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Water is an essential ingredient in our life. We can live on water alone for days, weeks and even months. The properties of water are extensive and that it is very important to life which is obvious from the fact that more than three-fourth of our globe is covered by water alone.

In days of yore, people went to streams and rivers for their morning ablutions and bathing. This normally involved walking some distance, often a few miles. The fresh morning air, and the bath in the refreshing cool waters of the river invigorated the bodies and minds of people. Bathing in rivers served the purpose of having hip bath, sitz bath and all other benefits of hydrotherapy put in one. A ritual like this is unthinkable in today’s world of polluted rivers and hurried life.

Hydrotherapy and religion

Patients suffering from various diseases bathed for some days regularly in particular rivers, lakes or springs where the demand for their specific disorder could be met. Holy dips in rivers were encouraged to ward off diseases. Even today we come across many festivals and melas where a holy dip in the river is a part of the celebration, in spite of the increasing pollution found in these rivers. It is also true that if they are flooded with flowing water, their curative power still holds good.

Bathing in sea water during festivals or on special occasions gave the benefit of salt water treatment known in our modern day as Thalassotherapy to relieve infection and congestion in our body. Thermal springs and river water are rich in varied chemical and mineral properties. As the water passes through the soil it gathers the properties of copper, carbon, sulphur, phosphorus, iodine, calcium and other valuable contents present in it and which have medicinal value. It gets charged and magnetized by the contact with earth to effect a cure in many diseases. Each and every thermal spring has a specific chemical, mineral content that is indicated in the cure of specific diseases.

Hydrotherapy is an integral part of nature cure. All treatments under hydrotherapy are intended to encourage the circulation of lymph and blood which get stagnated in the body, giving rise to diseases. The cold water stimulated the internal organs of elimination, such as liver, kidney and bowels and help in their function to prevent congestion. When these organs perform the function of elimination perfectly, the skin need not overwork to eliminate morbid waste. The skin itself receives its share of benefit from water.

Why some people wash their feet on certain occasions

The custom of washing one’s hands and feet after a long walk or after a hard day’s work(before entering the house), was considered more than a ritual, a hygienic procedure to remove tiredness. This is because the soles, feet, palms and hands contain the maximum nerve endings of the body which when stimulated bring a healing effect. When we walk, the blood circulation becomes brisk and the body’s heat increases. After a sudden halt due to the hear produced in that process, the legs become tired and when cold water is poured over them, the sudden coolness relaxes the blood vessels and circulation gets back to normal. The stimulating effect of the cold water also relieves the congestion of the blood vessels. Similarly washing hands and feet after eating and also after ablutions is desirable.

Water stored in copper vessels is considered sacred. This is mainly because copper charged water is beneficial in high blood pressure as well as gastric and rheumatic problems. Indigestion including constipation is also treated beneficially by this water.

The effect and reaction of water is quicker than that of the drugs in acute diseases and in the symptoms of a majority of other disorders. Water’s action on body is to relieve internal congestion, to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, stimulate circulation, to encourage elimination of toxins present in the system and lower or raise the temperature of the body.

Water is used for treating disorders in the form of solid, liquid and vapour, either hot or cold. It contains of baths, fomentations, sponges, compresses and sprays. Water treatment at home for common and chronic diseases does not require elaborate equipment or an accurate scientific knowledge. All its needs are a few household items, common knowledge and patience.

Water, hot and cold-when and why?

Hydrotherapy can be carried out as per the need of the condition to relieve the symptoms and also hasten the recovery period. Hot applications are useful in relieving internal and deep congestions and cold applications are useful in reducing swelling and superficial congestions.

Hot applications on large areas are given to produce sweating prior to cold application in order to prevent chills. This is more so in cases of common cold.

Whenever cold applications are given to the abdomen, head etc. hot applications must be given simultaneously at a distant part like legs and feet.

Various methods of application

Heating compress
The effect of heating compress is to give mild and moist heat to the body.

