Principles and Practice of Naturopathy (1925): Chapter 10

E.W. Cordingley, A.M., Ph.D.
September 15, 2004

Hydrotherapy, Hydropathy, Hydriatic Treatment, or the Water Cure, as it is variously called, has been successfully used in nearly all diseases to which human flesh is heir. The treat popularity of Turkish Baths, and Mineral Springs, for rheumatism is well known, an.) the fact that a host of other disorders can he overcome by water applications should be self-evident to any Naturopath, because the chief effect of them is an eliminative one, and, since the Naturopath appreciates the fact that disease, in its final analysis, is retention of morbid wastes, he can readily see that any means that will cause an elimination of such accumulations will effect a cure. The action on the body of many Mineral Springs is not understood by the laity, Many suppose that some peculiar mineral quality of the water really effects the cure, whereas ad a mater of fact, such is seldom, if ever, the case. Such water comes out of the ground very warm, and the patient is instructed to bathe in it almost continually during the day, and to drink quantities of it. Constant bathing keeps the pores of the skin open, and causes the effete matter to be expelled, and copious water drinking’ speeds up the elimination through the kidneys and bowels, and in this way the patient’s system is ridded of the cause of disease. The mineral content of most Mineral Springs can be closely duplicated by adding about a teacupful of Epsom salts and Glauber salts (3 parts to 2 parts, to twelve gallons of water (the usual amount of water used in a bath-tub). Then if the patient will bathe in this as many hours a day as he would at a Mineral Springs, and drink as much of it as he would there, he can expect equally as good results. Or, better yet, if he will take just pure hot water to bathe in and drink. The water really does the work anyway, and the mineral content has little value in such a small proportion as it is found in most of these watering-places.

There is one bath that I am particularly fond of in rheumatism, neuritis, lumbago; sciatica and similar disorders, and that is as follows: To 12 gallons of hot water (so hot that one can just comfortably get into it (add three pounds of Epsom salts. Then lie in it for 30 to 40 minutes at each treatment, and take from two to six such baths a week, according to the strength of the patient and the severity of his com-plaint. The Epsom salts counteracts and dissolves the uric acid in the blood and causes it to be eliminated through the pores.

Kneipp, Kuhne, Just, Ehret, Bilz, Lust, Preisnitz, and Lahman are the principal developers of Hydrotherapy as this system is now used, but water applications for the cure of disease are nearly as old as the human race. Ancient Rome was noted for its wonderfully appointed public baths. Baths with them were a national institution. There are many ruins of Rome’s celebrated baths still to be seen. Their armies erected baths as soon as they encamped for the night. Among many other ancient nations baths were found in every city, and the people were frequent bathers, As a result disease was kept at a minimum. In Siberia today steam baths similar to our Turkish baths, are found in nearly every town, and they give evidence of being a custom that has come down for several centuries. As Dr. Cummins has so well remarked, people are warding off disease every day by the simple process of taking a bath, and the ‘fortunate person seldom realizes how near taking a disease he was. Every now and then some obscure doctor with little knowledge and ability, and less common sense, will get his name in the newspapers in connection with a claim of his that bathing is a dangerous practice, on account of the “germs” that lurk around the sides of a bathtub. When you read such a statement just feel sorry for the man who is responsible for it and go ahead and take plenty of baths. The regrettable thing about such statements is that some people will be influenced by them, and thereby take some sickness that they would have avoided if they had continued to take frequent baths.

The Rev. Sebastian Kneipp of Bavaria is the well-known advocate of the cold water cure, and his armamentarium [sic] includes packs, sprays and douches principally.

