Kneipp Cure (Kneipp Wellness) Hydrotherapy
“To prevent is better than to cure”
Being a naturopath and priest, Sebastian Kneipp (1821 – 1897) created a philosophy of life in which he viewed man as an inalienable part of the living nature, who needs to carry out various procedures in the natural environment. Sebastian Kneipp therapy is still considered innovative and is widely used in preventive and natural medicine.
“Nature generously provided us with everything that is needed to preserve health” – Sebastian Kneipp.
Throughout his life, Kneipp studied and expanded his knowledge about the medicinal properties of water, medicinal plants, and then used his discoveries, now known as Kneipp therapy, to treat people.
Over the years the priest created his own concept where human life and the surrounding nature merge into an inseparable and balanced mechanism. Kneipp believed that everything should be harmoniously combined: water, nature, herbs, exercises, and diets. Kneipp therapy remains relevant to this day.
Disease and healing of Sebastian Kneipp
At the age of 28, Kneipp healed himself of a serious disease – tuberculosis. When he was ill, he came across a book about hydrotherapy that inspired him to practice the treatment methods described. Several times a week he plunged into the icy water of the Danube River. This practice resulted in Kneipp’s recovery and discovery of Kneipp hydrotherapy. After that, Kneipp devoted the rest of his life to the study of the healing power of hot and cold hydrotherapy and certain plant medicines.
From 1855 to 1880 the priest conducted numerous tests and observations to expand his knowledge. He practiced his water healing therapy on his own and tried it on his patients. Later he created a successful preventive and curative concept based on water healing properties and Kneipp herbal bath infusions. The variety of procedures comprises up to 200 techniques including contrast baths, cold rinses, hot and cold hydrotherapy.
Today, there are specialized centers, institutions, and spas that practice Kneipp hydrotherapy and his methods of dieting and exercising. Hydrotherapy pool procedures, Kneipp herbal baths, and spas are usually supervised by doctors and other medical professionals.
Kneipp was not a doctor but a priest, yet this didn’t stop him from becoming an innovator in the development of naturopathy and hydrotherapy. His own illness was the impetus for his practice of hydrotherapy. Despite many accusations of quackery and complaints, he achieved remarkable success in the healing treatment currently known as Kneipp therapy. Sebastian Kneipp published books and cooperated with doctors. In 1893 many spa resorts started to use the Kneipp treatment method and welcomed many spa guests.
Kneipp therapy is based on five conditions: water, exercise, diet, medicinal herbs, and a balanced lifestyle.
The name Kneipp is associated with treatment by way of water dousing. This includes a wide range of baths, showers, water walking, using hot and cold hydrotherapy, and steam techniques. A typical form of Kneipp hydrotherapy is a contrast bath with hot and cold water. This treatment affects blood circulation and regulates the body’s heat balance.
Dousing knees with a jet of cold water is recommended for treating insomnia, high blood pressure, and varicose veins. Pouring water over the hips to the feet is used for problems with blood circulation, cellulite, and hemorrhoids. Dousing hands and shoulders is used to treat fatigue, overexertion, and headaches.
Walking on water and grass barefoot strengthens the immune system. There is even the term known as Kneipp walking that describes walking knee-deep for 30 minutes in cold water. For this purpose, Kneipp built special path-like basins known as a Kneipp cure trail. You can find them in specialized health facilities and spa centers.
To maintain health, Kneipp recommended using medicinal herbs in various forms. For example, you can drink herbal tea for colds or for digestive problems or drink tea that increases blood circulation, strengthens the heart, etc. Kneipp claimed that herbal infusions added into the bath affect the overall health. On April 17, 2015, the New York Times (nytimes.com) published a letter of recommendation about Kneipp herbal bath oil. In the article, author Molly Young shared her own experience of having prejudices about herbal bath oil and how, once she did a Kneipp bath, her perspective completely shifted. Medicinal herb infusions and bath oils can have a calming or toning effect depending on the composition.
Exercises and physical activity
Physical activity plays an important role for human health, which is why Sebastian Kneipp urged everyone to exercise to help prevent disease. Lack of physical activity weakens the cardiovascular system and contributes to the development of diseases of bones, joints, nervous system, and even psyche. A sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect hormone production and the functioning of internal organs.
Daily exercises in the open air improve the health of the cardiovascular system, gives the body an increase in oxygen, increases strength, endurance, boosts mood, and improves natural detoxification. Kneipp believed that “Inactivity weakens the body, exercises strengthen the body, while overloads harm the body.” So, according to Kneipp, exercises, as well as any physical activity, are an important part of a balanced lifestyle.
Kneipp paid specific attention to healthy foods. According to the Kneipp wellness concept, foods should be simple and natural, as well as balanced. The menu should be diverse and mainly consist of plant products. Foods should not be cooked for long. A bad diet is eating too much fat, salt, sugar, and meat.
The methods of Sebastian Kneipp stood the test of time and are relevant to this day. Kneipp’s own healing and way of life were the best demonstration of the usefulness of hydrotherapy, activity, and balanced diet as an effective treatment of many diseases. Following the words of Kneipp, it is still better to prevent the disease than to cure it. So take care and stay healthy!