Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) was a Catholic priest who practiced medicine in Bavaria, Germany. He was extremely well known and loved throughout Germany and adjacent countries--even the Archduke of Austria visited Father Kneipp to be treated. In fact, Kneipp told the Archduke that if he did not follow his principles of health, he would not treat him, and soon had him out chopping wood.
Father Kneipp developed what he called the Five Pillars of health, which he taught his patients and duly expected them to follow. Several of the “fathers” of naturopathic medicine visited Father Kneipp in order to be trained and sometimes healed, bringing their understanding back to the United States. Although many have furthered its principles and practice, Kneipp is credited with being the Father of Hydrotherapy as well as a founder of Nature Cure/Naturopathic Medicine in the United States.
Kneipp’s Five Pillars:
-Movement/Exercise: Today we automatically think of this as going to the gym, biking, cross-fit training, aerobics, Pilates, or any number of dedicated systems. In the late 1890’s, oftentimes Father Kneipp used physical labor—thus the Archduke’s menial assignment. It was not intended to be physical labor for labor’s sake, but unto some purpose or measurable end result (i.e. a pile of chopped wood that would be used to heat and cook with).
-Balance: Balance needs to be attained, maintained and constantly tweaked—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Physical and mental work drains the body and emotions. Rest is important. Emotionally we need balance. Neither constant depression nor constant emotional highs are healthy. We are created spiritual beings. We need to balance ourselves spiritually as well. Father Kneipp saw all of this as necessary to a healthy and vital individual.
-Hydrotherapy/Water: Water, although a necessary commodity for life, should be used both internally and externally. Internally, it should be noted that most people do not drink enough water. Externally, it is used effectively in various hydrotherapy treatments. Father Kneipp and many vitalistic naturopaths today use hydrotherapy in order to stimulate the body to restore function and health.
-Phytotherapy/Herbs: Herbs used medicinally can be consumed in a number of forms. Oftentimes Father Kneipp used them in teas, though they can also be used in capsules and tinctures.
-Nutrition/Diet: Proper diet was critical to Father Kneipp, and it should be for us today as well. Many of his patients did not have good nutrition nor sources of food. Today, in our culture of excess, the nutritional value of out food supply is not much better. Although we’re almost overwhelmed by choices, few of the convenience items many of us consume contain necessary nutritional value. Some are simply not food, but largely nutrient-empty calories. Making wise choices in nutritious, wholesome, good tasting food is just as important today as it was in the late 1800’s.