The Pioneer: Sebastian Kneipp

Pfarrer Sebastian Kneipp

Water doctor, herbalist priest … How did the son of a Bavarian weaver earn such nicknames – and even become famous after years, far beyond the country's borders?

His successes and naturopathic philosophy are closely connected with Kneipp's life story. This could fill entire books. However, we would like to present here the most important milestones in the life of our namesake.


Sebastian Kneipp is born on May 17, 1821 as the son of a home weaver in Stephansried (Bavaria).




Early on, Kneipp develops a desire to become a priest. Dr. Matthias Merkle, a distant relative, as well as the parish priest and botanist Christoph Ludwig Koeberlin support him in making his wish come true: They teach him Latin and give him an understanding of botanical medicine.


Together with his sponsor Merkle, Kneipp moves to Dillingen where he attends the Gymnasium (advanced secondary school).


In the 19th century, most living quarters consist of one room, and in general, several persons share a bed: perfect conditions for diseases such as tuberculosis. Sebastian Kneipp also fell ill in 1846. However, it does not prevent him from completing his Abitur (school leaving examination) in just four years.


Kneipp begins studying theology, however the illness causes him more and more trouble. By chance, he discovers a book by the physician Johann Siegmund Hahn on the healing power of cold water.

Fascinated by the knowledge contained in the book, Kneipp performs an experiment on himself in the cold Danube. A bath that lasted only a few seconds and a brief sprint afterwards lead to an amazing result: Kneipp feels fresh and invigorated. He repeats the brief baths over the following days and supplements them with half-baths and affusions. As a result, his state of health continually improves.


Completely cured of tuberculosis in the meantime, Kneipp completes his studies at the age of 31 and shortly thereafter, he becomes a priest. During this time, he deepens his prior knowledge about the healing power of water and also administers his forms of treatment to patients for the first time. Including: He cures a woman suffering from cholera.



He becomes more and more popular amongst the population and makes a name for himself as the "cholera chaplain" and "water doctor." By contrast, physicians and pharmacists view his treatments with a critical eye. They do not like the fact that Kneipp helps ill people quickly and free of charge. They bring charges against him. However, Kneipp is acquitted in court.




Kneipp becomes a more prominent figure because of his knowledge. In 1855, he moves to Bad Wörishofen where he causes even more of a sensation: Using his water applications, he cures an entire herd of cattle of foot and mouth disease. As an agricultural advisor, he deepens his knowledge and records it in specialized agricultural books.





Kneipp records his observations and findings in his book "Meine Wasserkur" (My Water Cure). In addition to details about his water applications, the book contains a chapter on herbal medicine. This results in a growing demand for treatment by him. Soon, up to 150 patients come to see him every day.

Water, bestowed by the creator of man, and plants selected from the plant kingdom form the essential elements needed to cure diseases and make the body healthy.

Sebastian Kneipp


Kneipp publishes his second book "So sollt Ihr leben" (Thus Shalt Thou Live). In it, he describes his holistic health concept with the five pillars.




The cornerstone of the Kneipp® brand is laid: Sebastian Kneipp transfers to his longtime friend, Leonhard Oberhäußer, a pharmacist from Würzburg, the rights to develop, produce and market pharmaceutical and cosmetic products based on Kneipp's philosophy and under the "Kneipp" name. The formulations obtained from this are still pioneering today for Kneipp® products.


In 1893, Kneipp is accorded a very special honor: Pope Leo XIII appoints Kneipp to be a papal chamberlain and bestows upon him the title of "Monsignor."




Kneipp publishes "Mein Testament" (My Testament) which summarizes all of his research results to date.


Kneipp dies on June 17, 1897 at the age of 76. To this day, his knowledge and the therapeutic concept derived from it continue to have an effect and are considered to be milestones in medicine. His knowledge still forms the foundation of the Kneipp® brand.


Arnica is worth more than its weight in gold.

- Sebastian Kneipp

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