral hot springs. Another type of home baths is peat moss baths. Peat is rich in a cocktail of
plant derived minerals, and soaking in peat baths is much like soaking in a peat moss tea. Peat baths
are also excellent for detoxification
Specific Physiological Effects of Hydrotherapy
Enhanced Circulation of Blood & Lymph
Increased Oxygen to Tissues
Better Digestion of Food
Increased Nutrients to Cells
General Boost to the Immune System
Balances the Nervous System:
- Calms the Sympathetic
- Nourishes the Parasympathetic
Assist the Body's Detoxification Efforts
is a traditional Naturopathic treatment developed in the early 20th Century by Dr. O.G. Carroll, and later
passed on to Dr. Harold Dick. It consists of alternating hot and cold applications to the chest, abdomen
and back, in conjunction with sine wave electrotherapy to the liver and adrenal glands.
The primary treatment goal is to enhance the function of your body's parasympathetic nervous system, that
portion of your autonomic functions which regulate digestion and absorption of nutrients, immune function,
and is the body's natural antidote to stress.
By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, the body's overall healing ability is enhanced. Stress
is a vital part of our makeup that protects us from danger. Too often, however, the "effects of modern
living" leave us in a stressful "fight or flight" mode for too long, which prevents the body from absorbing
nutrients, healing, or recovering from injuries. Constitutional Hydrotherapy is a way of jump-starting the
parasympathetic nervous system and defusing the effects of stress.
Conditions Treated by Hydrotherapy
Based on its therapeutic effects, Hydrotherapy can be used for a wide variety of illnesses
The following list of conditions are some for which the Constitutional Hydrotherapy treatments in
particular, have been effective for many patients.
Conditions Successfully Treated by Hydrotherapy