Hydropathic Advice for Women
Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE
Nature Cure Clinical Pearls
Under this column free advice according to the rules of the Natural Method of Healing will be given to all subscribers of The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly. – Ludwig Staden, 1900-1901 (heading at the beginning of each article)
If the displacement of the womb is a result of weakness in the organ itself, the descent of the womb and vagina is a consequence of weakness in the pelvic fundus. But how can we wonder at such a weakness in women who have had children, when we call to mind the wholly unnatural position which ignorant physicians and midwives require the poor sufferers to assume at child birth? – Heinrich Lahmann, 1900, p.74
I would never advise an operation; out of a 100 cases of female abdominal complaints where doctors recommend operation, 99 are curable without it. How many sick women have I spoken to, who were operated on, but suffered afterwards more than before? – Ludwig Staden, 1900, p.108
Ludwig Staden’s 2 columns, “Hydropathic Medical Advisor” and “Naturopathic Advisor,” definitely attracted the attention of women seeking help with their health. His free advice column was a huge success, and by the second year Staden was given additional space in Benedict Lust’s magazine to include more letters of inquiry. The number of women who wrote for advice indicates clearly that Lust was onto something. Women were very interested in health issues and they turned to Lust’s publications to find answers. We must remember that in 1900, female reproductive knowledge was broadly withheld and most women would be at the mercy of their medical doctors to navigate through any gynecological symptoms. No books or materials were widely available for women to make informed decisions about their bodies.
Staden’s first letter, from S.T. in Morristown, NJ, asks for advice about uterine cancer. Recognizing the impossibility of meeting the needs of this person’s request, Staden writes in response, “We cannot take the responsibility of giving you advice by these columns; you have to bring the patient to New York for a thorough examination. This is absolutely necessary.” (Staden, 1900, p.62) Staden’s response is an example of the conscientious concern for the patient, recognition of limits, and ethical judgment. He cites several places in New York for this woman to seek care.
In another request, from Miss N.V.L. in Ohio, cessation of the menses is the problem. Staden’s advice includes numerous hydrotherapies, given daily and throughout the week. He counsels the woman to begin “every morning with a cool sponge bath of the whole body and three times a week with a knee gush.” (Staden, 1900, p.84) A sitz bath is recommended 5 times per week for 10 minutes in water, at a temperature from 70° to 80°F/21° to 27°C. A bed steam bath, for 1 to 1.5 hours, is to be followed by either a half-bath or a sitz bath at 80°F/27°C for 5 to 10 minutes, which is then to be followed by a sponge bath of the whole body. There follows a reminder of how to administer a bed steam bath by adding hot water bottles along the feet, calves, and thighs within a wet sheet wrap. At night, before the patient goes to bed, alternate foot baths are prescribed. The feet are placed in hot water [100° to 104°F/38° to 40°C] for 5 minutes and then into cold water for a half a minute. This procedure is repeated 3 times. During the night, abdominal compresses are also on his list. He recommends a daily enema of 1 quart water.
For dietary instruction, Staden suggests a non-irritating, vegetarian diet including herbal tea of lemon balm [Melissa officinalis] and blind nettle flowers [Lamium alba], as well as plenty of outdoor exercise. (Staden, 1900, p.84) The true guide to the dietary question falls on Nature, herself. Staden explains: “Nature dictates eating and drinking whenever you have a real natural inclination to take food, but eat moderately and only use pure, non-irritating food; then you will never overfeed yourself, Nature will let you know the limit when you have to stop.” (Staden, 1900, p.121) Staden gives an example of a non-irritating diet to include “apples, nuts, whole wheat bread, and milk.” (Staden, 1900, p.121)
A Complicated Case
A century ago, women treated by medicine would often be left with more disorders than before starting. This is certainly the case with Katie F., another person who sought advice through Staden’s column. Quite often, Staden did not disclose the questions from the reader submitting his or her queries, so it is difficult to know what symptoms the recommended protocol is treating. Katie F., from St Andrews, Canada, seems to have posed a lot of questions to Staden. He writes in response, “It is impossible, to answer all your questions … and [refers her] to Dr. Carl Strueh’s clinic in Chicago or to Dr. John Kellogg’s Battle Creek sanitarium in Michigan.” (Staden, 1900, p.210) We learn, though, that she has received numerous operations, and has been treated with many drugs for quite some time. Understandably, this case is complicated, and the allopathic treatments to which she seems to have alluded have taken a toll on her uterus and kidneys.
