Water is one of the most common healers. If you think about it, you probably already use water to heal—ice packs for injuries… steam inhalation for congestion… and a soak in a hot tub to ease sore muscles.

But did you know that constitutional hydrotherapy, a treatment that involves applying hot- and cold-water-soaked towels to the body, is an incredibly effective and easy-to-do treatment that can relieve symptoms for conditions as diverse as…

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer (improves immunity by increasing white blood cell count and supports detoxification during conventional treatments)
  • Digestive conditions (constipation, Crohn’s disease, ulcers and ulcerative colitis)
  • Headaches and sinusitis
  • Respiratory tract conditions (colds and bronchitis)
  • Skin conditions (rashes)

I think you’ll be surprised to learn of the many health benefits that this technique offers, among them…

  • Improving circulation
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Easing pain
  • Improving immunity
  • Enhancing digestion and detoxification


The contrast between the application of hot and cold towels—and the body’s response to these changes in temperature—is what makes constitutional hydrotherapy so effective. Heat dilates the blood vessels, cold contracts them. The alternating dilation and contraction creates a pumping action that improves circulation through the blood vessels to the skin and internal organs. With improved circulation comes a reduction in congestion and inflammation. I have even used this treatment for patients with pneumonia as one component of an overall treatment program.

Constitutional hydrotherapy helps the body…

  • Fight off infection
  • Clear mucus from deep in the lungs
  • Improve sleep


You can do hydrotherapy at home by yourself, although it is easier (and less messy!) with the help of someone who can place the hot and cold towels on various parts of your body. Note that this method works for all conditions mentioned. Here’s how…

  • Lie on your back in bed or on the floor if it is comfortable for you. (If you are worried about getting the bed wet, use a water-resistant covering on top of the bed.)
  • Have the helper cover your bare chest and abdomen with one thick (bath) towel that has been soaked in hot water and wrung out (as hot as is tolerable). The towel should be moist. Be careful not to burn your skin.
  • Cover the hot wet towel with a dry towel.
  • Place a blanket on top of the dry towel. Remain bundled up in these layers for five minutes.
  • Next, replace the hot towel with thin towels that have been soaked in cold water (as cold as you can tolerate) and wrung out—the towels should still be moist.
  • Cover the cold towels with a dry towel and the blanket. This phase of the treatment should take about 10 minutes, the time it takes for the towels to reach body temperature.
  • Turn over onto your stomach and repeat the process, this time with the towels placed on your back. Again, five minutes of hot-towel treatment should be followed by 10 minutes covered with thin, cold towels.
  • After the treatment, drink at least eight ounces of water and rest for at least 15 minutes. The water helps flush out any toxins that have been released during the treatment. Rest allows you to readjust to room temperature before standing up.

If you have an acute condition such as bronchitis, do constitutional hydrotherapy once or twice daily. For a chronic condition such as arthritis or for detoxification, use constitutional hydrotherapy five times weekly. Constitutional hydrotherapy can be used safely by patients of all ages. However, consult with a holistic physician when using hydrotherapy with an infant, when pregnant or if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or asthma.

Related Articles