We all know the benefits of taking water internally; we have to have water to survive. Topical applications of water can also be beneficial. Although cold water will initially slow circulation it can be applied in a manner that will stimulate vitality and increase blood flow to an area.
The temperature of the human body is regulated and adjusted within a few degrees of an average normal temperature. When cold is applied to the body an initial reaction of stimulation occurs. However, in an effort to achieve homeostasis or balance the body will try to reestablish its normal temperature. Circulation will increase to the area and bring blood with oxygen and nutrients. This in turn will enhance local immunity.
Benefits of Cold Water Applications:
• Initially acts as a stimulant, but then conveys a tonic effect.
• Acts to reduce pressure and inflammation.
• Stops bleeding when applied close to the source of bleeding.
• May help to reduce the pain associated with sprains or injured joints.
• Will help to take the heat out of a burn or scalded area.
• May be employed as a life saving measure in the case or heat or sun stroke until emergency personnel arrive.
• A palliative remedy for hemorrhoids.
Benefits of Warm Water Applications:
• Acts initially to excite the system and then becomes a depressant.
• May help relieve the discomfort of rheumatism.
• In cases of hyperacidity a warm cloth can be placed over the stomach to reduce the flow of stomach acid.
• Hot baths may be beneficial for conditions such as cystitis, colic, gallstone and kidney stones.
• May be beneficial for conditions such as suppressed menstruation and painful menstruation.
• Increases elimination by promoting perspiration.
First aid techniques using hydrotherapy:
Bruises – Run a cloth under cold tap water, wring it out and apply it to the bruised area. Apply a dry towel or wool scarf over the wet cloth. Allow the cloths to stay in place until they become warm and then repeat the procedure several times per day.
Cuts and Scrapes – Allow the area to bleed briefly which will flush out and cleanse the wound. The area should then be run under cold water for approximately two minutes and then apply a compress. Once the compress is in place follow the same procedures as with bruising.
Burns – To help remove the heat and pain associated with a burn run the area under cold water for approximately ten minutes. Apply a compress as mentioned above, but do not allow it to dry out. If the compress does dry out do not try to remove it but instead soak the area in cold water.
Bleeding – apply a cold compress as close to the area or organ as possible to stop bleeding. According to herbalist James Green a cold compress may be applied to the upper portion of the back to stop a nose bleed or relieve nasal congestion.
Strep/Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes or Cough – apply a cold compress around the neck. Make sure that the compress does not lay directly on the back of the neck but closer to the hair line. Wrap the compress in a wool cloth or scarf and leave in place until it is warm or dry. Repeat this procedure several times a day.
Nervousness, Agitation and Depression – Soak in a neutral or warm bath (96 – 98 deg F) for approximately 30 – 60 minutes
Hydrotherapy may be employed as a full or sitz bath or applied to specific areas with compresses. Alternating the application of hot and cold water acts as a gentle massage. Keep in mind that there are contraindications and warnings associated with hot and cold applications for people with various health conditions. Speak with a trained professional before employing extreme variations of hot or cold therapies.
Bergner, P. (2001), Folk remedies database. Bergner Communications. Boulder, CO.
Green, J. (2000), The herbal medicine makers handbook. Crossing Press. Berkeley, CA.
Mitchell, S. (2001). A practical guide to naturopathy. Custom Publishing. Columbus, OH.
Mcfaden, B., Oswald, F. (1900) Fasting, hydrotherapy and exercise. Berner Mcfaden. London