Staden’s suggestions, nevertheless, help us to understand that even in cases where iatrogenesis is the cause of complaint, help in the form of hydrotherapy, herbs, and diet can prevail. The protocol Staden makes for home care until a practitioner can be found is not for the faint of heart. The sequencing of water applications seems labor- and time-intensive, and yet this complicated case apparently demands such care. For Katie, though, these water treatments may have offered great relief after her ordeals with surgeries and drugs. Staden suggests 2 bed steam baths each week with hot water bottles applied to the feet, calves, and thighs, followed by a 15-minute sitz bath taken at 88°F/31°C, taking care to ensure that the feet are wrapped up in a warm blanket. The bed steam bath was considered to be gentler than the steam baths taken in steam cabinets. Staden urges this person to make the effort to do the bed steam baths, however. To close this sequence of hydrotherapies, a cool sponge bath is to be taken, followed by resting in bed for 1 hour. Each night a wet abdominal compress is utilized, and 3 times per week a half bath is taken, beginning with a temperature of 85°F/29°C and gradually reducing it to 80°F/27°C. The alternate foot bath is taken every other night.
Dietary recommendations are strictly vegetarian and include a rose hip tea with a little bit of lemon juice before bed. A tea made from a blend of rue and wormwood is to be used in an enema if constipation occurs. Staden advises that no more hot drinks made with salt are to be taken. (Staden, 1900, p.210)
Two Months Later
Two months later a second letter is received from Katie F., who appears to have followed Staden’s advice faithfully. We learn that she is improving a great deal on the hydrotherapy and dietary protocols. Staden warns her to stop using the vaginal douche with salt water. He writes, “Who gave you such advice? You are better to use water and lemon juice or a very thin oak bark tea, not more than one to 2 quarts daily.” (Staden, 1901, p.30)
Indigestion and Menorrhagia
Yet a third letter from Katie F. is received and is published in the September 1901 issue of The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly. In this letter, she reports suffering from “right-sided pain and constipation with quantities of long threads covered in mucous.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) Since we are not privy to the entire letter, we have only Staden’s assessment of Katie’s condition to go by. He indicates “indigestion due to an inflammation of the inner membranes of the stomach and partially the bowels.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) His prescription includes “a wet hayflower shirt every day with an extra wet compress on the abdomen [for] one to two hours.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) After the hayflower shirt and abdominal compress, a lukewarm sitz bath is to be taken for 10 to 12 minutes. Lukewarm, though, is not as it may seem! Water temperatures of 85°F/29°C will actually feel quite tepid or even cool, indicating that our sense of temperature has changed significantly within the last century. The unrestrained access to hot water has made our culture somewhat lax and feeble when it comes to water temperature tolerance. When Staden directs Katie F. to take a lukewarm sitz bath at 85°F/29°C, many of us would certainly not consider these temperatures remotely warm.
To improve digestion, he adds to the list 1 cup of tea blended with angelica root and gentian, with a teaspoon of lemon juice and honey.
Help for a Friend
Katie F. also sends a request for help on behalf of her friend who suffers from menorrhagia. Staden provides a protocol to manage the excessive bleeding, which is to begin on the second day of the menses. He recommends “cold four-folded compresses of water and vinegar to be changed as soon as they become warm [for] two hours alternating with two hours rest.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) At night he suggests “wet packs around the calves of the legs and a hot bottle to the feet, and also a clay compress on the ovarian region of the abdomen.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) On the fifth day of the cycle, a cold sitz bath for 1 minute is suggested, to be continued for the next 3 to 5 days. Staden continues: “After the menstruation has stopped entirely, every other day a ¾ pack for 30 to 45 minutes with a cold sponge bath afterward.” (Staden, 1901, p.257) He departs from advising a strict vegetarian diet in this case, but counsels the woman to “drink one or two quarts of warm milk, and if possible, a part of it directly from the cow, along with two raw eggs or softly boiled, [all kinds of] fruits, roasted chicken, turkey, lamb or mutton now and then.” (Staden, 1901, p.257)
In the following month, Mrs St., of Fall River, writes to Staden for advice regarding her prolapsed uterus. We learn that she has given birth to many babies and has had miscarriages as well. A century ago, the standard medical care for uterine displacements and weakness was the pessary. The problem with the pessary is pointed out by Dr Heinrich Lahmann:
The pessaries only momentarily prevent the evil effects of weakness in the uterus, but they do not cure it and the derangement makes itself felt again with the removal of the pessary, and the woman, who has once worn one in consequence of a displacement of the womb, is obliged to wear one all the rest of her natural life. (Lahmann, 1900, p.73)