Procedure: Take a cotton cloth, dip in cold water and squeeze the water out of it. Wrap it around the site to be treated. Wrap a dry woollen cloth or flannel above the moist cloth in such a way that air does not circulate around the moist area. To ensure this the woollen wrap should preferably be broader than the cotton cloth. Both the compress and the flannel above it must be loose not to cause discomfort.

Heating compress can be left in place for hours together, even overnight. It will be dry when it is removed in the morning. After removing the compress rub that area with cold water or wet cloth and finally dry by rubbing vigorously with a dry towel.

Heating compress is useful in throat afflictions like laryngitis, pharyngitis, hoarseness, tonsillitis, congested joints of ankle, Wrist and knees and in sluggish digestion.

Cold compress

Procedure: Take a thick cloth, say a hand-towel, of the required size according to the area of application. Dip it in ice cold water and squeeze out the water to prevent dripping. Frequent changing of the compress is necessary before it gets warm. In order to make the compress last longer, a thicker compress will serve better. The compress must be pressed firmly in place.

Cold compress is useful in headaches, palpitation, fever etc. The site of application are temple, head, abdomen, heart and other inflamed areas.

Very cold applications are given with ice chips filled in a rubber bag with screw cap. If ice-bag is not available, woolen or flannel can be used instead. The pack must not drip. The area to be treated must be covered with a towel and the pack should be placed above it.

Ice cold applications are useful for sprained ankle, cooling inflamed areas, and acute stomachache as in appendicitis.

Hot foot bath

This is the most useful and effective form of water treatment for many disorders. It is mainly used with other forms of treatment to make them more effective. Whenever hot foot bath is given, it is absolutely necessary to give a cold compress on the head. This will not only bring relief quickly but will also prevent any possibility of giddiness.

Procedure: Fill a tub with hot water enough to cover the ankles. The temperature of the water should suit the individual’s tolerance. The duration of the bath can be from 10 to 20 minutes. At the end of the bath, the feet must be given a cold water rub or a splash of cold water and finally a brisk rub with a thick towel to dry the feet.

Hot foot bath dilates the blood vessels of the skin in the feet and draws the blood from the congested parts of the body. It cures many disorders. Its effectiveness is greater than any other medicine known. It is extremely useful in headaches of all origin, insomnia, fatigue, mental tiredness, coldness of the extremities, poor circulation, rheumatism and as an adjunct to other treatments.

Alternate hot and cold bath

This type of bath is useful in infections. It is given both to the hands and feet.
Procedure: Take two tubs, one filled with hot water and the other with ice cold water. The temperature of the hot water should be raised slowly to the extent the individual can bear. Immerse the hands first in hot water for four to five minutes and then in cold water for only half a minute. This must be repeated for 20-30minutes. Always start with hot water and end with cold. Dry the hands with a towel in the end but do not rub or massage when there is infection.

The same type of bath is given to the feet. Immerse the feet up to the ankle first in hot water and then in cold. Since feet cannot tolerate very hot or very cold water as hands do, the duration of immersion need be two minutes in hot and half a minute in cold water. Start with hot dip and end in cold. Finally dry with a towel. Avoid rubs or massages if there be infections.

A cold compress to the head must not be forgotten while giving this type of foot bath too.

Alternate hot and cold bath for feet is extremely useful in treating infected skin of the feet and soles, cold extremities, chilblains, cracked soles, athlete’s foot, itching of the soles and in congestive headaches.

Skin disorders of the other larger areas of the body are treated similarly, but in bath tubs by immersing the whole body in the water. In case of non-availability of bath tubs, hot water splash alternated by cold splash is recommended.

Hip bath

Hip bath is given mainly for abdominal disorders. It can be given sitting in an ordinary bath tub with the legs on the sides of the tub or in a tub which can accommodate a person to sit comfortably with the legs resting on the floor.

Procedure: Fill the tub with hot water enough to cover the hip.
The temperature of the water should be as per the individual’s tolerance. A brisk massage should be given frequently to the abdomen as long as one is in the bath. The duration of the bath can be from 5-15 minutes. After coming out of the bath splash or spray cold water and dry briskly with a coarse towel. Hot hip bath is useful in constipation, piles, obesity, distended stomach, poor digestion and worms.

