Hydrotherapy is a well-known and ancient form of therapy. Many books have been written on the subject but in my opinion the form of hydrotherapy suggested by Kuhne is simple and effective. Kuhne's book on nature cure is very popular in India. It has been translated in several languages of India. Andhra has the greatest number of Kuhne's followers. He has written a good deal about diet as well, but here I wish to confine myself to his experiments in hydrotherapy.
Hip bath and sitz bath
are the most important of Kuhne's contributions to hydrotherapy. He has
devised a special tub for use though one can do without it. Any tub
thirty to thirty- six inches long according to the patient's height
generally serves the purpose. Experience will indicate the proper size.
The tub should be filled with fresh cold water so that it does not
overflow when the patient sits in it. In summer the water may be iced,
if it is not cold enough, to give a gentle shock to the patient.
Generally, water kept in earthen jars overnight answers the purpose.
Water can also be cooled by putting a piece of cloth on the surface of
the water and then fanning it vigorously. The tub should be kept against
the bathroom wall and a plank put in the tub to serve as backrest. The
patient should sit in the tub keeping his feet outside. Portions of the
body outside water should be kept well covered so that the patient does
not feel cold. After the patient is comfortably seated in the tub,
gentle friction should be applied to his abdomen, with a soft towel.
This bath can be taken for five to thirty minutes. When it is over, the
body should be rubbed dry and the patient put to bed.
Hip bath brings down
the temperature in high fever and given in the manner described above it
never does any harm, and may do much good. It relieves constipation and
improves digestion. The patient feels fresh and active after it. In
cases of constipation, Kuhne advises a brisk walk for half an hour
immediately after the bath. It should never be given on a full stomach.
I have tried hip baths
on a fairly large scale. They have proved efficacious in more than 75
cases out of 100. In cases of hyperpyrexia, if the patient's condition
permits of his being seated in the tub, the temperature immediately
invariably falls at least two to three degrees and the onset of delirium
The rationale of hip
bath, according to Kuhne is this. Whatever the apparent cause of fever,
the real cause in every case is one and the same, i.e., accumulation of
waste matter in the intestines. The heat generated by the putrefaction
of this waste matter is manifested in the form of fever and several
other ailments. Hip bath brings down this internal fever so that fever
and other ailments which are the external manifestations thereof subside
automatically. How far this reasoning is correct I cannot say. The
specialty of Nature Cure methods lies in the fact that being natural,
they can be safely practised by laymen. If a man, suffering from
headache, wets a piece of cloth in cold water and wraps it round his
head, it can do no harm. The addition of earth to cold water enhances
the utility of the cold pack.
Now about the sitz or
friction bath. The organ of reproduction is one of the most sensitive
parts of the body. There is something illusive about the sensitiveness
of the glans penis and the foreskin. Any way, I know not how to describe
it. Kuhne has made use of this knowledge for therapeutic purposes. He
advises application of gentle friction to the outer end of the external
sexual organ by means of a soft wet piece of cloth, while cold water is
being poured. In the case of the male the glans penis should be covered
with the foreskin before applying friction. The method advised by Kuhne
is this: A stool should be placed in a tub of cold water so that the
seat is just about the level of the water in the tub. The patient should
sit on the stool with his feet outside the tub and apply gentle friction
to the sexual organ which just touches the surface of the water in the
tub. This friction should never cause pain. On the contrary the patient
should find it pleasant and feel rested and peaceful at the end of the
bath. Whatever the ailment, the sitz bath makes the patient feel better
for the time being. Kuhne places sitz baths higher than hip baths. I
have had much less experience of the former than of the latter. The
blame, I think, lies mostly with myself. I have been lax. Those whom I
advised sitz bath, have not been patient with the experiment, so that I
cannot express an opinion on the efficacy of these baths, based on
personal experience. It is worth a trial by every one. If there is any
difficulty about finding a tub, it is possible to pour water from a jug
or a lota and take the friction bath. It is bound to make the
patient feel rested and peaceful.
A few words about wet
sheet packs will not be out of place. It is very useful in pyrexia and
insomnia. The method of giving wet sheet packs is this. Spread three or
four thick broad woollen blankets on a cot and on top of them a thick
cotton sheet dipped in cold water with the water wrung out. The patient
lies flat on the wet sheet with his head resting on a pillow outside the
sheet. The wet sheet and the blankets are wrapped round the patient
covering the whole body except the head which is covered with a damp
towel treated after the manner of the wet sheet. The sheet and the
blankets are wrapped round the patient, so that outside air cannot get
inside. Though the patient feels a gentle shock when first laid in the
wet sheet pack, he finds it pleasant afterwards. In a minute or two he
begins to feel warm, unless the fever has become chronic, in about five
minutes it begins to come down with sweating. In resistant cases I have
kept the patient wrapped in the wet sheet pack up to half an hour. This
has finally resulted in sweating. Sometimes, there is no sweating, but
the patient goes off to sleep. In that case, he should not be awakened.
