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Hydrotherapy: The Hidden Treasure of Healthcare

Transform your body by using this timeless treatment to restore your balance.

| January/February 2020

Photo by Getty Images/Cecilie_Arcurs

Water is our most ancient medicine. It’s a powerful healing ally for addressing disease and restoring health. Like our water-bejeweled planet, more than half of our bodies are composed of water. Living in a high desert region, I’m acutely aware of how even the smallest trickle of water can support a variety of life-forms. Without this vital element, our planet and our bodies can’t sustain life.

For millennia, water has been vital in treating disease and trauma. In the 19th and 20th centuries, physicians combined ancient therapies with modern scientific research. At his mountain sanitarium in Austria, Vincent Priessnitz championed the European rediscovery of water’s healing properties, while in the United States, John Harvey Kellogg was a major proponent of water cures. Kellogg kept meticulous records and conducted scientific research in his sanitarium; the data he gathered became the foundation for Rational Hydrotherapy (1901), still the definitive textbook on the subject today.

Hydrotherapy is the practice of externally applying hot and cold water to restore health. When most people hear “hydrotherapy,” they think of colonics or enemas. Both ancient and modern hydrotherapy practices, though, focus on the external use of water to catalyze a wide range of transformations in the body, including stimulating the immune system, modulating fever, reducing inflammation, and altering blood circulation in specific parts of the body.

Water has unique properties that make it an effective medicine: As ice melts, the liquid stores 80 calories of heat, and as water heats to steam, it stores another 540 calories. When steam cools, and condenses to liquid, it releases 540 calories, and when water freezes, it releases another 80 calories. This ability to store and release energy makes water an extraordinary conductor that transmits heat far better than air. Understanding how effectively water transmits heat explains why a hot air sauna doesn’t have the same effect on the body as a direct hot water application.

There are various ways to utilize the benefits of water for your health at home. Outlined below are four specific hydrotherapy protocols that can treat a wide range of conditions, with limited experience or equipment required.

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