Kneipp’s method is aimed at strengthening the organism and activating the body’s own healing powers in order to alleviate disorders and diseases by employing simple natural resources and impulses. Kneipp’s therapeutic approach consists of five complementary pillars:
- Regulative therapy
The term hydrotherapy is derived from the ancient Greek word for water, hydor, and refers to a treatment used either as prophylaxis, to strengthen, rehabilitate and regenerate the body or as a therapy for acute chronic disorders.
Hydrotherapy is a basic part of naturopathy. It uses cold, temperate and warm water as well as steam and ice as natural stimuli.
Contact with cold water makes the blood vessels first constrict and then dilate, leading to an increase in warmth.
In addition to improving respiration and blood circulation, hydrotherapy is believed to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects even in case of acute inflammations. Hot water applications help dilate blood vessels in the skin and promote blood circulation in the muscles.
The human body absorbs stimuli and substances through the skin and forwards them to nerves and inner organs. A variety of Kneipp treatments, such as ablutions, rinses, compresses and baths, strengthen the hole organism and improve the body’s functionality by regenerating damaged regulatory mechanisms.
Phytotherapy = herbal therapy
This branch of naturopathy relies on the healing powers of plants. In traditional naturopathy, phytotherapy is the simple treatment of diseases with plants and herbal concoctions.
Kneipp, whose mother was a well-known herbalist, is often quoted as saying there is a plant for every illness.
In his cures, he used herbs in compresses, hay bags, cold packs, bathing oils, inhalation oils and ointments, steam baths and infusions. Herbs develop their beneficial effects through the skin, the breathing apparatus and the mucous membranes.
Kneipp believed a well-balanced diet to be the foundation of an active, healthy life.
Even though mainly used to prevent illnesses, dietetics may also work as a cure. An ardent advocate of health-conscious diets, Kneipp preferred a balanced mix of rich but natural food to a restrictive, ascetic diet. According to the pastor, whole meal bread, vegetables and fresh milk contain all the necessary substances. What’s more, his choice of simple, nutritious, natural and fresh food is fully in line with modern dietary guidelines, which recommend fruit and vegetables, cereals and dairy products. Kneipp suggested our food should be derived more from vegetable than from animal sources.
According to Sebastian Kneipp, idleness weakens the body, while overwork damages and exercise strengthens it.
Practising Kneipp kinesiotherapy does not require an athletic disposition, as even a little exercise a day leads to a lasting sensation of well-being and strengthens the body. Any activity should be aimed at exercising the circulatory system, the respiratory tract and the locomotor system. Alternating activity and rest strengthens the circulatory system and has a thoroughly relaxing effect. Depending on individual form, daily exercises can either be short walks, gymnastics, swimming, cycling or passive exercises, such as physiotherapy.
Regulative therapy according to Kneipp’s teachings includes:
- reasonable exposure to light, air and water
- a balance between activity and rest
- a balanced intake of food and drink
- a balanced sleep/wake cycle
- a balanced metabolism
This lifestyle is centred on avoiding sensory overload, drugs and risk factors while pursuing a harmonious social environment and psychological well-being though religion or relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing therapy, yoga and autogenic training.
Kneipp’s methods are part of our individual therapy programmes or our health programmes.