A cold hip bath can be given similarly for better circulation of the internal organs of the abdomen, and for the same duration. At the end of the bath do not splash or spray water but give a vigorous rub with a thick towel and scrub dry.

Cold hip bath is useful for the same disorders as hot hip bath when used alternating the former.

Sitz bath

This bath is similar to the hip bath except that the level of the water in the tub should be enough to immerse the pelvic region. Sitz bath is beneficial in treating all disorders of the pelvic and sacral region.

Cold sitz bath is recommended for prolapses of rectum and uterus, excess menstrual bleeding, bleeding piles, leucorrhea, prostrate, disorders, etc.

Hot sitz bath is good for non-bleeding piles, menstrual cramps, urinary infections, itching of the anus and genitals etc. Both hot and cold sitz baths can be alternated for these same disorders.

Hot water bag

Hot water bags are easy to apply even in bed.
Procedure: A rubber bag with screw cap is used for this purpose. Fill the bag with hot but not boiling water. The bag must not be filled to the brim but only half. Wrap it in a cloth if direct application to the skin is not tolerated. It can be applied for about 10-15 minutes after which the skin must be rubbed vigorously with a wet cloth (dipped and squeezed in cold water). Hot water bags are extremely beneficial in constipation and low backache.

Friction bath

While giving friction bath, the body and feet of the patient must be kept warm. Especially, the feet should not be cold. It is better to give a hot foot bath simultaneously.

Procedure: Make the patient sit with feet immersed in hot water upto the ankle in a tub. Wash the face with cold water. Take some ice cold water in a basin. Dip a coarse hand towel (mittens can also be used) in the cold water and squeeze out excess water. Expose a single part (one hadn, or one leg, or chest) at a time to give friction. This will prevent the person from chill. Rub briskly with quick movements of the hand. Immediately afterwards, cover that portion of the body with a bigger dry towel and give friction from outside the towel. Finally rub the part thoroughly. Expose another part of the body and repeat the procedure.

Friction bath is given to invalids, those who are bed-ridden, during convalescence after acute fevers and to elderly people.

Sponge bath

Procedure: Dip the sponge or cloth in tepid water and squeeze out excess water to prevent dripping. Expose the parts of the body to be treated (one at a time) and rub with a back and forth movement of the hand. Never rub briskly when high fever is present. Dry each part immediately before exposing the next. ‘do not rub while drying. Hot sponge bath is given when chill accompanies fever. Sponge baths are usually given in extremely weak conditions especially fever.

Cold Loin Compress for Piles

Procedure: Rinse a thick towel in cold water, squeeze out the water to prevent dripping and wrap it around the abdomen in the sacral region. Take another towel of the same thickness, fold length wise, dip in cold water and squeeze out. Tie it as a loin cloth as in fig. 16
Tuck in the ends to the first towel tied horizontally or attach it with safety pins. Apply this compress before bedtime for half an hour if the problem is acute, and for one hour if chronic. When the compress becomes warm, cool it by dipping in cold water again. Squeeze excess water out and apply.

This is useful for all types of piles-internal as well as external.

Inverted spray

Procedure: Take a stool with short legs and make a hole of four inches diameter. Fix a hand shower to a square wooden plank with clamps and place it under the stool. See fig. 17. Sit on the stool without under-clothes. Start the spray. When it shoots upwards adjust yourself in position so that the spray reaches the rectal portion with ease.

If the pain and itching are intense and if all you need is relaxation (especially after stools), use warm water. If there is bleeding (especially before stools) and passing of stools if feared, use cold water.

Friction rub

Procedure: It is applied between hot and cold baths. Take either a simple hot bath or lie in a bath tub for 10 minutes. Take a dry coarse towel and rub briskly till the skin, especially of the chest, abdomen and back, slightly burns. Take a quick cold bath for half a minute. Cold spray or splash can be used for this purpose. This is useful for asthma, obesity, chest and troubles of abdomen, unhealthy skin, constipated bowels, sleeplessness etc.

