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MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information
(Water Therapy)

Medicinal Therapies

For "Informational Use Only".
For more detailed information, contact your health care provider
about options that may be available for your specific situation.

  • Hydrotherapy Description
  • History
  • Key Principles
  • Evidence & Research
  • Conventional Medical Opinion
  • Consulting A Practitioner
  • Self-Help


    The ancient Greeks believed that water contained the essence of life and the secret of health. In hydrotherapy, water is used internally and externally in all its forms - hot and cold, as liquid, steam, or ice - to cleanse, revitalize, restore, and maintain health. Traditionally, hydrotherapy consisted of baths, saunas, and compresses, but in modern times, whirlpools and water jets have been introduced. An established part of conventional medicine until the beginning of the 20th century, hydrotherapy has long been practiced by naturopaths, and is now enjoying a resurgence in popularity.


  • Muscle & joint pain.
  • Backache, muscle strains & sprains.
  • Stress, anxiety.
  • Circulatory problems.
  • Asthma, bronchitis.
  • Cystitis.
  • Fevers.
  • Headaches, fatigue
  • Menstrual problems.

  • Spas
    Spas have been popular since Roman times, both as a form of diversion and as a healing therapy. This 19th century photograph show a patient receiving a massage with mineral water in Vichy, France, where spa waters have long been taken both internally and externally.


    The therapeutic properties of water have been valued throughout history by societies around the world, from the Chinese to the Native Americans. In ancient Greece, temples to Asklepios, god of medicine, were built near hot springs. In New Zealand, natural hot springs have been used for centuries to improve health.

    No Roman town was deemed complete without baths where citizens could enjoy hot, cold, and tepid immersions. In many towns, such as Baden-Baden in Germany, Spa in Belgium, and Bath in the UK, the practice of "taking the waters" at natural springs has continued to the present day. The first serious medical use of the therapy was probably made by Vincent Priessnitz, who opened a spa in the early 19th century at Grafenburg, Austria.

    Steam baths became popular in the 19th century
    Steam baths became very popular in the 19th century, and are still used today. They make the body sweat, which is said to expel impurities through the pores of the skin.

    The true pioneer of hydrotherapy, however, was Father Sebastian Kneipp, a 19th century Bavarian monk who claimed that water could cure disease by improving the elimination of waste products from the body. His patients followed a program of hot and cold baths and compresses, foot baths, sitz baths, steam baths, showers, and wraps - techniques still in use today.

    In Germany and a number of eastern European countries, hydrotherapy is still widespread and is often subsidized by the government. It is an important part of naturopathy, which is popular in the US and Australia, and has gained a reputation as a cheap therapy with few side effects.


    Water has a remarkable ability to alter the body's blood flow, and this can be manipulated by varying its temperature. Cold water is stimulating. It makes surface blood vessels constrict, restricting blood flow and inhibiting the biochemical reactions that cause inflammation. It sends blood toward the internal organs, helping them to function more efficiently. Hot water, conversely, is relaxing. It dilates blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the skin and muscles, easing stiffness. The improved circulation boosts the immune system, helps remove waste products from the body, and sends more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues to repair damage.

    Some therapies use hot and cold water alternately. This is said to stimulate the hormonal system, reduce circulatory congestion caused by muscle spasm, and relieve inflammation. Floating in warm water, unburdened by gravity, can also be mentally soothing.


    European studies in 1995 found that warm underwater jet massage enhanced athletes' performances. American research in 1991 showed that hydrotherapy was helpful for varicose veins, while two studies in Israel indicated that mud and mineral baths were beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis. A 1986 study published in the British Medical Journal concluded that sitz baths were helpful in healing anal fissures.


    The effect of water as a vehicle for heat and cold is obvious. Recently, conventional medicine has expressed renewed interest in the ability of water temperature to affect body tissues, and in its bouyant and stimulating properties, as used in physiotherapy. Hydrotherapy is an example of a therapy that is not as far removed from conventional practice as it may appear.


    Hydrotherapy is usually practiced at health farms and spas, particularly those founded on naturopathic principles, and you are most likely to visit one if referred by a naturopath. Treatments are diverse and will depend on your condition. They may include some of the following:


    Hot or cold water is directed at your back for about 2 to 3 minutes as you face the wall, holding supports. Jets are said to stimulate the circulation and internal organs, and are used for anemia, amenorrhea, angina, arthritis, and asthma.


    Immersing the body in pressurized bubbles for about 15 minutes soothes and massages the body and is also believed to treat sores, infected wounds, swellings, and circulatory problems.

    sitz baths

    Sitz baths - Two hip baths are placed side by side, one filled with hot and the other with cold water. The patient sits in them alternately, three minutes in hot water and one minute in cold, with the feet in the opposite bath.


    This treatment uses two hip baths, and may benefit hemorrhoids, menstrual problems, cystitis, incontinence, and prolapse. Two hip baths are placed side by side, one filled with hot and the other with cold water. The patient sits in them alternately, three minutes in hot water and one minute in cold, with the feet in the opposite bath.

    hot or warm baths

    Thereapeutic herbs, oils and minerals can be added to a warm bath for added health benefits.


