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The legacy of Sebastian Kneipp

The roots of contemporary naturopathic medicine are embedded in its historical roots from the work of Sebastian Kneipp.
A bronze statue of Sebastian Kneipp (erected in 1903) in Bavaria, Germany.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

One of the critical contributors, if not a significant founder of naturopathic medicine, is Sebastian Kneipp – a German priest who established a form of hydrotherapy (water therapy) called Kneipp Cure but also contributed to various naturopathic disciplines.

Kneipp was a famous healer. He was not only popular in his village and greater Europe; his popularity also reached international waters in the United States of America (USA). Despite his popularity, he was purely dedicated to those less fortunate and often performed treatments and healing in kind to those who did not have access to any other form of health treatment or care. During these early years, Kneipp became unwell with tuberculosis – an infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs and can result in death. While unwell, he studied the application of self-administered water therapy, particularly cold water applications. Cold water therapy promotes increased blood circulation, naturally followed by the body warming the skin to counter the cold. This simple reaction is what Kneipp believed to help cure his tuberculosis, and therefore, he could aid others who also suffered from this disease and other aliments Czeranko 2019.

While water cure was Kneipp’s main focus in helping others, he established “Kneipp cure” as his primary practice discipline. Kneipp cure encompassed five main areas of treatment: hydrotherapy, herbal medicine, nutrition, exercise, and balance of the mind and body. The work of Kneipp did not go unnoticed. In 1953, Kneipp cure was formally recognised as a legitimate approach to health in Germany, which can be seen as one contribution to his success and popularity. Kneipp had several students interested in either learning more about Kneipp cure or wishing to receive the healing benefits. According to historical accounts, one individual not only received life-altering therapy from Kneipp (which cured his tuberculosis) but also developed a passion for spreading the benefits of water cure to the Western world. This individual came to be the founder of contemporary naturopathic medicine, known as Benedict Lust. While the naturopathic medicine profession continued to develop and advance after the death of Kneipp in 1879, his contributions to naturopathic medicine are evidenced in the foundations of the profession. And still today, his style of water cure is used in the well-established water spas in his home country. This short video provides an overview of Kneipp’s life and his contributions to establishing the foundations of naturopathic medicine.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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