Steam bath

To remove internal congestion it is necessary one should sweat. Steam bath helps in the elimination of toxins through skin effectively. It is not necessary to go in search of steam bath equipments as in health clubs and other nature cure hospitals. A bucket, a stool and a blanket will suffice for a steam bath at home.

Procedure: Take a bucket big enough to immerse the legs up to the knees fill it with hot water. The temperature of the water should be as much as one can tolerate. Remove all the clothes and sit on a stool immersing both the legs in the water. Place a cold wet towel on the head. Cover the whole body up to the neck with a thick blanket. Sip some hot water slowly. After sitting thus for fifteen to twenty minutes remove the blanket, come out of the water and have a quick cold shower. Dry with a thick towel briskly. Steam bath is useful for arthritis, digestive disorders, itching and dryness of the skin etc.

Internal baths

Enema is the water treatment given to the bowels and rectum. Giving enema in all diseases is an essential part of naturopathy.

The uncleared morbid substance inside the bowels is effectively removed by enema. When the bowels are clean, the severity of the disease automatically reduces. By taking enema the muscle tone of the bowels and rectum increases and its healthy movement is restored.

For perfect cleansing, enema is preferably given in the mornings after the evacuation. However, in cases of constipation, enema is given first thing in the morning.

Enema is given in three convenient positions, lying down on the left side, lying on the back with knees raised and stooping forward in a standing position with knees bent.

A thorough cleansing cannot be obtained in the squatting position or sitting on the toilet bowl.
Method of giving Enema: Assume the desired position. Suspend the enema pot filled with half a litre of pure tap water, one metre above. Apply a little oil or Vaseline to the nozzle of the rectal tube. Before insertion check the rectal tube to ensure free flow of water. Insert the tube into the rectum. The flow of water can be adjusted with the knob attached to the tube. When all the water has been introduced, remove the tube and resist the pressure for a few minutes. The bowels can be emptied after a while for better cleansing. If one does not wish to take enema in the lying position, he can take it in the standing position. (See fig.19)

Enema can be given with benefit during fever, for constipation and almost in all diseases.

Six glass wonder

An old Japanese gentleman who enjoyed perfect health, was once met by a curious professor. When asked about the secret of his robust constitution, the old man explained that it was thanks to the Six Glass Wonder. He went on to tell in detail about his sickly youth, when he was bed-ridden, with impaired intestines, for almost ten years. When all the modes of treatment failed to bring even partial relief from his sickness, he was told it was impossible to get a cure. One of the physicians who treated him, however, suggested a specific type of water treatment as a last resort.

The effect of the treatment was felt on the very first day and his appetite was restored, his digestion improved and within a few days he was cured of his chronic disease. It might have been a coincidence that the treatment he underwent all those years showed results only after this simple water treatment. So impressed with this treatment was he, that he tried it on the members of his family who were suffering from various illnesses ranging from brain fever to obesity and achieved only positive results.

What is the six glass wonder?

The process is as follows: Go to sleep three hours after a fairly early dinner around 7.00 p.m. Strictly do not eat or drink anything after that. Rise early from bed the next morning, do not wash your face and mouth as you do normally. Sit comfortably and drink six glasses of pure water at a stretch. If you find difficulty in doing so, pause a while after two or three glasses and continue. For the next 20 minutes walk briskly or do some exercise. Within twenty minutes to half an hour, urge to pass urine will be great and you will pass urine in large quantities quite frequently. Some may bring out the morbid waste through vomiting. Passing of stools will be easy and complete. It will facilitate the expulsion of the accumulated waste matter very effectively and leave you fresh.
This simple treatment of cleansing the internal organs has been recommended for a variety of disorders in some of Japan’s health organizations. In my own practice I have achieved good results in the treatment of obstinate constipation, obesity, asthma, piles, acne and pimples and almost all digestive disorders.

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  • About The Author


    Gopakumar Nair belongs to a Hereditary Ayurvedic family of Kerala who were Practising Ayurveda and traditional Medicine for 200 Years . They can be traced back to over six generations. His experience under the guidance of his guru Valiya thampuraan has earned lot of trust and popularity.

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