Kneipp Kur is a holistic healing method developed in the late 1880s by a Dominican priest named Sebastian Kneipp. He was one of the founders of the naturopathic healing movement, which focuses on natural rather than man-made cures for diseases. It is said that Kneipp came to his conclusions after having cured himself of tuberculosis by immersing himself in the freezing waters of the Danube River. Kneipp Kur largely focuses on hydrotherapy, which is the application of various types of water treatments, such as cold and hot showers, baths, and compresses.
While the first part of the term refers to its founder, the second part, Kur, is a reference to a two- to four-week period of therapy, which is strictly regulated and takes advantage of local resources. Together, the Kneipp Kur becomes a period of healing focused on hydrotherapy scheduled precisely over a period of time. According to Kneipp himself, "inactivity weakens, exercise strengthens, excess harms", which dovetails nicely with the concept of the Kur.
Although Kneipp's main focus was on water treatment and he has been most closely connected with naturopathy, he developed an entire healing system based on five main points — hydrotherapy, herbalism, exercise, nutrition, and spirituality. A Kneipp Kur will typically involve rounds of hydrotherapy as well a focus on a natural diet and the application and intake of herbs. While the treatment course may involve specified periods of rest and exercise, the mention of spirituality is often left out. This is sometimes represented in the Kur as balance, which may take the form of yoga or meditation. Kneipp Kur has been used to treat high and low blood pressure, arthritis, and sleep disorders, among other conditions.
Founded in 1894, the International Association of Kneipp Physicians still operates today, but with a focus on supportive therapy rather than acute disease treatment. While Kneipp himself used his methods to apparently cure his tuberculosis, the current association uses his methods to treat the diseases of society which it believes exist because of lifestyle and excess. This has led to a focus on rehabilitative and preventative medicine.
Many spas now offer a form of Kneipp Kur therapy, as it is a low-impact and pleasant form of holistic healing. In a spa setting this treatment generally takes the form of warm baths, alternating hot and cold water applications, and compresses. Though known for his healing methodology, Father Kneipp is also the creator of the most commonly eaten bread in Norway, Kneipp bread, which is a form of whole wheat.