In the mid-19th century there was a popular revival of the water cure in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. During this time the term water cure was used synonymously with hydropathy, the term by which hydrotherapy was known in the 19th century and early 20th century.[a] However, the therapeutic use of water precedes this popular revival. Its use has been recorded in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations.
Two seminal publications preceded the populist revival of the 19th century. Firstly, Sir John Floyer, a physician of Lichfield, was struck by the remedial use of certain springs by the neighbouring peasantry, investigated the history of cold bathing and published a book on the subject in 1702. The book ran through six editions within a few years and the translation was largely drawn upon by Dr J. S. Hahn (1696–1773) of Silesia in a work published in 1738.
Secondly, a 1797 publication by Dr James Currie of Liverpool on the use of hot and cold water in the treatment of fever and other illness, with a fourth edition published in 1805, not long before his death. It was also translated into German by Michaelis (1801) and Hegewisch (1807). It was highly popular and first placed the subject on a scientific basis. Hahn's writings had meanwhile created much enthusiasm among his countrymen, societies having been everywhere formed to promote the medicinal and dietetic use of water; and in 1804 Professor E.F.C. Oertel of Anspach republished them and quickened the popular movement by unqualified commendation of water drinking as a remedy for all diseases.
Other popular forms of water therapy included the sea-water treatment of Richard Russell, the contemporary version of which is thalassotherapy. This however was never known or marketed as water cure in the sense that became synonymous with hydropathy, now hydrotherapy. Rather, Russell's efforts have been credited with playing a role, along with broader social movements, in the populist "sea side mania of the second half of the eighteenth century", which itself was of some significance, with some activities reminiscent of modern day of modern day spas. Indeed,
in Europe, the application of water in the treatment of fevers and other maladies had, since the seventeenth century, been consistently promoted by a number of medical writers. In the eighteenth century, taking to the waters became a fashionable pastime for the wealthy classes who decamped to resorts around Britain and Europe to cure the ills of over-consumption. In the main, treatment in the heyday of the British spa consisted of sense and sociability: promenading, bathing, and the repetitive quaffing of foul-tasting mineral waters.
The spa movement itself became especially popular during the 19th century when health spas devoted to the “cure” were well-known medical institutions for the upper-class, especially those with lingering or chronic illness. Spas and other therapeutic baths are somewhat synonymous with the term balneotherapy . Many scientific studies into the effectiveness of balneotherapy are said to suffer from methodological flaws, admitting no firm conclusions.
Water cure therapies and caveats[edit source | edit]
One form of water therapy advocated by some alternative medicine proponents, is the consuming of a gutful of water upon waking in order to 'cleanse the bowel'. A litre to a litre and half is the common amount ingested. This water therapy, also known as Indian, Chinese, or Japanese Water Therapy, is claimed to have a wide range of health benefits; or at least no adverse effects. Advocates of water therapy claim that application of water therapy at first will cause multiple bowel movements until the body adjusts to the increased amount of fluid. While ingesting about a litre-and-a-half of water is generally considered harmless, excessive consumption of water can lead to water intoxication, an urgent and dangerous medical condition.
a.^ The term water cure has also been used to refer to a form of torture. However, while the sense of water as a form of torture is documented back to at least the 15th century, the first use of the term water cure as a torture is indirectly dated to around 1898, by U.S. soldiers in the Spanish-American war. This was after the term had been introduced to America in the mid-19th century in the therapeutic sense, which was by then in widespread use. Indeed, while the torture sense of the term water cure was by 1900–1902 established in the American army, with a conscious sense of irony, this sense was not in widespread use. Webster's 1913 dictionary cited only the therapeutic sense, water cure being then synonymous with hydropathy, now known as hydrotherapy.
The ironic expropriation of the term water cure to denote the polar opposite of therapy is in keeping with some of the reactions to water cure therapy and its promotion, which included not only criticism, but also parody and satire.
References[edit source | edit]
^Angus Stevenson, ed. (2007). "Definition of Water Cure". Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 2: N-Z (6th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 3586. ISBN978-0-19-920687-2. Note: Definition is under the general listing for water (noun), alphabetically in the sub-listing for phrases. This section begins on p.3585, but the definition for Water Cure is found in the top part of the first column on p.3586. The phrases are in alphabetical order, so it's just a matter of going down the list.
^ abUnsigned article (1910). "Hydropathy". In …. The Encyclopædia BritannicaXIV. London: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. pp. 165–166. Retrieved 2009-10-29. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org)
^"Baths". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica (1911encyclopedia.org). Retrieved 2009-11-05.
^Hahn, J.S. (1738). On the Power and Effect of Cold Water. Cited in Richard Metcalfe (1898), pp.5–6. Per Encyclopædia Britannica, this was also titled On the Healing Virtues of Cold Water, Inwardly and Outwardly applied, as proved by Experience
^Verhagen AP; De Vet, HC; De Bie, RA; Kessels, AG; Boers, M; Knipschild, PG (October 1997). "Taking baths: the efficacy of balneotherapy in patients with arthritis. A systematic review.". J Rheumatol24 (10): 1964–71. PMID9330940.
^Verhagen AP; De Vet, HC; De Bie, RA; Kessels, AG; Boers, M; Knipschild, PG; De Vet, Henrica CW; Verhagen, Arianne P (January 2004). "Balneotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.". In Verhagen, Arianne P. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2): CD000518. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000518. PMID10796385.
^Paul Kramer (25 February 2008). "The Water Cure". The New Yorker. Retrieved 6 December 2009. (Article describing the U.S. military expropriation of 'water cure' to denote a form of torture, with acknowledgement by one accused (p.3) of the difference in popular understanding, from the sense used by the military)