Louis Kuhne of Leipzig was impressed with the fact that diseases are all caused by morbid accumulations in the system, and on that theory he built up his system, which is substantially as follows:

Two steam baths weekly (15 to 30 minutes’ duration), taken in a steam bath cabinet much like our present-day vapor cabinets.
Then from one to three hip baths daily, except that in gynecological cases Sitz-baths are taken instead of hip baths. Temperature of water should be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Hip-baths” differ from “Sitz baths” in that the former are given with the patient sitting in water up to his iliac spines, whereas in the latter the patient sits on a stool, the seat of which is on a level with the surface of the water; the water then being lifted up and rubbed vigorously about her hips with a coarse linen cloth. Vigorous friction is used in either case, using the linen cloth. This bath is continued from 5 to 20 minutes. After the bath, the patient is warmed by exercise, or, if too weak, by being put to bed.

Louis Kuhne used this method for every disease, and people came to his sanitarium from many parts of the world. To the Naturopath who has the true pathology of disease well in mind it is very evident why this method should be applicable to all classes of diseases, and I personally regard Kuhne’s system as among the most valuable of hydrotherapeutic methods.


When all other means fail to overcome fever you will find the following hydrotherapeutic methods almost infallible. Usually one application will suffice, but if it does not, it can be repeated at the end of several hours:

Give full bath at 99 degrees Fahrenheit, gradually decreasing the temperature while the patient is in the bath. Then tepid sponge baths can be given after the patient has been put back to bed.

Or, where no heart complications exist (organic disturbances):

  1. Place two or three woolen blankets on the bed.
  2. Wring a sheet from cold water and place on blankets.
  3. Have patient lie on sheet.
  4. Wrap the sheet quickly around the patient, with the legs separated from each other and the arms separated from the body, but completely enclosed in the sheet.
  5. The woolen blankets are then wrapped closely around the patient.
  6. Patient remains until sweat ceases or until he feels clammy, then the sheet is removed and he is given a brisk rub-down.

CAUTION: If the patient begins to turn blue, due to blood stagnation, remove the pack and rub the extremities vigorously toward the heart.

Daily tepid sponge baths should be given all fever patients.


Dr. Christos Parasco is the discoverer of the Blood-Washing Method, but Dr. Benedict Lust is the principal developer of this system.

It is of particular value in overcoming the signs of advancing years, and for this reason it has been designated as the “Fountain of Youth.” For effecting a speedy reduction of weight it perhaps has no equal, while its effect in hardening the constitution and rejuvenating the body has had many practical demonstrations.

It consists in having the patient lie under a continuous shower of water at a temperature of 106 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The patient lies under the shower for a continuous period of from two to eight hours, the water being in turn directed upon the abdomen, lower part of back, and other regions of the body, for periods of ten minutes to one hour on each part of the body.


One of the quickest, and surest, ways to produce elimination of toxins from the system is by means of the modern hot air, steam and vapor bath cabinets,

These cabinets possess a great advantage over “hot rooms” and “steam rooms”, such as are used in many bath establishments, in that the patient’s head is ‘allowed to remain in the cooler air of the room.

This is more comfortable to the patient, and it often makes it possible for a weak person to remain in the bath for a longer time than would be possible in a heated room. Another advantage of the cabinet is that it accommodates one patient at a time only, so that the heat can be brought on gradually and regulated to the comfort of each individual. This is an important advantage, inasmuch as acute disorders and neurasthenic conditions are best benefitted [sic] by a tonic application consisting of from ten to fifteen minutes exposure to about 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit of heat, whereas chronic disordrs [sic] respond best to an exposure of 30 to 45 minutes at a temperature of 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

These, bath cabinets are made in two general types: reclining And upright. The reclining cabinet enables the patient to lie down and fully relax, which relaxation facilitates elimination and the takes the “load” off the heart, but the upright cabinet has the advantage that it occupies less floor space and ordinarily docs not frighten nervous patients as much as the reclining- cabinet. The choice of a cabinet rests largely with individual idiosyncrasies. It would be well for an institution to have both types. The author is partial to the reclining cabinet, if a choice had to be made, but a practitioner contemplating purchasing a cabinet should take into consideration his class of patients, amount of floor space, and possibly many other factors.

