In the fall of 1849, a young seminary student in Bavaria was dying. The once sturdy young man had become emaciated. A cough rattled him. Every night his sheets were drenched in sweat. In the morning, he found blood on his pillow.
The student was Sebastian Kneipp, a poor weaver’s son from a small Bavarian village. The change from his village to the crowded, unhealthy conditions in dormitory and seminary took a tremendous toll on his health. The lack of fresh air, fresh food, and exercise brought about consumption (tuberculosis) in the once strapping young man. Tuberculosis was rampant and incurable in the nineteenth century.
When his physicians had given up on him and he was near death, Sebastian desperately searched the seminary library for advice. By chance, he unearthed an old tract describing a cold-water cure. Having nothing to lose, Kneipp followed the advice of the booklet and jumped into the chilly waters of the Danube River three times a week. This barbaric treatment cured him, astonishing his fellow students, teachers, and doctors. He later went on to develop a complete system of health, which he called “The Five Pillars of Health.” This nature-based system swept Europe and the world. The Washington Post called Sebastian Kneipp one of the three most influential men in the world at that time (the others were President McKinley and Prince Bismarck).
Nowadays, I would not forgo modern medications against tuberculosis—although, with drug-resistant strains on the rise, we might have to rethink our approach. But for many other diseases, Kneipp’s water cure is needed now more now than ever, because it summons the innate healing powers of our bodies. For my patients, I have adjusted Kneipp’s system to the twenty-first century and busy American life. But the system is still based on the life-giving properties of water, using what I call the Five Water Essentials:
- Water: Life came from the ocean, and today our cells still carry the sea within. Water makes up about 70 percent of our bodies and is far from being an unimportant filler. Because of our ocean past, water inside and outside our bodies heals and rejuvenates.
- Movement: A moving river cleans itself. But stagnant waters rot. To keep our cells functioning, we have to move the water inside our bodies—using and defying gravity—and become supple and fluid as flowing river waters.
- Nutrition: Foodstuffs are the building blocks of our bodies. Plants assimilate light and drink water. Only when fresh—not artificially processed—are they nourishing victuals. Bursting with moisture, such plants, and animals fed on them, build healthy bodies and supply our cells with life-giving energy.
- Herbs: Water pulls minerals from the soil into every plant cell, and we can harvest this healing power: in herbal medicines as teas and infusions, and in the kitchen with tasty herbs and spices.
- Life balance: When we follow the rhythms of the natural ebb and flow of life, our bodies and minds can relax, rejuvenate, and heal.
Incorporating water and the water-based essentials of natural health into our daily lives is as effortless, fast, and inexpensive as the water that comes out of your faucet when you turn it on. It’s effortless because water works naturally with our ancient biology, fast because these health-promoting measures take only minutes to include in your life, and inexpensive because the Five Water Essentials use only what the earth provides.
Why You Need the Five Water Essentials
Biologically we are still very much like our cave-dwelling ancestors. Over millions of years, our bodies have been exposed to the elements: cold, rain, sun, wind. Constant changes challenged our systems to adapt. There were no air-conditioned rooms in the summer or central heating in the winter. Now our bodies are barely exposed to the weather outside, and we have become alienated from the natural elements.
We have evolved over millions of years, and one century of electricity, central heating, and automation is not long enough to cause significant changes in our biology. Many of the illnesses of modern life, including diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, depression, chronic pain, obesity, and cancer are the responses of an immune system that no longer functions as it should. We can, however, improve our health by making a few simple modifications to our lifestyles. One of the most important of these is embracing the power of water.