The human body consists of over 60 percent water. It is not surprising then that water has so many healing applications. Water heals from both the inside out and the outside in.
The health and appearance of our skin depends on adequate internal water consumption. Water treatments applied externally can promote healing of a diseased organ or muscle tissue.
Water is abundant in our part of the world. We’re able to satisfy thirst quickly. It is difficult to imagine, therefore, that dehydration may be at the root of many of our modern ills.
Dr F Batmangehelidj, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, believes that most people are chronically dehydrated without being aware of the problem. By restoring adequate water intake in his patients, he has helped many overcome numerous conditions such as allergies, back pain, high blood pressure, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, ulcers and high cholesterol.
In the body, water is required for digestion and elimination of toxins and waste products. We depend on water to deliver nutrients to the cells and for the circulation of blood, lymph and interstitial fluids (fluids in the small spaces between tissues or body parts). We need water to regulate body temperature, as well as to maintain electrolyte and osmotic pressure balance. Without water, we cannot survive for more than a few days.
Optimal water intake per person per day is between six and 10 eight-ounce glasses, depending on body weight, activity level, diet and environmental conditions. The healthiest drinking water is mountain spring water, naturally-filtered and mineralized by rocks and gravel, energized by sunlight and oxygenated by clean air. Unfortunately, this type of water is available to very few of us. City tap water has usually been treated with chlorine and also delivers inorganic chemicals, toxic metals and other impurities. Bottled water, high-quality water purifiers or distillers are better choices. Check with the knowledgeable staff in your local health food store to determine which option is best for you.
Sebastian Kneipp, a 19th century Bavarian priest, used water compresses, wraps, baths and steam treatments to heal thousands of sickened patients.
Now recognized worldwide as one of the founders of naturopathy, Kneipp himself is the best example of the miraculous healing power of water. In his early 20s, weakened by working long hours in a damp weaving room to support his studies for the priesthood, Kneipp contracted tuberculosis. He grew so ill that his physicians gave up hope that he would ever recover.
An avid reader, even on his sickbed, Kneipp came across a compilation of Johann Sigmund Hahn’s Lectures on the Wonderful Healing Powers of Fresh Water. Since he lacked the funds to pay for further medical help, Kneipp began to treat himself with the cold-water treatments outlined in the book. With determination and persistence he succeeded, achieving a complete recovery several months later.
Although diet and herbs were part of Kneipp’s overall health regimen, his main focus consisted of applying cold water by various means to the patient’s body. One of his favorite recommendations was walking barefoot in the dewy morning grass or freshly fallen snow. He believed that this would stimulate circulation and strengthen resistance to illness.
In one of his writings, Kneipp explains, “Those who go barefoot never suffer from cold feet, which is the result of poorness of blood and too little of it…I recommend going barefoot not only as a relief, but as protection against many diseases peculiar to those who lead a sedentary life in which the brain has too much to do and the body little.”
Although this was written in 1897, hardly anyone can argue that the majority of today’s population falls into this category.
Another version of Kneipp’s barefoot walk is treading in cold water. Cold-water wading basins are found along numerous hiking trails in the mountainous regions of southern Bavaria, where one can observe hikers remove their shoes and socks, take an invigorating water walk and then continue on their way feeling refreshed and energized. Others may want to take an “elbow bath” by immersing their arms up to the elbows in a cold-water basin.
Kneipp Therapy At Home
Although nothing can totally simulate the energizing effect of fresh mountain spring water, it is easy to try some water treatments at home. If you have access to dewy fields or meadows, take off your shoes and go for a walk or run. An inflatable kiddie pool in the backyard is great for cold-water wading. Or try it in the bathtub, but be careful not to slip!
Sebastian Kneipp also used a watering can or hose to apply a gush of cold water to a specific part of the body, for instance the thigh or knee. This increases circulation and promotes healing. Also effective are wraps in which a cloth is saturated with cold water and then wrapped around the torso, leg or arm.
Alternating daily hot and cold showers, or finishing a warm shower or bath by rinsing off the body with cold water, increases circulation.
Conditions which have successfully responded to Kneipp therapy include anemia, arthritis, cardiovascular problems, digestive disturbances, migraine headaches, skin problems and rheumatism.