(Investigator 172, 2017 January)


Although Hydrotherapy comes from the Greek words hudor which means water, and therapeutikos which means to take care of, the use of water for therapeutic or healing purposes originated aeons before the age of classical Greece. Baths and remedies are mentioned in the Sanskrit as early as 4000 B.C., and the Babylonians, Cretans and Egyptians preceded the Romans' preoccupation with water for drinking, bathing and its medicinal application.

It was not until the early nineteenth century however, that hydropathy as a formal system came into vogue in Europe under the leadership of Vincent Priessnitz (1801-1852) a Salesian farmer, and Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), a German priest who claimed to have cured himself of tuberculosis by regularly plunging into the cold waters of the River Danube.

In America, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1855-1946), did much to promote hydrotherapy, opening a sanitarium in Battle Creek,Michigan in 1876, where he used hydrotherapy, diet and other drugless therapies.

Today, health spas featuring mineral water baths are popular with people seeking cures for various ailments, and jacuzzis are becoming a status symbol in many modem homes.


The therapeutic uses of water have many applications varying from drinking to flushing out the system, and from exercise through swimming to relaxing in a hot bath. Hot springs where the water has a high mineral content are thought to be beneficial, and generally speaking, warm water promotes circulation and cold water is helpful in reducing swelling and pain.


Hot baths, cold showers, soaking in mineral springs, swimming and drinking are the principal applications.


Certain spa waters are known to contain minerals such as sodium, calcium and zinc among others which can help compensate for body deficiencies.

Hospitals and rehabilitation centres often use therapeutic pools. The buoyancy makes it easier for patients to exercise and so strengthen atrophied muscles after long periods of inactivity following accidents or major surgery.

Although many of these treatments can be a pleasant experience, particularly from the relaxation point of view, they may not address a specific health problem.


Consumer Reports. 1978. Health spas: svelte for sale. August 1978.

De Vierville, Paul. 1991. Hydrotherapy: Washes, Wraps, Packs and Herbs. Massage Therapy Journal. Winter 1991.

Hope, Murry. 1989. The Psychology of Healing, Element Books Ltd., Longmead, Shaftsbury, Dorset.

Prevention Magazine. 1992. The Prevention how-to Dictionary of Healing, Remedies and Techniques. MJF Books, New York.

[From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.]