The principal noticeable effect of hot air, steam or vapor bath is copious perspiration, and the question may arise as to whether such a bath would be of much value to a patient in the summer-time who is engaged in vigorous physical exercise which causes him to perspire profusely. The answer is emphatically, yes! Perspiration caused by exercise will not eliminate many of the disease toxins which a bath cabinet will draw out, for the reason that in physical exertion the circulation is accelerated, the blood moving the uric acid and other crystals rapidly along the blood vessels, while the more liquid portions of the blood are thrown out of the pores as sweat. In the bath cabinet the case is other-wise. The patient is relaxed and the circulation is slowed. The heat is enabled to penetrate deeply into the tissues, dissolving and extracting the morbid accumulations of toxic acids and alkaloids. Satisfactory proof of this assertion is offered in the fact that many men who had insisted that they did not need cabinet baths because they perspired freely and bathed often, were agreeably surprised to see the cabinet bath extract consideraable [sic] effete matter from their pores. A microscopic examination of the perspiration brought out in this way will likewise reveal the prescribe of a large amount of uric acid and other crystals.

Many bath cabinets are arranged so as to give either hot air, vapor or steam baths. The dry heat is infinitely the best for neuritis, neuralgia, muscle spasms and similar troubles, while the moist heat is considered [sic] better for rheumatism and uric acid diatheses in general. Dry heat can be tolerated at a higher temperature than moist heat, and many cabinets deliver the dry heat modality by means of electric lights. These electric light baths fire indicated in practically every diseases to which humanity is subject, because they combine radiant heat with its energizing deep penetration with facile elimination.

Steam baths are produced by placing a pan of water over the heater in the cabinet, which boils and thereby throws off steam, and vapor baths are had by putting oil of pine needles, eucalyptus oil, sulphurated potassium, epsom salts, or other oils or drugs in small amounts in the pan. Inasmuch as elimination is the end sought, we cannot see that these drugs increase the value of the bath, although it is sometimes advisable to add a few drops of essential oils ‘(such as wintergreen, pennyroyal, eucalyptus or oil of pine) to act as a deodorant and to keep the cabinet smelling clean and fresh.’

The question may arise in the mind of the reader as to what these baths are good for. The answer is that they are good for practically
every disorder and for every patient. It would be a splendid thing if everybody, whether sick or not, could be induced to take such a bath at frequent intervals. As fresh air, sunshine, pure food, and clear water are good for everybody, sick or well, so elimination is of value to every human being. Elimination will waard [sic] off disease in the well and throw off the toxins of disease in the sick. The universal adoption of these baths by mankind would do far more toward conquering diseases, .n our estimation, than can be accomplished ‘by any and all other means.

The length of time for a cabinet bath varies with the condition of the patient, but the time can be roughly stated at from ten to forty-five minutes and sometimes even longer. Plenty of water should be drunk before entering the cabinet and while in it.

After the. hath the cabinet should be allowed to cool down for a few minutes before the patient leaves it, so as to prevent such a shock as would ‘be likely to occur if he immediately left the high temperature of the cabinet and entered that of the room. Then he should be given a sponge or shower bath to remove the perspiration yet clinging to his body. and it would also be advisable to then give him a thorough manipulative treatment, such, for instance, as the General Naturopathic Tonic Treatment described in Chapter Three.


A splendid tonic treatment to increase the vital resistance of a patient consists in applying hot and cold fomentations to the spine. A heavy flannel cloth is wrung out of very hot water and placed along the dorsal and lumbar spine. The flannel cloth should be folded six or eight times and should be only about four inches wide when folded and about eighteen inches long. It is then quickly withdrawn and a cloth of the same size wrung out of cold water is placed along the spine, which ‘is also quickly withdrawn. The hot cloth can be held on for about five seconds, and the cold one for about ten seconds; Two alternate hot and cold applications are thus made.

