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On this day 125 years ago, on June 17, 1897, Sebastian Knepp passed away. Giver of the name and founder of the method of healing that is still world famous to this day, Kneipp. However, it happened almost completely differently and today we probably won’t commemorate his death or even remember him at all. Because at a young age he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, a bacterial disease of the lungs, which at that time always meant a death sentence.

But Kneipp took his fate into his own hands. At that time, he was said to have read the book “Lessons of Strength and Fresh Water Würckung in Men’s Bodies” and took cold baths in the Danube on its basis – and here it is: he has already managed to heal his body. An illness encouraged by this success, he dealt extensively with the healing power of water and developed a holistic health concept of body, mind, and spirit based on it, and it has now been used for more than 150 years as well as “natural” medicine for the treatment and prevention of disease.

Putting Water in the Stork Corridor – Hydrotherapy

Thus, hydrotherapy, including hydrotherapy, is also the main aspect of its concept. Kneipp has developed more than 100 different hydrotherapy applications, which include not only different types of baths, but also connections, covers or washes.

Cold water from 16 to 17 degrees is used, which in different ways touches the body. The most famous of these is probably the so-called “dosi water”, which can certainly be observed in public parks in the summer, where people step into “Kneipp ponds” filled with water like storks. In applications like acupuncture, on the other hand, water is poured over individual areas of the body in order to provide relief from joint problems, for example. An arm bath in cold water is said to help treat low blood pressure, improving blood circulation in the lungs and heart.

It is important for water treatments that the body is nice and warm beforehand and does not cool off too much due to prolonged use. So that the body can quickly warm up again afterwards, simply remove the water and put on clothes.

More than just stomping water

Although we most likely associate Kneipp with hydrotherapy, he has gradually developed a whole health philosophy that takes into account, among other things, exercise therapy, a healthy diet, medicinal plants, and organizational therapy. These so-called five pillars are still the cornerstone of physical therapy, which is why the Kneipp concept is also considered to be the origin of modern physical therapy.

Even then, Kneipp recommended plenty of exercise for muscles, blood circulation, and metabolism. Above all, walking barefoot was close to his heart. In terms of nutrition, he relied on a diet as varied and natural as possible, which should include mainly plant products, apart from fish. However, in principle, he did not prohibit any food, only cautioned against overdoing it. He is said to have said, “If you realize you have eaten, you have already eaten a lot.”

His interest in medicinal plants meant that he increasingly incorporated the supporting effect of medicinal herbs into his treatment, as additives to baths, to rolls or teas. For example, lavender has a calming effect and fennel supports the stomach and intestines. In the doctrine of the system, it was ultimately a matter of not only forgetting the body, but also one’s soul, in addition to being sufficiently active, also allowing oneself to have sufficient rest.

Kneipp pool with barefoot track

Kneipp baths are often combined with an “adventure course” for barefoot walkers.

Does this really help?

But is there really anything to this whole philosophy or was Kneipp’s recovery just a coincidence? In fact, the effectiveness of its applications has not really been proven to this day. There are not enough representative studies for scientific proof, but there have always been observations of improving quality of life and relieving a variety of complaints. In addition, the positive effect of applications can also be explained in a physiologically meaningful way.

Essentially, the entire Kneipp treatment should activate self-healing powers, support the body and immune system thus ensuring better health and well-being. In hydrotherapy, this is achieved, for example, by stimuli of cold and heat, which Kneipp used to discover the effect of therapy by alternating between warm and cold. The physiological explanation for this is quite simple: when it’s cold, blood vessels constrict and when it’s warm, they expand. So a cold shower followed by a warm-up is a real “training” of our blood vessels, which remain flexible and healthy. It enhances blood circulation, which is good for blood circulation and blood pressure, but it also strengthens the immune system and has an anti-inflammatory effect. In this way, more immune cells are formed and one study was able to show that the number of antibodies that ensure increased defense against pathogens.

Kneipp was equally right about the importance of a balanced diet and adequate exercise for health. For example, we now know that many of our immune cells are found in the gut, where they are strongly affected by nutrition. Walking barefoot, which Kneipp always recommends, should actually help avoid problems with knee and hip joints or flat feet, as it trains muscles, tendons and ligaments, massages the reflexology areas of the foot and improves posture. It is therefore not surprising that Kneipp was able to help many patients at that time and that the first sanatorium based on his philosophy was created in Bad Wöreshofen, where he worked.

Today’s bars

To this day, you can eat Kneipp treatments in Bad Wöreshofen. In the meantime, this concept has become so popular that there is a large network of spa resorts throughout Germany where orders are professionally fulfilled. To get a real effect, a course duration of at least three weeks is recommended. Many applications can also be easily done at home with a little water. Partly because of this easy possibility, Kneipp was recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage in 2015.

This treatment is suitable for everyone. To strengthen the health and immune system of perfectly healthy people, but also to treat diseases. They include, for example, cardiovascular problems, respiratory diseases, sleep or metabolic disorders, joint problems and much more. Since the treatment stimulates your body to work, it is not suitable if patients are already weak.

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