Encyclopaedia of Traditional Hydrotherapy

Using the Traditional Hydrotherapy website

Treatment with Traditional Hydrotherapy

Using Hydrotherapy safely and effectively

This Website

The Sources and the Doctors

Encyclopaedia of Traditional Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy to treat disease

Hydrotherapy has been used for thousands of years and can be as simple as washing a wound or as complex as Alternate Compresses. It is not commonly used these days because it can be inconvenient, for example, taking an antibiotic pill is easier than arranging a Hot Bath. However, despite the labour involved, hydrotherapy is very effective. Its few adverse side effects are obvious immediately. It leaves the patient feeling comfortable and actually strengthens the body.

Hydrotherapy can be used on many conditions that are not amenable to medical treatment.

Today's hydrotherapy professionals can easily benefit from the wisdom and experience of doctors, who early last century gathered treatments from around the world to treat thousands of patients with a wide range of conditions. Traditional Hydrotherapy is compiled from their medical textbooks and allows you to consult with these men and women from the time when hydrotherapy was at its peak in the US.

Most of the terminology is unchanged, some will appear archaic. Temperatures have been converted to Centigrade and the spelling Anglicised.

Sections of the Encyclopaedia

  • How to Use the Website
  • How to Use Traditional Hydrotherapy – For those who are just starting out, learn the important points to be observed with all treatments. Follow these recommendations and you will find how effective simple water treatments are for problems that stump even the best today. Treat many of the minor illnesses of your family and learn how to react early to problems before they become major illnesses.
  • Diseases – Find the diseases treated with Traditional Hydrotherapy. Follow the links to the Problems and the recommended treatment Techniques.
  • Problems – these days we would call them signs and symptoms, but they are more than that. This is the most valuable section because it breaks the disease up into components that can be targeted specifically with hydrotherapy. Once you know the problems you will be able to treat diseases that are not in the "Diseases" section.
  • Techniques – the actual treatments. Usually with temperatures and durations. Detailed instructions are given for most common procedures.
  • Therapeutic Effects – classifies the Techniques according to the effects they have on the body. These directly correlate with the Problems. Also a very useful section.

Using this Website as an Encyclopaedia

Evaporating Wet Sheet Wet Sheet Rub Sitz Bath

Before Using this Information

We assume that you already have a diagnosis from a qualified Medical Practitioner. Inform the doctor if you want to use Hydrotherapy and ask if there are any contraindications.

We have given you the prescriptions as Kellogg, Abbott and the other doctors gave them. If any problems occur as a result of using these prescriptions, we would like to know, but I cannot accept responsibility for the outcome.

These treatments DO work but MUST be applied correctly to correctly diagnosed problems. The procedures themselves have few adverse side effects. Major problems you may encounter are a poor response, or a slow or no recovery. In these cases re-check the diagnosis and the procedure.

Seek medical help if acute conditions do not respond positively to hydrotherapy.

How to Use this Site

If the diagnosis you have doesn't match one of the Diseases listed, you will need to discover the Problems involved in the particular disease you are dealing with. It will probably take some time to become familiar with the Problems section as they are quite different to the signs and symptoms of today. Try to find a disease listed that has some of the same problems as the one you are dealing with.

Once you identify the problems you are dealing with you can then follow the links to the appropriate Techniques or to the Effects required for alternative techniques.

Using Traditional Hydrotherapy

Temperature Conversion Table

Common temperatures and their range

°C °F
Very Cold.... 0 32
5 41
7 45
10 50
Cold......... 1355
15 59
Cool......... 18 64
20 68
25 77
Tepid........ 27 81
30 86
32 90
Neutral...... 33 92
34 93
Warm......... 35 95
36 97
Hot.......... 37 99
38 100
39 102
Very Hot..... 40 104
41 106
42 108
44 111
45 113
50 122
55 131
60 140
70 158
100° 212°

Important Points to be Observed With All Treatments

from Simple Remedies pages 2 and 3.

Many of the diseases listed are dangerous. Always check the diagnosis of acute conditions with your doctor.

Most doctors will not know about Hydrotherapy but unless there are some contraindications (reasons for not doing the treatment), these treatments will not cause harm.

If your doctor has a valid reason for not allowing Hydrotherapy please FOLLOW THE ADVICE.

