The Surprise Cures of Priessnitz

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Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE

Nature Remedy Medical Pearls

In consequence of the trendy water-cure having been originated by a non-medical and uneducated man, and having been subsequently, for essentially the most half, adopted and professed by lay practitioners, or by medical males of considerably  equivocal repute – and but extra, from the system being held out as a panacea or remedy for all ailments, with an unique scorn of medicinal support – the medical career, as a physique, have naturally sufficient, and never inexcusably, handled it with a lot contempt, to not say aversion, and have proven a fairly basic willpower to not admit it into of therapeutic means. – Joel Shew, 1851, p.65


To the remedy for indigestion, the individual, who, by an extended course of abusing the abdomen, has introduced upon himself weak point of that organ, should do not forget that a number of days, or weeks, and even months, won’t suffice to present him once more the digestion of a ploughman or a pavier. – Joel Shew, 1851, p.149


The Abreibung, or the Rubbing Moist Sheet: this is among the mildest and most handy types of a shower. A big linen sheet, of coarse materials, is wrung out in chilly water, and whereas dripping, a number of assistants instantly support in rubbing. – Joel Shew, 1851, p.56

It’s actually illuminating to learn the early literature of our career as a result of these previous books remind us that, regardless of the extreme chronicity problems with our time and the persistent risks of unfettered Huge Pharma, there may be a lot to understand concerning the broader spectrum of up to date medical tradition in North America. Naturopathic medication is rising inside that tradition. Our faculties are accredited and extra graduates enter the sector yearly. Up to date naturopathic medical doctors wince, as did their forebears, within the face of proof all through that early literature that particulars the customarily brutal and generally deadly nature of normal allopathic remedies. When it comes to the precept of Primum non nocere inside that very same standard medical remedy, we may dispute whether or not affected person care has basically improved in some areas of well being care through the previous century and extra.

I would love on this article to focus on some circumstances that had been introduced within the mid-19th century utilizing water-cure, in counterpoint to such regularly dangerous allopathic approaches. As a living proof, allow us to evaluation water-cure protocols applied by Vincent Priessnitz. We are going to encounter on this literature acquainted ailments referenced by new names; others will replicate the nomenclature of our interval. Initially, I assumed to current a wide range of circumstances, however as soon as launching into the fabric, I made a decision it will be extra insightful, because of the sheer quantity, to handle solely ailments of digestion. Throughout your evaluation of those feedback, don’t neglect to savor the water-cure choices which have been deserted for much too lengthy.

It’s helpful to needless to say within the water-cure strategies described under, the temperature of water utilized by Priessnitz by no means exceeded 77° F/25° C. (Rausse, 1851, p.67) A shower taken in water on the very highest temperature of 77° F/25° C can be considerably stunning to a up to date affected person, hardly qualifying nowadays as a heat or tepid tub. The classification of water temperatures established by Priessnitz and his followers (Rausse, 1851, p.67) had been as follows:

  • Chilly: all water underneath 55° F/13° C
  • Tepid: 55° to 77° F/13° to 25° C

Dyspepsia or Indigestion

A number of the widespread signs of indigestion embrace ache felt within the abdomen after meals. Shew cites, “complications, giddiness and drowsiness after consuming; vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, eructations, a way of one thing rising within the abdomen and unhealthy style within the mouth within the morning.” (Shew, 1851, p.147) Shew additionally contains in his dyspepsia listing: chilly extremities, despair, suicidal ideas, nightmares, and weight reduction.

The contributing causes for indigestion raised by Shew unsurprisingly are nonetheless listed virtually 200 years later. In actual fact, I’m sure that our transgressions could even have escalated with the rise of hundreds of synthetic meals components and unfathomable processing of our meals provide. In 1851 Shew stories that indigestion’s “commonest trigger [was] gluttony.” (Shew, 1851, p.147) Shew’s listing of what dietary habits trigger indigestion makes good sense. (Shew, 1851, p.147) Causes embrace:

  • Consuming too wealthy meals corresponding to nice flour merchandise
  • Consuming meals too scorching
  • Consuming too quick and never masticating meals
  • Consuming at irregular instances
  • Consuming too typically
  • Consuming too many sorts of meals at a time
  • Consuming stimulating condiments corresponding to salt, pepper, and spices
  • Consuming caffeine
  • Sedentary habits
  • Overworking, fear, nervousness
  • Discontent
  • Over-taxing the thoughts

Addressing the causes of illness had been high of thoughts for Shew when figuring out the remedy plan for sufferers with indigestion. He states, “It hardly want be stated, that so far as doable all of the causes of the grievance should be eliminated.” (Shew, 1851, p.149) When the causes are eliminated, typically the signs are cleared up with out another intervention.