The sleep indicates that the wet sheet pack has produced a soothing
effect and he is quite comfortable. The temperature invariably falls at
least by one or two degrees as a result of the wet sheet pack.
Wet sheet packs are
also useful in the treatment of prickly heat, urticaria, other forms of
skin irritation, measles, smallpox etc. I have tried them on a fairly
large scale for these ailments. For smallpox and measles cases, I added
enough potassium permanganate to the water to give it a light pink
colour. The sheet used for these patients, should afterwards be
sterilized by soaking it in boiling water and leaving it in it till it
cools down sufficiently and then washed with soap and water.
In cases where
circulation has become sluggish, the leg muscles feel sore and there is
peculiar ache and feeling of discomfort in the legs, and ice massage
does a lot of good. This treatment is more effective in summer months.
Massaging a weak patient with ice in winter might prove a risky affair.
Now a few words about
the therapeutics of hot water. An intelligent use of hot water gives
relief in many cases. Application of iodine is a very popular remedy for
all sorts of injuries and the like. Application of hot water will prove
equally effective in most of these cases. Tincture of iodine is applied
on swollen and bruised areas. Hot water fomentations are likely to give
equal relief, if not more. Again, iodine drops are used in cases of
earache. Irrigation of the ear with warm water is likely to relieve the
pain in most of these cases. The use of iodine is attended with certain
risks. The patient may have an idiosyncrasy towards the drug. Iodine
mistaken for something else and taken internally might prove disastrous.
But there is no risk whatsoever in using hot water Boiling water is as
good a disinfectant as tincture of iodine. I do not mean to belittle the
usefulness of iodine or suggest that hot water can replace it in all
cases. Iodine is one of the few drugs which I regard most useful and
necessary, but it is an expensive thing. The poor cannot afford to buy
it and moreover its use cannot be safely entrusted to everybody. But
water is available everywhere. We may not despise its therapeutic value
because it is obtained so easily. Knowledge of common household remedies
often proves a godsend in many a crisis.
In cases of scorpion
bite where all remedies have failed, immersion of the part in hot water
has been found to relieve the pain to a certain extent.
A shivering fit or a
rigor can be made to subside by putting buckets of hot boiling water all
round the patient who is well wrapped up or by saturating the atmosphere
of the room with steam by some other device. A rubber hot water bag is a
most useful thing, but it is not to be found in every household. A glass
bottle with a well fitting cork, filled with hot water and wrapped in a
piece of cloth, serves the same purpose. Care should be taken to choose
bottles that would not crack on hot water being poured into them.
Steam is a more
valuable therapeutic agent. It can be used to make the patient sweat.
Steam baths are most useful in cases of rheumatism and other
joint-pains. The easiest as well as the oldest method of taking steam
bath is this. Spread a blanket or two on a sparsely but tightly woven
cot and put one or two covered vessels full with boiling water under it.
Make the patient lie flat on the cot and cover him up in such a way that
the ends of the covering blankets touch the ground and thus prevent the
steam from escaping and the outside air from getting in. After arranging
everything as above, the lid from the vessels containing boiling water
is removed and steam soon gets on to the patient lying between the
blankets. It may be necessary to change the water once or twice. Usually
in India people keep an angithi under the pots to keep the water
boiling. This ensures continuous discharge of steam but is attended with
risk of accidents. A single spark might set fire to the blankets or to
the cot and endanger the patient's life. Therefore, it is advisable to
use the method described by me even though it might seem slow and
Some people add
neem leaves or other herbs to the water used for generating steam. I
do not know if such an addition increases the efficiency of steam. The
object is to induce sweat and that is attained by mere steam.
In cases of cold feet
or aching of the the legs, the patient should be made to sit with his
feet and legs immersed up to the knees in as hot water as he can bear. A
little mustard powder can be added to the water. The foot bath should
not last for more than fifteen minutes. This treatment improves the
local circulation and gives immediate relief.
In cases of common
cold and sore throat a steam kettle which is very much like an ordinary
tea kettle with a long nozzle can be used for applying steam to the
nose or throat. A rubber tube of required length can be attached to any
ordinary kettle for this purpose.