Perhaps you have run across the name Sebastian Kneipp in your career as a massage therapist or spa professional. You may be familiar with the Kneipp (pronounced "k-n-i-p-e") product line of colorful bath products in spas across the country, but few understand the philosophy behind Kneipp and the important influence this German healer has had on the spa industry and integrative medicine in the United States.
Born in 1821, the son of a poor weaver in the Bavarian region of Germany, Kneipp was taken ill with pulmonary tuberculosis while studying for the priesthood. Inspired by the German physician Johann Hahn, who wrote about the power and effect of fresh water on human health almost a decade before, Kneipp cured himself from his potentially fatal disease by literally "shocking" his system back to health by taking full-immersion dips in the icy waters of the Danube.
Using the healing system he developed through experimentation and observation, Kneipp helped cure a number of gravely ill patients (to whom he had actually been summoned to administer the last rites.) His undorthodox methods earned him the resentment of doctors and pharmacists, and he was even arraigned before the court to answer charges of "quackery". His ecclesiastical superiors had him relocated to a small Dominican Monastery at Wörishofen, located in the foothills of the Alps in Bavaria. His book, "My Water Cure" (1886), became a top best seller, taking Germany by storm and, once translated, spread throughout the world. In 1889, Kneipp published "The Way You Should Live," explaining his belief in a natural, healthy lifestyle and the importance of education.
Sebastian Kneipp died in 1897 at the age of 75, leaving behind the legacy "I want all mankind to share my knowledge."