Hydroptherapy is the use of water as a healing tool. Aromatic Hydrotherapy is the addition of essential oils and hydrosols to that healing art. The use of water, as a healing tool, can be traced back many centuries. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used the healing power of water in baths. Over the years many others have used natural hot springs, lakes and oceans for healing and it is a well-known practice in many cultures.
The origin of Hydrotherapy, as a medical tool, is usually traced back to Germany where in 1826, Vincent Priessnitz opened the Hydropathic Institute of Gräfenberg, offering all kinds of therapeutic water treatments. Some sources, however, suggest that two English on the medical uses of water had been translated into German in the century preceding the rise of the movement under Priessnitz. One of these was by Sir John Floyer, a physician of Lichfield, who, struck by the remedial use of certain springs by the neighboring peasantry, investigated the history of cold bathing and published a book on the subject in 1702. The other work was 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.
Sebastian Kneipp, who is often associated with hydrotherapy, used fresh water treatments to restore his own health in the 1850’s. This led to his doctrine of health known as the Kneipp Kur, which is still practiced and studied today. Hydropathy (as it was then known) was introduced into the United States in 1843.
Today hydrotherapy (literally meaning water treatment) can be found as a staple of many spas, and it continues to be a viable tool for healing and the maintenance of health. It can often be enhanced by adding essential oils.
Hydrotherapy can be as simple as using hot and/or cold baths or showers at home, to more sophisticated protocols in a spa or therapy practice. Valerie Gennarie Cooksley,in her book Healing Home Spa tells us that: “By manipulating temperatures and using various techniques, hydrotherapy can stimulate every organ in the body. It can help equalize blood circulation, increase muscle tone and nerve strength, improve digestion, alleviate congestion, stimulate perspiration glands, and aid in the elimination of toxins and waste via the skin.” Anne Roebuck, in her book, Aroma-Spa Therapy, says that: “All hydrotherapy treatments have an effect on the hypothalamus, as it is the body’s heat regulation center. The hypothalamus therefore responds to any stimulus that increases or decreases the body’s temperature, by maintaining homeostasis in the body.”
In order to get the desired effect, accurate water temperature is therefore very important. According to Valerie Gennarie Cooksley; it is generally not advisable to use water therapy within one hour of eating and it should be discontinued if one feels discomfort, extreme skin sensitivity, faintness, headache, nausea, shivering or palpitations. According to Anne Roebuck; Contraindications to hot water treatments include circulatory impairment, especially arterial disease, hemophilia and use of steroid medications, because of capillary fragility.