At the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium this is a favorite application, it being followed by a “salt glow”, in which the body is slightly moistened and vigorous massage with handfulls of common salt (sodium sulphate) is applied to the entire body with the exception of the face, neck and head. Then the “percussion douche” is given, consisting of playing a’ steady stream of water at 110 degrees Fahrenheit up and down the patient’s back. The treatment is concluded with a light general massage.

In giving the above treatment many practitioners have substituted a therapeutic lamp of the type known as a “Baker”, for the hot flannel cloth. This lamp has a hood which is about two by three feet in size, equipped with four to six nitrogen-filled carbon lamps. In using this lamp, the heat application should be of longer duration, as it is of slower penetration, and it, can be turned off long enough to allow the cold application to be quickly made. Such a lamp saves trouble, as it is always ready for use, an important consideration in localities where hot water is not always available.

Another excellent treatment which is given to fully 99 per cent of the patients at another Naturopathic (Nature Cure) sanitarium is as follows:

First: the patient is given an enema.
Second: he (or she) is put in a vapor bath cabinet.
Third: the salt gIow is given.
Fourth: general massage is applied.

The world is badly in need of more “water cure” institutions, and it would he advisable for every true Naturopath to direct his efforts toward equipping his office to give such treatments. There is no agency that has the universal applicability that water has, and none that can reach and cure so many ailments. People journey from all parts of the world to the famous Nature Cure sanitariums, where thousands are restored to health after consulting leading and expensive specialists in v\in. and the main part of the armamentarium of these sanitariums is the “water cure.”


The effects of the various temperatures of water can be briefly stated as follows:

108 to 120 degrees F. is the tonic range.
100 to 1 05 derees F. is the relaxant range.
94 to 98 degrees F. is the sedative range.
65 to 90 degrees F. is the depressant range.
32 degrees F. or below is the anasthetic [sic] range.

To increase body temperature (by prolonged hot or short cold applications) increases metabolism.

To decrease body temperature (by short hot or prolonged cold applications) causes dissipation of heat from the body and decreases metabolism.

Short cold applications cause a rise in body temperature.
Short hot applications cause a fall in body temperature.
Prolonged cold applications cause a fall in body temperature.
Prolonged hot applications cause a rise in body temperature, and an increased oxidation of the blood.

According to Dr. Gummins the skin will tolerate a temperature of dry air at 250 to 300 degrees F., vapor up to 140 degrees F., and water from 115 to 120 degrees F.

Neutral baths (at about blood heat, 97 to 99 degrees F, in which the patient is submerged in a bath tub of water, cause no change in metabolism, but they soothe the nerves.

Where the patient’s trouble is accompanied with an active congestion (indicated by redness in inflamed areas), a sedative application at 94 to 98 degrees F. is indicated, while if a passive congestion is present (indicated by blueness) a tonic application of 108 to 120 degrees F. is called for.

These various applications can be made in the form of either a full bath or a sitz bath, and some of them can also be made in the bath cabinet.

(A Universal Remedy)

One of the best universal applications, having a wide range of usefulness, is thee abdominal pack. A piece of linen or cotton sheeting (or preferaably [sic] a piece of raw silk to prevent the “cold shock” when it is applied) about twelve inches wide by four or five feet long is wrung out of cold water and quickly wrapped around the abdomen. A piece of woolen cloth three or four inches wider is then wrapped closely around the damp cloth, care being taken that the damp cloth is entirely sealed in from the air (so that none of it can be seen), and the woolen cloth is then held in place with safety pins.

This pack, if rightly applied, quickly gets warm and acts as a heating compress, drawing an increased amount of blood to the abdomen and assisting in removing morbid matter from it. The abdominal pack is left on for from one hour to all night, and upon removing it the abdomen should be thoroughly washed off and the patient exercises or put back to bed to be warmed up. It is always advisable to remove the pack about a half hour before the patient gets out of bed, so as w give time for his abdomen to dry and warm up welt.

This application can be made in practically every disorder, as it is an eliminative one, and elimination is the coup de grace of the healing art. In the acute infections fevers it will be found particularly valuable.

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This page was posted on September 15, 2004.