Hydropathy and wet sheet packing:
a brief note on the cold water cure

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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The cold water cure

It is beyond the scope of this project to deal in any depth with hydropathy—often called the water cure, or the cold water cure. Suffice it to indicate that there were three major components of the cure as systematised by Vincent Priessnitz: drinking considerable quantities of (usually) mineralized water (as is still the practice in many health spas), wet sheet packing, and exposing the body to a wide range of specialised showers or douches. All aspects are admirably, and entertainingly, treated in E S Turner's Taking the cure.

Wet sheet packing involved wrapping the patient in wet sheets for varying periods of time. Initially the patient felt decidedly cold, then merely cool, and finally increasingly warm until s/he broke out in perspiration, rather akin to a fever. Dr Richard Barter deduced that it was actually the feverish perspiration which was responsible for any improvement in the patient's condition, and realised that the Turkish bath, as described by David Urquhart in The Pillars of Hercules, was a far more comfortable and enjoyable way of inducing a sweat. 

This page revised and reformatted 02 January 2020

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The wet sheet pack

Wringing the patient

Carrying the patient

The Rain Bath

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Victorian Turkish Baths: their origin, development, and gradual decline

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