From time immemorial man has believed in the curative effects of water, and pilgrimages to healing springs in the summer were regular occurrences. The oceans, the lakes, the rivers, begin to be warm enough for immersion, and the beneficial effects of internal and external treatment by water have long been recognized. It increases general bodily strength, it benefits the circulation and the respiration, is a tonic to the skin, and in consequence increases our efficiency and good looks. It relieves pain, and is one of the great stimulants of the world.
With our modern knowledge of physics and physiology, we are able to understand the effects of water in health and diseaseeffects which were so mysterious and awe-inspiring to primitive man that they were ascribed to the actions of supernatural beings.
If water of a different temperature than that of the skin is applied to the body, it will either conduct heat to the body or absorb heat from it, as the case may be. This acts as a stimulant to the network of blood vessels and nerves in the skin and causes a. sort of massage of the circulation.
A tonic bath should be one which is accompanied by having the water thrown on the surface of the body with some force. Usually with a tonic bath the water should be cold, and the best example, of course, is a cold shower. The impact of the water causes a contraction of the surface blood vessels, shortly followed by reaction, so that the skin turns pink and glowing. There is a definite rousing of the vital energy of the body. Naturally the best time to take a bath of this kind is at a time just before action and vigor of body or mind are required, as in the morning or early in the evening, after the day’s work is over, when it may be necessary to resume such activities as society imposes upon us.
The relaxing bath, on the contrary, is one in which the water is tepid or warm, and in which no impact of the water on the body is arranged for. Such baths are frequently used for insomnia and, in fact, there is no better soporific than being wrapped in a sheet wrung out of tepid water and enveloped in one or two blanketsthe wet pack.
For pain there is nothing better than water. Contrast baths, in which the painful member is dipped alternately in hot and cold water, are among the best. Fortunately at the present day, with modern plumbing, nearly any method of treatment with water can be carried out in the average American home, and the pilgrimages of our ancestors to healing springs and wells are no longer necessary.