The Room

  • Warm
  • Free of drafts
  • No bright light in patient's eyes
  • Protect furniture, rugs, bedding etc.
  • Leave in same condition (or better) than when you found it.

The Treatment

  • Think and plan ahead just what you intend to do
  • Assemble all necessary articles before starting
  • Spread drape sheet over bed before patient undresses
  • Stay with patient or within easy calling distance
  • Don't be too talkative
  • Make your changes quickly
  • Be neat; pick up and clean up as you work
  • Be economical of time, linen, etc
  • Return all materials to proper place

The Patient

  • Must be warm to start (may use Hot Foot Bath, Covers etc)
  • Must undress for most treatments
  • When heating patient, use a cold compress to the head or neck
  • Gain their confidence. Explain procedures, what is coming next and the effect desired.
  • Don't sneak cold changes, unwarned.
  • No unnecessary exposure (only the part under immediate treatment)
  • Should be comfortable at all times (burns, falling, position etc.)
  • Keep patient relaxed
  • Dry thoroughly (feet, between toes, under arms etc.)
  • Allow and demand rest period after treatment
  • Avoid chilling
  • Must be in state of heat conservation (no sweating) before dressing

These treatments are very safe if properly performed but...

A little carelessness may undo all the benefits of a treatment.

Do not continue treatment indefinitely if there is no obvious improvement. In acute cases the response should be seen rapidly. Chronic problems may improve only slowly.

See the Doctor if:-

  • the disease is Acute
  • there is any threat to vital function ie.
    • difficulty breathing,
    • heart irregularities,
    • blocked circulation or continued bleeding,
    • blocked bowels or urination.
  • there is no or slow improvement especially in acute cases
  • the disease becomes worse
  • the patient wants to see a doctor

I have given you the best of my advice and that of all those I gleaned it from, but it is only advice. If any problems develop as a result of using this advice, I would like to know, but I cannot accept responsibility for the outcome.

The remedies here have all, without exception, been used and recommended by many qualified Doctors of Medicine. In most cases they are more effective if treatment is begun early in the disease process.

If you find any mistakes or know of any improvements in treatment methods please Contact me.

These treatments DO work but must be applied correctly to correctly diagnosed problems. The procedures themselves have few adverse side effects, the major problem you may encounter is that of poor response, slow or no recovery. In these cases re-check the diagnosis and the procedure.

Seek medical help if acute conditions do not respond positively to treatment.


Prescription Writing

Dr Abbott's methods of working out how to treat problems

  • Treatments that are disagreeable to the patient are rarely effective.
  • Treatments on ambulatory patients should only take 45-50 minutes.
  • Do not change the treatment too quickly, certainly not daily, only change treatment as the patient's condition changes or goals are reached.
  • Proper combinations require personal supervision and a knowledge of physiology (normal and abnormal) and how to achieve the desired therapeutic effect.

Principles of Prescription:

  • Apply as many procedures as possible, simultaneously.
  • Treatments given on the table should precede treatments given in the wet rooms
  • Milder procedures should be given first, those that produce the greatest reaction, last.
  • Only one general tonic cold should be given during a single treatment session.
  • Sweating treatments must be followed by a cooling application.
  • Study the patient so that treatment is individualised and specific
Dr Abbott

Dr Abbott says...

Infants do not react well to either extreme heat or cold. Fortunately, however, they respond to milder temperatures in as decided a manner as adults do greater extremes.

The Sources and the Doctors

Original DOS Hyperstack Exit Card

HyperHelper Exit Card

First Traditional Hydrotherapy Home Page

Fixed Size Home Page


The contents of Traditional Hydrotherapy were originally cards in a HyperHelper stack. On the left is the exit page of the original "Traditional Hydrotherapy". Below that is the front page of the first Traditional Hydrotherapy website.

Bruce began to put the stack together in 1992 for his own use. He wanted to know, quickly, what hydrotherapy treatment to use for his patients, or when asked for advice. It was based largely on the book, Simple Remedies for the Home by Clarence W. Dail, MD and Charles S. Thomas, PhD, MMI Press Harrisville, New Hampshire, 1985. This book is now out of print but a simpler version, by the same authors, is Hydrotherapy - Simple treatments for common ailments, Clarence Dail, MD and Charles Thomas, PhD, TEACH Services, Brushton, New York, 1989.