Rubbing Moist Sheet

Within the following case, Dr Shew used the rubbing moist sheet as one of many purposes for the affected person. He used a tough or coarse linen sheet for the moist sheet due to its means to carry a substantial quantity of water. The purpose of the rubbing moist sheet is to not wring out all the water, he recommends; dripping moist sheets had been most popular. The moist sheet is thrown over the pinnacle or concerning the neck and lively friction is utilized by the affected person within the entrance and by an assistant on the again. Friction continues for 1 to five minutes till “the pores and skin turns into reddened and heat.” Shew continues, “This should be instantly adopted briskly by a rough dry sheet or dry garments till the [skin] floor is completely dry and in an entire glow. The affected person is then instantly dressed for train, or for mattress.” (Shew [Hydropathy], 1851, p.147) The coldness of the temperature of the water used within the rubbing moist sheet is chosen based mostly upon the affected person’s power. For these feeble and bedridden, the rubbing moist sheet may be utilized whereas the affected person is in mattress.

Case: Indigestion, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Sciatica

Shew presents a case of a 54-year-old shoemaker who developed dyspepsia early in life. His signs included: “constipation, low spirits, lack of urge for food, furred tongue, acid abdomen, ache within the bowels, with occasional spasms … He had additionally been troubled with piles and such was the torpor of the intestinal canal, that, for a interval of 10 months at a time, he [resorted to laxative medications and enemas to relieve constipation].” (Shew, 1851, p.164)

The affected person had tried the Thompsonian steaming technique for 21 days with none aid to the dyspepsia. Throughout this remedy he developed ache of his proper leg, which was in a everlasting state of flexion accompanied with extreme ache. The ache was so extreme that he needed to give up work and wanted a crutch to stroll. “There was a continuing numbness with a sensation of pricking as if from 10,000 needles and occasional assaults of agonizing ache occurring in spasms half a dozen instances a day and extra. Whereas on a go to to New York Metropolis, a spasm attacked him as he was hobbling concerning the avenue, and so excruciating was the ache, that he was compelled to lie down on the sidewalk and there writhe and groan within the biggest agony.” (Shew, 1851, p.164) Opiates and extra steamings didn’t present aid.

He consulted Dr Shew and was prescribed a number of water therapies that included “chilly foot tub for half an hour earlier than breakfast, consuming throughout that point a quart of chilly water and taking what train inside doorways that the crippled state of his limb would enable.” (Shew, 1851, p.165) Different water purposes included a chilly sitz tub for half an hour twice a day, and a chilly douche on the affected hip; he wore an stomach bandage and native cooling bandages all through the day.

These water software aggravated his signs and he felt “as if 1,000,000 bugs had been pushed down the leg in the direction of the toes.” (Shew, 1851, p.165) For the primary 2 nights his pains elevated, however regardless of the aggravations the affected person endured in following by means of with the water purposes. He additionally added the rubbing moist sheet and carrying moist drawers one evening and making use of chilly water affusions.

Shew recounts,

In a single week, he discovered the ache had very significantly remitted and in a fort-night he was capable of stroll with out crutch or employees … He assisted a carpenter who was repairing his buildings for him; and through this era, in consequence of the fatigue, to which he was uncovered, he plied the chilly water with double diligence. This introduced on a disaster, within the type of a basic eruption of little pimples exuding serum and roughening the pores and skin with very nice itching. – (Shew, 1851, p.165)

The affected person continued the water purposes, and inside 2 months the pores and skin, digestion, and hip ache had been all resolved. From his weight-reduction plan he eradicated espresso, tea, and grease. As a substitute of consuming steak and low for breakfast, he ate potatoes, coarse bread, and fried pudding, and lowered meat consumption to solely as soon as a day. (Shew, 1851, p.166)

This case illustrates that hydrotherapies mixed with dietary modifications may reverse years of struggling.


An outline of enteritis in 1851 by Joel Shew is the next: “In easy enteritis, supposing it to be lively and violent, there may be acute deep-seated ache; and this will happen in numerous components of the intestinal area. Though the ache is fixed, but it’s aggravated at intervals; and it’s elevated by stress … There may be basic fever and normally obstinate constipation.” (Shew, 1851, p.159) The usual of care on the time was bleeding the affected person. Shew stories, “The very first thing we’ve got to do, is to bleed the affected person properly … and bleed from a big orifice, with none mercy.” (Shew, 1851, p.160) The target of blood-letting was to “knock down the heartbeat and make [the patient] faint. After this has been accomplished, a really massive dose of calomel must be [given].” (Shew, 1851, p.160) It doesn’t shock us that the lack of copious portions of blood, after which deadly doses of mercury are administered, would generate severe issues. Priessnitz had different concepts.