The adverse reactions from pessaries were often so intensely painful that Lahmann writes, “The injurious results however, of using pessaries, are so various and in certain circumstances so disastrous, that the complaint itself, which they are intended to remove, is a blessing in comparison.” (Lahmann, 1900, p.73)
Staden provides several suggestions, beginning with the Thure Brandt Massage as the most important. (Staden, 1901, p.60) Staden’s wife, Carola, was a practitioner of this internal massage technique, which was “used only for the treatment of female pelvic diseases and displacements.” (Staden, 1900, p.23) Carola Staden states, in her 1900 paper “The Thure Brandt System,” the following: “[The female pelvic diseases and displacements] are becoming alarmingly numerous, especially in the United States. It is stated by prominent physicians with wide experience that about 70% of the women of this country are afflicted with disorders of the pelvis.” (Staden, 1900, p.23) The cause of such weakness of the female pelvic organs is addressed by Dr H. Lahmann, who writes, “The defective development of the abdominal muscles in girls, who, instead of tumbling about like boys, … spend their childhood and maidenhood mostly in a sitting, bending posture, is perceptible at an early age, and causes weakness of the abdominal integuments, which produces constipation, vascular congestions in the abdominal organs, irregularities in the time of menstruation, thus making the woman today as little as possible prepared for maternity.” (Lahmann, 1900, p,74)
Dr Lahmann also spoke highly of the Thure Brandt massage as the most rational means of “increasing and promoting the formation of muscle when applied to the diminished and weakened smooth muscular fibres of the flaccid womb.” (Lahmann, 1900, p.74) The Thure Brandt massage seems remarkably similar to the ancient Mayan technique of abdominal massage, a non-invasive manipulation to restore healthy placement of the uterus and abdominal organs.
Besides the Thure Brandt pelvic and abdominal massage, Staden also suggests several water therapies to help Mrs St. with her prolapsed uterus. He writes, “Try alternate hip baths [sitz baths] every day five minutes 100° F/38° C and one minute 60° F/15.6° C, repeat three times.” (Staden, 1901, p.60) Of interest to note is that Kneipp never administered any warm water baths unless it was with some kind of an herbal decoction. In this case, Staden suggests using an oak bark decoction to be used in the warm sitz bath. One quart of oak bark decoction mixed with one tablespoon of lemon juice was also recommended to be used as a vaginal douche. A knee gush was alternated with the upper gush throughout the week. Staden’s instructions: “three times weekly knee gush and three times upper gush.” (Staden, 1901, p.60)
We have seen in previous cases that Staden would prescribe a nightly abdominal compress and – in the case of the prolapse uterus – the T-bandage. This water application is a modification of “a wet abdominal bandage with a four-folded wet linen about five inches wide from the front to the back” placed between the legs. (Staden, 1901, p.257) The T-bandage was created by Vincent Priessnitz and others. Kneipp continued to employ this useful treatment for pelvic disorders. Lastly, enemas were recommended if constipation persisted, along with the suggestion to eat a vegetarian diet.
Ludwig Staden offered a service to women who were desperate to treat their complaints as naturally as possible. His column advice from over a century ago helps us gain an insight into how simple water applications were used to treat gynecological conditions and the conditions that arose from conventional treatments. The protocols were not complicated, and yet they had a profound effect in alleviating the damage left behind by surgeries and drugs, as we saw in the case of Katie F. of Canada.
Lahmann, H. (1900). The barbarous treatment employed in female complaints. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (5), 73-75.
Staden, C. (1900). The Thure Brandt System. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (1), 23.
Staden, L. (1900). Hydropathic medical adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (4), 62.
Staden, L. (1900). Hydropathic medical adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (5), 84.
Staden, L. (1900). Hydropathic medical adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (6), 108.
Staden, L. (1900). Who is right? The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (7), 121.
Staden, L. (1900). Hydropathic medical adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, I (11), 210.
Staden, L. (1901). Naturopathic adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, II (1), 30.
Staden, L. (1901). Naturopathic adviser. The Kneipp Water Cure Monthly, II (9), 257.
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Sussanna Czeranko, ND, BBE, a graduate of CCNM, is a licensed ND in Oregon. Sussanna is a frequent presenter, nationally and internationally. As Curator of the Rare Books Collection at NUNM, she is the author of The Hevert Collection, a 12-book series about naturopathic medicine, the ninth volume of which is now complete, Mental Culture in Naturopathic Medicine. Sussanna founded The Breathing Academy, a training institute for naturopathic doctors to incorporate a scientific model of breathing therapy called Buteyko into their practice. Her next large project is to complete the development of her new medical spa in Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan – Manitou Waters Centre. She is the co-founder of the International Congress on Naturopathic Medicine and the inaugural conference chair of the Healing Skies Naturopathic Medicine Conference, in Saskatchewan.