Other books used included:

  • Home Remedies: Hydrotherapy, Massage, Charcoal, and Other Simple Treatments, Agatha Moody Thrash, MD and Calvin L. Thrash, Jr, MD, Thrash Publications, Seale Alabama.
  • Natural Remedies A Manual, Phylis Austin, Agatha Thrash, MD, Calvin Thrash, MD, Family Health Publications, Sunfield Michigan, 1983
  • More Natural Remedies, Phylis Austin, Agatha Thrash, MD, Calvin Thrash, MD, Thrash Publications, Seale Alabama.

Dr JH Kellogg's Prescriptions was finished in 1994. Bruce had begun it back in 1991 but Dr John Harvey Kellogg's Rational Hydrotherapy (e-book version or read online) had defeated him. It is the summary of Kellogg's "Hydriatic Prescription Making" section from the last half of that book.

Dr JH Kellogg's Hydriatic Techniques came next, finished in 1997, compiled from the "Treatment" section of Rational Hydrotherapy detailing each of the treatments and what they are used for. It compliments the prescription section and is like a second opinion.

Dr GK Abbott's Prescriptions, finished in early 2001, is more hydrotherapy, this time from the books of George Knapp Abbott:

While compiling the two Kellogg programs Bruce assembled pertinent or over-the-top quotes from Dr Kellogg's book which appear at the top of the relevant pages. Enjoy!

For the complete and messy saga of how HyperHelper cards on the same topic were converted into webpages go to the Traditional Hydrotherapy blog and search under the "Making of" topic.

Meet Dr Kellogg

Young Kellogg Middle-aged Kellogg Dr Kellogg

Dr John Harvey Kellogg


Yes he did invent cornflakes but it was his brother, Will who developed them commercially and sold them.

Born in Michigan, printer by 14, school teacher at 17, John early "exhibited boundless energy for work and for obtaining knowledge", and for "burning midnight oil". He studied at Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York for 2 years, graduating in 1874.

He was lifetime director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and editor of Good Health. He became known as one of the best surgeons in the U.S, and a pioneer in physiotherapy and nutrition. A vegetarian he was also a popular lecturer, a traveller, making frequent European trips to study their medical techniques (especially hydrotherapy and surgery), and the author of 50 medical books.

Reading between the lines he could be a pain in the neck. He expected a lot from his staff, he was always right and he was a tall poppy.

A member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, it was the health philosophy held by this church that led him to find "simple" methods of treating disease.

In 1907 he left the Seventh-day Adventists, ostensibly on theological grounds but the truth is that there was quite a bit of personal animosity with church leaders. The upshot of this split being that hydrotherapy had lost its greatest proponent within the medical work of the church.

Quite a few of the doctors who eventually began Loma Linda University and wrote hydrotherapy texts, had some bitter struggles with Kellogg. Justified or not, these grudges resulted in Kellogg's methods being ignored or maligned for personal, not medical reasons.

Today only a few SDA institutions have working hydrotherapy departments and those that do are used mainly for relaxation not for treating disease.

Kellogg's work on hydrotherapy needs revisiting. While I don't believe he was always correct, he certainly had lots of experience in which to weed out ineffective treatments. I see his work as a baseline for further advances, as it was based on actual usage.

Quotes from Dr Kellogg

Meet Dr Abbott

Abbott 1950 https://archives.llu.edu/u?/photodb,3575 Abbott 1910 https://archives.llu.edu/u?/photodb,3589 Abbott 1947 https://archives.llu.edu/u?/photodb,3588

Dr George Knapp Abbott


Physician, administrator and author. A graduate of the American Medical Missionary College (1903) when Dr JH Kellogg was president, he began the practice of medicine in Burbank, California. In 1906 he married Dr Cora Richards, and the two went to Loma Linda Sanitarium to assist in developing a medical school. He was president of the Loma Linda College of Evangelists (1907-1910), and then dean of the College of Medical Evangelists and the medical superintendent of the sanitarium (1911-1914).

Dr. Abbott was the youngest president of CME at the age of 26. He is the author of thirteen books on physical therapy, diet and nutrition.

After his service at Loma Linda he continued in denominational work for 32 years, serving as medical director of St. Helena Sanitarium, Washington Sanitarium, and Glendale Sanitarium. During this time he was very active in promoting a vigorous health program.

(sources: Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 1976 and Loma Linda University Photo Archive)

Quotes from Dr Abbott