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Father Sebastian Kneipp Considered Father of Modern Naturopathy

Updated on May 19, 2016

His Remedies Work

In the Southern Bavarian town of Bad Worishofen is a sculpture of Father Sebastian Kneipp.

He was a parish priest. He is also widely considered one of the fathers of modern naturopathy, a system of medicine that harnesses the body's own healing powers to cure disease.

Father Kneipp (pronounced K-nipe) lived in the 19th century. And, at the time, he was one of the most famous people in Europe.

He is still well known in his native Germany, according to a spokesperson for Kneipp US, the brand founded by Father Kneipp before he died in 1897, after releasing all of his knowledge and research to a pharmacist friend.

You Can Still Travel to His Town for Treatment

Many of the hotels and spas in Bad Worishofen offer their guests treatments using Kneipp's methods.

Kneipp products are herbal based, and still formulated according to Father Kneipp's specifications. They are sold in certain specialty shops, health food stores and independent pharmacies, and they are widely available on both Amazon and ebay.

The company survives and thrives, more than 100 years after its founder's passing.

While assigned to Worishofen, Father Kneipp took great pains to not treat the rich any differently than the poor. He refused traveling to assist the wealthy and powerful. Like everyone else, they had to come to his parish.

However, he did break his self-imposed rule when he left his village to treat Pope Leo XIII, according to a book titled, "Specialized Hydro-Balneo and Medicinal Bath Therapy," by Carola Koenig, who, in her book, described the demeanor of the Bavarian priest as "gentle."

Father Kneipp is credited with the "water cure" or hydrotherapy, a series of alternating treatments with hot and cold water.

His First Patient Was Himself

He first tried this cure on himself, when diagnosed with severe tuberculosis at age 28, which, at the time, was a death sentence. He eventually regained his health after repeatedly plunging himself in the Danube River during winter. This, he found, strengthened his system, allowing him to recover.

By one account, he ran "gasping and wheezing" to the icy Danube. He bathed in the water for a few seconds and then ran home. This kept with his philosophy of warming the body with vigorous physical exercise, shocking it with cold water, and then heating it again by exercise. You can read more about this below in a link to the Kneipp International website.

Overcoming tuberculosis allowed him to continue his seminary studies. He was ordained a priest in 1852, and he began healing people's bodies, as well as their souls. His medical prescriptions were always free of charge. One time, it was reported, he went on a sick call to a woman stricken with cholera. The purpose of the visit was the administer the final Sacraments to prepare her for eternity and absolve her of any sins she may not have confessed.

However, he was able to help her return to health. People then began calling him the "cholera chaplain."

His unconventional healing methods, and his success and fame, set him up for persecution. At one point he was prosecuted for treating the sick, but the judge, instead of sentencing him, sought his medical advice.

Father Kneipp had a five-point program of healthy living. This included water to treat various ailments, as well as specific herbs, exercise, nutrition and balanced living, which included spiritual balance.

Medicinal plants, apparently, played a big role in Father Kneipp's prescribed treatments. He may have acquired his knowledge of plant therapy from his mother, who was an herbalist.

Father Kneipp's work also influenced other European clerics, who, in turn, studied herbalism. One student, a Swiss priest named Father Johann Kunzle, who died in 1945, left behind a book on herbalism he authored. It was widely distributed and reprinted.

Both priests influenced Father Josef Weidinger of Austria, who died in 2004. While alive, he was referred to as "Herbal Priest Weidinger."

All three men recognized the amazing healing power of plants and herbs, which some have referred to as "God's Pharmacy."

You can learn more about Father Kneipp's healing methods by reading his book, "My Water Cure, originally published in 1894. He also wrote later books including "Thus Shalt Thou Live," and "My Will: A Legacy to the Healthy and to the Sick." The books are sold today on Amazon and ebay.

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Father Kneipp Once Famous in Germany

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not meant to diagnose‚ treat or cure any disease or medical condition.

This article is written for information and discussion purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. People with health concerns should discuss them with a physician.


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