Kneipp Therapy

Kneipp wellness is a holistic system for overall health developed by Sebastian Kneipp, a nineteenth-century Bavarian priest. His approach includes aspects of hydrotherapy, herbalism, and aerobic exercise. Sebastian Kneipp was born to a poor family in Stephansreid, Bavaria, on May 17, 1821. He initially took up his father’s trade of weaving, but longed to become a priest. With help from a sympathetic clergyman, he was admitted to high school as a mature student, but after five years of intensive studies, Kneipp became seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis.

At that time, the disease was usually fatal, but Kneipp came across an eighteenth-century book about hydrotherapy that inspired him during the winter of 1849 to immerse himself several times a week in the icy Danube River. These brief exposures to cold water seemed to bolster his immune system, because Kneipp’s tuberculosis went into remission and he was able to continue his theological studies in Munich. There, he convinced some of his fellow students to join his experiments with hydrotherapy.

Kneipp was ordained as a priest in 1852. In that capacity, he began using hydrotherapy to help some of his poorer parishioners. He broadened his approach to include herbalism, exercise, and other elements, and toned down his initial enthusiasm for shocking the body with cold water. “I warn all against too-frequent application of cold water,” he later wrote. “Three times I concluded to remodel my system and relax the treatment from severity to mildness and thence to greater mildness still.” Kneipp’s reputation grew after a number of dying patients recovered when he was called to administer last rites and managed instead to restore them to health.

In 1855 he was assigned to Worishofen, a village in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps that soon developed an international reputation as a place of healing. Kneipp summarized his teachings in two popular books, My Water Cure in 1886 and So Sollt Ihr Leben (Thus Thou Shalt Live) in 1889. Supporters of his techniques formed Kneipp Societies in Germany and the United States.

Father Kneipp was later named a monsignor by Pope Leo XIII. After his death in Worishofen on June 17, 1897, his wellness techniques became less popular, but interest in hydrotherapy increased again during the latter part of the twentieth century.


Proponents of Kneipp therapy believe that it bolsters the immune system and results in improved overall wellness. Kneipp Spout Therapy or Kneipp Hosing Therapy is used successfully in treating animals.

Basics of Kneipp Therapy

Hydrotherapy involves the use of hot and cold water to stimulate the nerves, blood vessels and internal organs. It uses baths, compresses, packs, and water jets.

Plant therapy takes the form of medicinal herbs added to bath water and also administered as juices, lozenges, teas, or ointments, etc.
Exercise Therapy.

This aspect of treatment involves long hikes, gymnastics, tennis, cycling, and other vigorous activities to amplify the effects of the water and herb therapies.
Nutrition Therapy

Employs a low-protein, high fiber diet . Special Kneipp diets are also available for weight loss or such ailments as gout, diabetes, or metabolic problems.
Health maintenance therapy. Patients in the Kneipp program are trained to adhere to their natural biorhythms.