Before the days of high tech medicine and pill for every ailment the applications of hot and cold water was a common healing tool used by most cultures including those of ancient Rome, China, Japan and Native Americans. In western style cultures it fell out of favor during the dark ages, as did all healing which was seen as witchery and the work or the devil. A Bavarian monk, Father Sebastian Kneipp helped re-popularize the therapeutic use of water in the 19th century.


Known today as hydrothermal therapy there are now dozens of methods of applying hydrotherapy including baths, steam baths, saunas, wraps and packs. The recuperative and healing properties of hydrotherapy are based on its mechanical and or thermal effects exploiting the body’s reaction to hot or cold stimuli, the sensation of the pressure of the water on the tissues of the body and the wonderful feeling of weightlessness that relieves the body from the constant pull of gravity. These sensations are felt in the skin and then carried deeper into the body where they are instrumental in stimulating the immune system, influencing the production of stress hormones, invigorating circulation and digestion, encouraging blood flow and lessening sensitivity to pain.


Generally speaking heat quiets and soothes slowing the activity of the internal organs and cold stimulates and invigorates increasing internal activity. Sore tight tense muscles will respond well to hot water while a warm shower followed by a burst of cool water will stimulate and invigorate the mind and the body.


Water in motion cool or hot proves even more effective. A controlled study of 40 persons at the University of Minnesota, found 85% of the participants preferred a whirlpool bath to a still bath in reducing stress and anxiety.


Some precautions:

1.  Diabetics should avoid hot applications to the feet and legs and avoid extended full body heating.

2.  Avoid cold applications if you have Raynaud’s disease.

3.  Long immersion baths should be avoided by diabetics, those with multiple sclerosis, pregnant women and those with high or very low blood pressure.

4.  The elderly and the very young should avoid very hot or cold baths and should shorten the bath time.


You can increase the therapeutic effects of hydrotherapy by adding herbs, salts, vinegars or aroma oils.

1.  Use ½ cup of powdered ginger in a tub of water, or make a very strong ginger tea and pour it into a hot tub to further relieve the sore muscles, arthritis like symptoms or the aches and pains of the flu.

2.  Use a 1-2 cups of vinegar in a warm bath to relieve aches, pains and arthritis symptoms. Vinegar detoxifies the body and may leave you feeling ready for bed so plan accordingly.

3.  Use Epsom salts, dead sea salts, sulphurized or other natural salts to detoxify and cleanse.

4.  Aromatherapy oils such as lavender, chamomile, basil, rose or sweet orange will give gentle relief to a stressed mind and body at the end of a long day.


All forms of hydrotherapy are best used for 15-20 minutes. You can repeat a bath twice more in 24 hours for further relief. If you are using hot waters be sure to drink plenty of water as well. Till next time, Rebecca.