I have to amend my husband's previous post a little. Being American, he has little knowledge of the power of cold water. Even my dear friend Natalie, who is a doctor, didn't come up with the magic word: Kneipp. (Yogis, my ass!) The German priest Sebastian Kneipp lived from 1821-1897. In 1849, he fell ill with tuberculosis and his doctor all but gave up on him. By chance, Kneipp discovered a little booklet called "Unterricht von der Heilkraft des frischen Wassers" (Instruction in the healing powers of fresh water) written by one Johann Sigmund Hahn. He started a self-treatment, which included daily baths in the Danube river (and doesn't that tie in nicely with our overall theme!). Within a year or so, he was completely recovered.
He continued water treatments for his general health, read books about water treatments, and met with others who had been using water as a healing agent for a long time. Over the years, he developed a system of hydrotherapy, exercise, herbal and natural foods, and order (how German, I know) to promote health and well-being. He met with a lot of resistence but also with lots of enthusiastic support. He wrote quite a few books and lived to an age of 76 when he succumbed to a tumor. There are a few things that water will just not cure... A hundred years after his death, his methods are still very popular in Germany. Health insurances will even pay for Kneipp treatments if prescribed by a physician. Whole clinics and spas are devoted to "Kneippkuren". You can easily do Kneipp treatments at home, though. For instance, a cure for headaches: Do the cold-hot-water alternation on your underarms, up to the elbows. Use either running water or two basins with cold and hot water. About ten times, and leaving the arms in the water until it pains you. Always finish off with a cold dip. Works like a charm. Also popular is walking in dewy grass. I do this with the kids in summer when we are in Ostheim. Just throw them outside and let them run around barefeet in the moist grass. It doesn't get any easier.
Or, do knee rinses. It's just what it sounds like: alternate hot-cold rinses from the knee down. Will get your feet warm in no time. In Ostheim, we have a so-called "Kneipp-Becken". It's a stone canal at the bank of the Streu (the local stream). It's constructed so that some water streams through that canal. Depending on the stream's water level, it can be from mid-calf height to hip-height. What you do is you walk through this water, holding on to a reling on one side (slippery stones and fast current make this a prudent measure). It's icy-cold. Cold, cold, cold. Afterwards, you don't feel your feet anymore. And then, a little later, they get really really warm. You will not freeze anymore during the rest of the day. Our mayor does it daily, with only a break from November to March, or so. He never gets colds. I did it when I was pregnant with Alan and had no problems with swollen ankles at all. Alas, it didn't work for the heartburn. Doug, of course, doesn't really believe it will work. He's quite dubious but I'm happy to report that he still does the cold rinses. I just heard him scream in the shower like he was being murdered. And then he walked out with roses on his cheeks, very much awake. Hah.