Can hydrotherapy cure COVID-19?

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

My wife received a message from a former colleague in the Social Security System, Maricel Locsin, asking whether a process used during World War II to cure malaria can also cure the COVID-19virus. This is interesting because US President Donald Trump mentioned the use of anti-malaria drug against this virus. Let me quote her message which some may consider a wild idea, but she has solid proof of this medical procedure that goes back to centuries ago in Europe.

“Since the start of this pandemic, I had been asking my sister and my husband why we are treating our patients in aircon rooms when the virus can be killed by hot temperatures. I suggested Mambukal Resort where there are hot springs as Quarantine Place for not so serious cases, so patients can avail of the natural sulfuric steam coming from those hot springs. If people have high blood pressure, they can cool their heads/bodies with the free- flowing cold water through a hose in the side of the pool.

“And why do we treat Covid fever with paracetamol which would bring body temperature down? Shouldn’t we increase the body temperature so it can kill the virus? Besides, isn’t it that when we had fever, it means the body is fighting the invader? If we take paracetamol, does it not suppress the capability of our immune system to combat this and other viruses?

“Treatment for this virus is malaria drug ‘combi’ and I remember during WWII malaria was very prevalent and according to my father, they treated malaria-stricken people by wrapping them carefully in a mat, place the makeshift bed on top of a kawa or big/large pot and allow controlled steam to envelop the person until he sweats like there’s no tomorrow.

“They also make him drink water to prevent dehydration. Afterwards they dry him up and change his soaked clothes and let him sleep. When he wakes up, the fever is gone and he is a lot, lot better.

“And by the way, they mixed guava leaves and the leaves of another tree (I forgot the name) and they boiled them and drink the water like tea because of their medicinal properties. This is just a personal observation. I am not a doctor, a pharmacist or related to the medical field; I am  just sharing what I observed and what was told to me by my father as he recounted his experiences in WW II back to the days when we had no tv, no internet.”

The process that Maricel described is known as Priessenitz hydrotherapy named after Vincent Priessnitz (1799 – 1851), an Austrian doctor who is considered the founder of the hydrotherapy-nature cure movement. He developed a system of water cure based on keen observation of animals in their natural surroundings and how they would intuitively heal themselves.

In WW II more civilians died of malaria than Japanese bullets and the water wrap was used but the process was difficult for the evacuees. The fortunate ones indeed got healed.

During the Spanish period, Fr. Fernando Cuenca, the Recollect parish priest of Talisay was permitted by his superiors to practice hydrotherapy in his convent that he used as “hospital”. He was successful that he healed many prominent people in the Philippines. Among the patients that were cured from malaria and other illnesses was now St. Ezekiel Moreno. In the record of the parish, the names of people from Manila who were healed in this treatment are Zobel and Rojas. There are dozens of priests who were healed by the process, even those coming from Madrid. The governor of the English colony of the Moluccas got well here.

When the Priessnitz process was found effective, spas sprung all over Europe (many are still there) and royalty and aristocracy were healed by it. Built in a natural area, the spas are called “water gardens”.

On record the treatment have a beneficial effect in lowering high blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, the disappearance of allergic symptoms or the treatment of headaches.

Fr. Cuenca must have studied hydrotherapy. He asked for permission in 1849 when the treatment was widespread in Europe. And it was still effective in WW II.

This is not to say hydrotherapy is the cure for COVID-19 but under the present situation, anything that offers hope for a cure should be tried.