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Introduction to Hydrotherapy

by Ronald Steriti, ND, PhD

The Origins of Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy literally means the therapeutic use of water. It has a very long history, dating back to the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks. In Sparta a law was passed requiring every citizen to take frequent cold baths.

Hydrotherapy in the United States

Hydrotherapy was very popular in the United States in the 1800's. Robert Wesselhoeft incorporates the Brattelboro Infirmary in 1845 in Vermont and treats such people as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In 1842 Sebastian Kniepp is rejected for priesthood due to tuberculosis. He cures himself with hydrotherapy techniques he finds in the Vatican archives, is admitted, and begins treating sick parishioners. In 1892 Benedict Lust, after being cured by Father Kniepp, commissions Kniepp to introduce his water cure method into the United States. Benedict Lust is considered to be the founder of Naturopathy. In 1851 Mary Gove and Thomas Low Nichols found the American Hydropathic Institute in New York. In 1858 Russell Thatcher Trall sets up the Hygeo-Therapeutic College in New York after writing the Hydropathic Encycolopedia in 1852. In 1901 John Harvey Kellog publishes Rational Hydrotherapy and established the Battle Creek Sanatorium in Michigan.

Wet Socks at Night

Perhaps the simplest, yet mst effective hydrotherapy techinique naturopaths use involves wearing wet socks while sleeping. The directions are simple: Soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring out well and put on warm feet. Put wool socks over that, being sure the dry wool socks cover all of the wet cotton socks. Leave on overnight (while sleeping) or remove when dry. Your body will quickly warm the socks, and will continue to keep warming them throughout the night. This is done by sending blood to the feet which results in an overall increase in circulation in the entire body.




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