Hydrotherapy (aka water cure) is one of the simplest yet most effective therapies used by naturopathic physicians. When applied properly, water can be used to treat almost any condition by increasing circulation, nutrition and oxygen uptake by the cells, removing waste, strengthening the immune system, and promoting a parasympathetic (aka relaxed) state. All of these benefits make it perfect for chronic diseases, colds/flus, infections, seasonal allergies, sinus congestion, painful periods, and much more. Some hydrotherapy treatments require the presence of a trained physician but several can easily be done at home! So now what? How do you use such a simple and powerful tool? Here are some of my favorite protocols for you to try at home.
Castor Oil Pack
Lets start with my absolute favorite. This is something I think almost everybody should be doing a few times a week, if not nightly! Since we are not using water directly, this may not be considered a classical hydrotherapy treatment although it is incredibly useful and definitely worth including. Castor oil packs are great for gentle every day liver detox, PMS, gas/ bloating, and abdominal pain just to name a few. Warning, castor oil does stain clothing and furniture, so just make sure you aren’t wearing anything you like and that you protect your furniture with a towel or waterproof cloth like an incontinence pad (yep.. incontinence pad! They are super cheap and mess free).
Indications: Gentle every day liver detox, PMS, chronic disease, gas/ bloating, abdominal pain etc.
- Towel or incontinence pad
- Hot water bottle
- Wool flannel cloth or old hand towel
- Castor oil
- Tupperware or zip lock bag
- Lay the towel or incontinence pad onto a comfortable surface for you to lay on
- Fold the flannel or cloth into 2-4 layers so that it is a suitable size to cover recommended body area
- Soak the flannel in castor oil for the first treatment. For following treatments, you can apply a thin layer of castor oil
- Lay down on your towel or incontinence pad
- Apply pack to area of body you wish to treat
- You can apply it over your entire abdomen or over you liver (upper right quadrant of your abdomen)
- Place hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the flannel
- Treatment should continue for 30-45 minutes. Longer treatments are not harmful!
- To complete treatment remove the castor oil pack and place it in a Tupperware or plastic bag
- The pack can be stored in the refrigerator or by your bed. It can be reused 20-25 times, after which it should be washed or replaced
- Cleanse your skin with a solution of baking soda (1 teaspoon baking soda to 1 pint of water) or just rub the oil off with a paper towel
- Empty out your hot water bottle and allow it to dry before resealing to prevent mold growth
- Do not use heat with the castor oil packs when menstruating as it may increase bleeding
- Do not fall asleep with an electronic heating pad
Ok, this one is another favorite… possibly tied with castor oil packs! This treatment is a big hit with my patients. This is super simple and very effective for sinus congestions, cold or flu, insomnia, sore throats, headaches, and foot pain.
Indications: Sinus congestions, cold or flu, insomnia, sore throats, headaches, and foot pain.
- 1 pair of thin cotton socks
- 1 pair of thick wool socks (the higher the percentage of wool, the better)
- Warm bath or warm foot bath
- Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water
- Warm your feet by soaking them in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5-10 minutes
- This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first. Warming can be accomplished.
- Dry off feet and body with a dry towel
- Wring the cold cotton socks out thoroughly so they do not drip
- Place cold wet socks on feet
- Cover cold socks with the dry/thick wool socks
- Go directly to bed and avoid getting chilled
- Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.
Alternating Hot and Cold Compress
This is a great treatment and can be adapted for many conditions such as sinus infections and pulled muscles!
Indications: Sinus congestion or infections, pulled muscles, painful joints, and tendinitis.
- Bucket with hot/warm water (careful not to burn yourself)
- Bucket with cold water
- Two hand towels (one for each bucket)
- Wring out the hot towel and place it on desired area for 3 minutes
- If it starts to get cold, you can put it back in the hot bucket and reuse it
- Remove warm towel and place it back in the hot bucket
- Wring out the cold towel and place it on the area for 30 seconds
- Remove cold towel and place it back in the cold bucket
- Repeat 3 times and end with the cold.