    Soaking in hot water (about 100°F / 38°C) for about 20 to 30 minutes is believed to help arthritic conditions. Therapeutic herbs, oils, and minerals can be added to a warm bath. These include Epsom salts to relieve swollen joints and relax muscles, finely blended oatmeal or bran (possibly added in a muslin bag) to soothe the skin, and mineral "muds" and extracts, such as Dead Sea salts, to nourish the skin.


    Seaweed (fresh or powdered) can be added to water or applied as a wrap for added healing properties.


    Seawater treatments (thalassotherapy) have healthful benefits. Seawater is said to have healing properties, and minerals in seaweed are believed to induce sweating, cleanse and tone the skin, and promote relaxation. Treatments may include seawater jets, seaweed wraps, or seawater or kelp (seaweed) baths.


    A cold flannel sheet is wrapped around the body and hot or cold packs enveloped in towels are placed on top. The patient is then covered with a warm blanket and left for 30 minutes. This form of constitutional treatment is used to aid circulation and stimulate the immune system, to treat problems such as viral illnesses and long-term fatigue.


    Cold, wet flannel sheets are wrapped around your body, then covered with dry towels and finally blankets. After the initial shock, the body warms up rapidly, drying the sheets. Wraps promote sweating, which is said to flush out waste products, and may be used for fever, colds, bronchitis, back pain, and skin disorders.


    Towels are soaked in hot or cold water, wrung out and applied to the affected area of the body. Hot compresses increase blood flow, make the body sweat, and ease stiff muscles. Cold ones restrict circulation, reducing inflammation.

    steam cabinet

    A steam cabinet can induce sweating to relieve impurities and relieve water retention.


    Sitting in a hot, steamy room for up to 1 hour, induces sweating, eliminating impurities and relieving water retention.


    A hot, dry environment encourages sweating.


    Saunas are similar to Turkish baths but generate dry rather than humid heat. A dry, hot environment (above 100°F / 38°C) encourages sweating, which helps the body to eliminate waste products. A dip into a plunge pool or a cold shower is advised every 5 to 10 minutes during the sauna and at the end of the sauna.


    Many treatments, such as compresses and ice packs, are simple to carry out at home. A hot compress eases back or abdominal pain and muscle tension. Wring out a small towel in very hot water, fold it, and apply it to the affected area, alternating it with a cold compress, which restricts circulation and is useful for sprains and swollen joints. Use very cold water and leave for several hours or overnight. An ice pack relieves swelling and pain in emergencies. Place a towel or a drop of oil on the skin to avoid freezer burn, then apply ice, or even a package of frozen peas, wrapped in a cloth, to the affected area and leave for 10 minutes.


  • Avoid hot baths, steam baths, and saunas if you have high blood pressure, angina, or heart disease.

  • Avoid steam baths or sitz baths in the first three months of pregnancy, and limit steam treatments to a maximum of 10 minutes for the remaining months.

  • Avoid steam treatment if you are postoperative, epileptic, asthmatic, or have a history of thrombosis.

  • Avoid seaweed if you are allergic to iodine, and do not add ingredients to a bath if you have an open wound.

  • Consult your health care provider before embarking on any therapy treatment if you have any medical condition, symptoms of illness, you are pregnant or are trying to concieve. Consult your health care provider before allowing infants and children to receive complimentary treatments. Some treatments may be unsuitable for small children. See your health care provider if symptoms persist or worsen.

  • MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Hydrotherapy Information & Techniques
    MoonDragon's Health Therapy: Herbal Baths Recipes Index

    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Therapy Index


    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Naturopathy
    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Hydrotherapy
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    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Homeopathic Remedies
    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Homeopathic Potencies
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    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Crystal Therapy
    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Western Herbalism
    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Chinese Herbalism
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    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Orthomolecular Therapy
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    MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Other Therapies

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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Amino Acids Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Antioxidants Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Enzymes Information
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Herbs Index
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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Minerals Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Mineral Introduction
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Dietary & Cosmetic Supplements Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Dietary Supplements Introduction
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Specialty Supplements
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Vitamins Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Vitamins Introduction


  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: 4 Basic Nutrients
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Avoid Foods That Contain Additives & Artificial Ingredients
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Is Aspartame A Safe Sugar Substitute?
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Guidelines For Selecting & Preparing Foods
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Foods That Destroy
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Foods That Heal
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: The Micronutrients: Vitamins & Minerals
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Avoid Overcooking Your Foods
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Phytochemicals
  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Increase Your Consumption of Raw Produce
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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Basics: Choosing The Best Water & Types of Water


  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Information Index
  • MoonDragon's Nutritional Therapy Index
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  • MoonDragon's Nutrition Therapy: Preparing Produce for Juicing
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  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Index
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Articles
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy For Back Pain
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  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy For Childbearing
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy For Problems in Pregnancy & Birthing
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Chart of Essential Oils #1
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Chart of Essential Oils #2
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Tips
  • MoonDragon's Aromatherapy Uses
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Index
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information Overview
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Therapy Index
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health: Touch & Movement Therapies Index
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health Therapy: Touch & Movement: Aromatherapy
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Therapy: Touch & Movement - Massage Therapy
  • MoonDragon's Alternative Health: Therapeutic Massage
  • MoonDragon's Holistic Health Links Page 1
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  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Nutrition Basics Index
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  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness: Massage Therapy
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