Water Cure Therapy

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As always, seek professional advice before using any of the methods listed on Altopedia, always make up your own mind, don't take our word for anything.

General Description

Water Cure in the therapeutic sense is a course of medical treatment by Hydrotherapy.

One form of water therapy, advocated by some Alternative Medicine practitioners, is the consumption of a stomach full of water upon waking in order to "cleanse the bowel". A litre to a litre-and-a-half is the common amount ingested. This water therapy, (also known as Indian, Chinese, or Japanese Water Therapy), is claimed to have a wide range of health benefits, or at least no adverse effects.

Those who advocate water therapy, have claim that application of water therapy at first will cause multiple bowel movements until the body adjusts to the increased amount of fluid. While ingesting about a litre-and-a-half of water is generally considered harmless, excessive consumption of water can lead to water intoxication, an urgent and potentially dangerous medical condition.

Throughout History

Back to the mid 19th century, and a popular revival of the water cure was seen in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Throughout this time the term water cure was used synonymously with Hydropathy. Its use has been recorded in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations.

Two publications preceded the populist revival in the 19th century. Firstly, Sir John Floyer, a physician of Lichfield, was struck by the remedial use of certain springs by the neighbouring peasantry, investigated the history of cold bathing and published a book on the subject in 1702. The book ran through six editions within a few years and the translation was largely drawn upon by Dr J. S. Hahn (1696–1773) of Silesia in a work published in 1738.

Secondly, a 1797 publication by Dr James Currie of Liverpool on the use of hot and cold water in the treatment of fever and other illness, with a fourth edition published in 1805, not long before his death. It was also translated into German by Michaelis (1801) and Hegewisch (1807). It was highly popular and first placed the subject on a scientific basis.

Other popular forms of water therapy included the sea-water treatment of Richard Russell, the contemporary version of which is thalassotherapy. This however was never known or marketed as water cure in the sense that became synonymous with Hydropathy, now Hydrotherapy. Rather, Russell's efforts have been credited with playing a role, along with broader social movements, in the populist "sea side mania of the second half of the eighteenth century", which itself was of some significance, with some activities reminiscent of modern day of modern day spas.

In Europe, the application of water in the treatment of fevers and other maladies had, since the seventeenth century, been consistently promoted by a number of medical writers. In the eighteenth century, taking to the waters became a fashionable pastime for the wealthy classes who decamped to resorts around Britain and Europe to cure the ills of over-consumption. In the main, treatment in the heyday of the British spa consisted of sense and sociability: promenading, bathing, and the repetitive quaffing of foul-tasting mineral waters.

The spa movement itself became especially popular during the 19th century when health spas devoted to the “cure” were well-known medical institutions for the upper-class, especially those with lingering or chronic illness. Spas and other therapeutic baths are somewhat synonymous with the term balneotherapy . Many scientific studies into the effectiveness of balneotherapy are said to suffer from methodological flaws, admitting no firm conclusions.

Water cure practitioners ranged from qualified doctors to self-taught enthusiasts. For example, a famous water cure in Malvern, Worcestershire was begun in 1842 by Dr James Manby Gully using Malvern water. Famous patients of Gully included Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, Florence Nightingale, Lord Tennyson and Samuel Wilberforce. Conversely, Henry Wirz, the only Confederate soldier executed in the aftermath of the American Civil War for war crimes, was said to have been a self-taught water-cure specialist. After emigrating to America from Switzerland, he is reported to have worked as a water-cure practitioner throughout New England.

Some Thoughts

  1. The term water cure has also been used to refer to a form of torture.
  2. We all know drinking water is good for us, and mineralwater is considered even better, maybe there's some solid logic here.