Let us appreciate Cure by Water just as discovered and experimented by Gandhi, a staunch practitioner of Nature Cure and who is the force behind propagating its efficacy in India. His health determinants dictated him to adopt Nature and Herbal cure and recommend to all others as it emphasizes self-responsibility and provides self-reliance. According to him, so long as people depend on drugs, doctors and hospitals for their health needs, they are not truly liberated.
Hydrotherapy strengthens the nerve cells and one gains peace of mind. As a result, bad habits too are brought under control. So deduced Gandhi. Further, he adds, Hip bath and Sitz bath are the most important of Kuhne’s contribution to Hydrotherapy. In summer the water may be iced if it is not cold enough to give a gentle shock to the patient. Hip bath brings down the temperature in high fever and given in the manner prescribed, it never does any harm, and may do much good.
The rationale of the Hip-bath according to Kuhne is this: Whatever the apparent cause of fever, the real cause in every case is one and the same, i.e. accumulation of waste matter in the intestines. The heat generated by the putrefaction of this waste matter is manifested in the form of fever and several other ailments. Hip bath brings down this internal fever so that fever and other ailments which are the external manifestations thereof subside automatically. It relieves constipation and improves digestion. The patient feels fresh and active after it.
The speciality of Nature cure methods lays in the fact that being natural, they can safely be practised by laymen. Just as a man suffering from headache wets a piece of cloth in cold water and wraps it around his head, it can do no harm. The addition of earth to cold water enhances the utility of the cold pack. Water is available everywhere. We may not despise its therapeutic value because it is obtained so easily. Knowledge of common household remedies often proves a godsend in many a crisis.
Wet sheet pack is very useful in fevers and insomnia. The patient feels a gentle shock when first laid in the wet-sheet pack, and finds it pleasant afterwards, In a minute or two he begins to feel warm. Unless the fever has become chronic, in about five minutes it begins to come down with sweating. In resistant cases, the patient is wrapped in the upto half an hour which results in sweating. Sometimes there is no sweating but the patient goes off to sleep, which indicates that the wet-sheet pack has produced a soothing effect. The temperature invariably falls at least by one or two degrees as a result. Wet sheet packs are also useful in the treatment of prickly heat, rashes and any form of skin irritation, measles, chickenpox, etc. with added potassium permanganate to the water.
In cases where circulation has become sluggish, the leg muscles feel sore and there is a peculiar ache and feeling of discomfort in the legs, an ice massage does a lot of good. This treatment is more effective in the summer months.
Steam is a more valuable therapeutic agent which can be used to make the patient sweat. Steam baths are most useful in cases of rheumatism and other joint pains. In cases of the common cold and sore throat, a steam kettle can be used for applying steam to the nose or the throat.
In cases of cold feet or aching of legs, the patient should be made to sit with his feet and legs immersed up to the knees in as hot water as he can bear. A little mustard powder can be added to the water. The footbath should not last more than fifteen minutes. This treatment improves local circulation and gives immediate relief. An intelligent use of hot water gives relief in many cases. Boiling water is as good a disinfectant as tincture of iodine. In cases of scorpion stings where all remedies have failed, the immersion of the part in hot water has been found to relieve the pain to a certain extent. A shivering fit can be made to subside by saturating the atmosphere of the room with steam. A glass bottle with a well-fitting cork, filled with hot water and wrapped in a piece of cloth, serves the purpose of a hot water bag.
Drugs curtail life. India does not need imported drugs from the West when she has inexhaustible stock of a variety of drugs grown in the village themselves, Gandhi proclaimed. In most instances, a well-regulated diet, water and earth treatment, along with household remedies, could fix ailments. Nature cure means regulation of one’s life in accordance with the laws of health, in addition to engagement with the community and God. One takes steps to cure himself by eliminating poisons from the system and takes precautions against falling ill in the future. Gandhi believed in preventive techniques for disease management and would treat himself through Nature cure, the Ayurvedic system of medicine, Yoga, Fasting and experimenting with Dietetics Selfless work and prayer were made an integral part of the daily routine of Ashram life.
Mahatma’s conviction got concretized when he had signed on a trust deed with a promise to serve the people of India through Nature cure by dedicating his remaining life. He initiated a Nature cure hospital in a small village near Pune, Urlikanchan, to provide medical services to the rural poor. This was an offshoot of the Nature Cure Clinic and Sanatorium at Pune serving the urban rich then. Gandhi took a 90-day in-patient course of treatments there, which greatly improved his health. To this day, it is a standing testimony to the values cherished by Gandhi. The object being spreading the knowledge of the science of nature cure in all its aspects and expanding the activity of nature cure therapeutics so as to make its benefits available to all classes.
How do diseases arise? Surely by our negligence or indulgence, observes Gandhi. I have indulged in a vice, I contract a disease, a doctor cures me the odds are that I shall repeat the vice. Had the doctor not intervened, Nature would have done its work, and I would have acquired Mastery over myself, would have been freed from vice and would have become happy. A continuance of a course of medicine must, therefore, result in loss of control over the mind. In these circumstances, we are unfit to serve the country. To follow modern medicine is to deepen our slavery. He firmly believed that doctors should also have to be teachers and mentors and not just therapy dispensers. Cure without reform will make people irresponsible and make them immoral. This leads to a drain on resources as the dependence continues.
Eat sparingly, now and then fast; err on the lower side rather than overeating. Gandhi’s motto has been, Swawalambana is possible only when there is Swasthawalambana. Nature cure provides Self-Health-Reliance by teaching how to live healthy lives without medicines and doctors. Where there is absolute purity, inner and outer, illness becomes impossible. The man who eats to live, who is friends with the five powers- earth, water, ether, sun and air, and who is a servant of God, the Creator of all, ought not to fall ill. If he does, he will remain calm relying on God and die in peace, if need be.
Gandhi had a passion for walking. Just as food is necessary for mind as much as for bones and flesh, he advised, so also is exercise necessary both for body and mind. He asked people engaged in intellectual work to take up physical work to improve the quality of their intellectual output. As he paid tribute to the spirit of research that fires modern scientists, Gandhi was delighted that new hospitals had a western wing along with Ayurveda and Unani, and highlighted that the union of the three systems would result in a harmonious blend of all the disciplines. He emphasized that Ayurvedic physicians should learn about better diagnostics and treatments.