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The obsolete use of water to treat and cure disease.


n. pl. hydropa·thies
Internal and external use of water as a therapeutic treatment for all forms of disease.

hy′dro·path′ic (hī′drə-păth′ĭk), hy′dro·path′i·cal adj.
hy·drop′a·thist, hy′dro·path′ n.


(1) A modality for treating certain diseases (hydropathies) by applying water either externally (as an external "pressor”) or internally (to impart physical energy to tissues). As thus defined, hydrotherapy dates to ancient China, Greece and Rome, and consists of the use of steam, hot or cold water or ice to maintain and/or restore health by immersion in baths, saunas, or other forms of hydration—either externally, in the form of baths or compresses, or internally (e.g., colonic irrigation or enemas). Hydrotherapy is loosely based on the physiological responses to cold (vasoconstriction, pallor, gooseflesh, shivering, increased pulse, shallow and rapid respiration and cooling of skin) and to heat (vasodilation, redness, slowed followed by quickened pulse, sweating, nervous excitation and increased muscle irritability), and the subsequent responses to each.

Anecdotal reports suggest that hydrotherapy may be beneficial for patients with acne, adenoids, AIDS, anaemia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, bedwetting, bladder problems, bronchitis, bruises, bunions, burns, bursitis, cancer, chickenpox, chronic fatigue syndrome, circulatory defects, claustrophobia, colds, conjunctivitis, cramps, croup, cystitis, depression, fever, fissures, fluid retention, gallstones, gastrointestinal tract problems (e.g., anal changes, gastritis, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowl syndrome), gout, headaches, heat rash, haemorrhoids, hypertension, infertility, insomnia, jaundice, jet lag, laryngitis, low back pain, measles, menopause, menstrual disorders, migraines, painful conditions (including neuralgia), mood swings, muscle weakness, neurological complaints, obesity, panic attacks, parasites, periodontal disease, phobias, postpartum depression, premenstrual syndrome, prostate disease, rheumatic disease, sexually transmitted infection, slipped or prolapsed vertebral disks, psoriasis, renal disease, sciatica, sinusitis, sleep disorders, sports injuries, stasis (decubitus) ulcers, stress, tension, urinary incontinence, vertigo, wheezing, whooping cough and other conditions.

(2) Hydration (therapy). 
(3) Balneotherapeutics (bath therapy).


A form of ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE in which water with alleged medicinal properties is used either externally or internally to try to cure disease or improve health.

hydropathy (hī·drˑ·p·thē),

n a system of alternative medicine in which baths are administered to stimulate the patient in order to eliminate disease. Developed in Austria in the 1820s, this system was popularized in the United States in the 1840s but lost its popularity soon after the Civil War. The system was enhanced by a series of changes to regulate lifestyle, such as exercise, diet, dress, and sleep patterns. Also called