He advocated decreasing the fever within the bowels by utilizing “half baths or hip baths of temperature suited to the power.” (Shew, 1851, p.160) Shew additionally used moist sheets, fomentations, and body-temperature colonics. He advises, “Give injections … time and again; if want be 50 instances in a day; hold the bowels utterly soaked. Give no meals until the illness is quelled, after which start with half a teaspoon portion.” (Shew, 1851, p.160)

Case: Extreme Enteritis

Shew presents a case of his brother, whom he handled. The affected person, in Shew’s phrases, was “quick turning into typhoid or sinking. Moreover the ache and swelling of the stomach there was extreme ache within the again, the thighs, injection of blood within the eyes, thick fur upon the tongue and psychological disturbance. The sleep underneath highly effective opiates was dreamy and stressed.” (Shew, 1851, p.160) The brother was given the widespread remedies of the time.

On arrival to the sick mattress, Shew described the illness as exceedingly obstinate. The primary intervention by Shew was to manage a tepid enema, in order not shock the affected person, who was vastly debilitated. Tepid is about 20° F/11° C under physique temperature. Shew notes, “It was astonishing how perceptibly this software cooled the physique … In a number of moments a big evacuation passed off, however the constipation had been obstinate.” (Shew, 1851, p.161)

Moist Girdle

Shew then utilized a “moist girdle,” four yards lengthy and a half-foot in width. Just one finish of the fabric was moist with the tepid water. The moist finish was first wrapped across the affected person, and the dry finish acted as insulation. Shew provides an account of the result: “The mixed impact of the clyster [enema] and bandage was quickly to take away all ache from the bowels and the again. Moist bandages, much like that concerning the physique, had been put concerning the thighs, and unusual as it could seem, in lower than half an hour all ache was eliminated.” (Shew, 1851, p.161)

After the moist bandages, the brother rested and was then positioned in a bath with a number of inches of tepid water [50° F/10° C]. Subsequent, he was given a friction tub that took about 5 minutes. “On this, he sat, and was shortly rubbed everywhere in the floor, and the water was dipped up and poured over the physique.” (Shew, 1851, p.161) The higher a part of his physique was rubbed and dried, after which the identical process with the decrease physique adopted. After the tub, the affected person was re-bandaged and positioned in a heat mattress with heat purposes to his toes. What ensued was a deep refreshing sleep. Within the night one other enema was given hourly and all earlier medication was stopped. (Shew, 1851, p.160)

The affected person was not given any meals till the second day, and solely by 1 or 2 spoonfuls. The meals allowed was a watery gruel. On this regard, Shew warns, “[food] must be given with the best warning, and solely of the farinaceous variety, a spoonful or two of water gruel solely at a time, and it will trigger mischief, if given too quickly.” (Shew, 1851, p.162) On the second day, the identical water purposes continued. The preliminary physician witnessed the water-cure remedy with nice astonishment, and, specifically, “of the coating being so quickly faraway from the tongue.” (Shew, 1851, p.162) By the third day, the affected person was cellular and was capable of stroll on the street along with his brother who helped him with water-cure.

Closing Feedback

Cures such because the one Shew has described had been carried out in Gräefenberg by Priessnitz frequently. Their successes generated worldwide consideration and had been unmatched by medical medical doctors who quickly got here in massive numbers to study his secrets and techniques of remedy. Not uncharacteristic of the response of the allopathic career to challenges to their hegemony on the time, “[Priessnitz] was declared to be illegally tampering with the general public well being, and ordered to be arrested.” (Shew, 1851, p.62) This explicit indictment was reversed on the grounds that “Priessnitz made use of nothing in his apply besides water.” (Shew, 1851, p.63) His success in curing illness baffled the medical career, and for these medical doctors who got here to review with Priessnitz and share his protocols and methodologies, we will solely be ceaselessly grateful.


Rausse, J. H. (1851). Water-cure, utilized to each recognized illness. New York, NY: Fowlers and Wells; pp 272.
Shew, J. (1851). Hydropathy, or the Water-Remedy. New York, NY: Fowlers and Wells; pp 360.
Shew, J. (1851). The Water-Remedy Guide, Quantity IV. New York, NY: Fowlers and Wells; pp 282.

Picture Copyright: <a href=’’>kzenon / 123RF Inventory Picture</a>

Sussanna Czeranko ND, BBE, incorporates “nature-cure” approaches to main care by together with balneotherapy, respiratory remedy, and vitamin into her naturopathic apply. Dr Czeranko is a college member working because the Uncommon Books curator at NCNM and is at the moment compiling a 12-volume collection based mostly upon Benedict Lust’s journals, revealed early within the final century. Her revealed books embrace: Origins of Naturopathic Medication; Philosophy of Naturopathic Medication; Dietetics of Naturopathic Medication; Rules of Naturopathic Medication; Vaccination and Naturopathic Medication; and Bodily Tradition in Naturopathic Medication. Dr Czeranko is the founding father of the Respiration Academy, a coaching institute for naturopaths to include a scientific mannequin of respiratory remedy referred to as Buteyko into their apply. She can also be a founding board member of the Worldwide Congress of Naturopathic Medication and a member of the Worldwide Society of Medical Hydrology.

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