What is Naturopathic Hydrotherapy?

Written by Alexandra McPhee | 15 April, 2020

Hydrotherapy is a principle treatment within traditional Naturopathic philosophy. This understated and oft-forgotten therapy can be as simple as washing a wound, or as complex as a cryotherapy session. The basis is the same – water is a powerful natural element and can be harnessed to support healing.

As a medicine, water is seriously versatile. Water aerobics isn’t the only water therapy available, either! Water can be applied to the body as a compress, it can be drank on its own or as tea, submerged in, washed with and exercised in. We can dissolve nutrients in, add clay, Epsom salts and essential oils to water to use in topical treatments.

In traditional hydrotherapy, water is the ‘medium’ and temperature is the ‘message’. This supports the Naturopathic philosophy that water itself does not heal, but it can enhance the body’s own ability to heal.

Different physiological mechanisms can be achieved by altering the temperature of and exposure to water.

The effects of warm and hot water:

  • Heat promotes the dilation of blood vessels to support the flow of blood to the peripheries including hands, feet and skin. Blood flow means nutrient and oxygen delivery to keep these parts of the body functioning well!
  • Warmth can dispel tension and ease muscle spasm, making a warm bath the antidote to stress, muscle aches and fatigue
  • Hot water can help to induce fever and sweating, supporting the body’s natural defence against infections

The effects of cool and cold water:

  • Cold temperatures promote constriction of blood vessels and the flow of blood to the vital organs
  • Cool water is anti-inflammatory and is an important intervention for superficial burns to the skin
  • Short bursts of cold water stimulate metabolism and immunity while long exposure can do just the opposite

Ways to include hydrotherapy in day-to-day life:

  • For the last minute of your shower, divert your head away from the shower head, take a deep breath and turn the temperature cold! Exposure your feet and legs first, then your arms, armpits, torso, back and spine. You can work up to taking cold showers by first alternating the temperature between warm and cool
  • Remember to drink plenty of room temperature, filtered water throughout the day to maintain hydration and mental focus
  • Take a warm bath at night with a few drops of lavender essential oil at night to wind down for sleep
  • Take a hot bath with a few drops of orange essential oil to re-energise before a night out
  • Find a natural body of water and take a plunge – even in the cooler seasons! Just make sure your prepared and have a dry towel and clothes to put on
  • Swim in rivers, seas and oceans for a double dose of hydrotherapy and nature therapy – a winning combination for health
  • Soothe aching muscles in a warm Epsom salt bath after strenuous activity
  • Try a water-based work out – moving through water applies gentle compression to the lymphatic vessels of the body to promote the flow and detoxification of lymph

Water really is foundational to good health!


Alexandra McPhee

Alexandra (Lexie) McPhee is an Endeavour College of Natural Health Alumni and qualified, practising Naturopath. Her special interests include writing, communication with the natural world, the history of medicinal plant use and creating her own herbal oils and salves. 

Read more by Alexandra McPhee

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