Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Wet Socks Treatment

The usual reaction people have given me to the idea of this wet socks treatment is horror. "I'm sick and you're saying I should put cold wet socks on my feet?!" Well, yes, I think it's something to try. Let me explain it...

We first heard about the Wet Socks Treatment from a local naturopath. Our son Elijah had a lot of ear infections (monthly) in his first and second years of life. We tried everything we knew to try, including seeing this naturopath. When she recommended the wet socks, however, I think we tried it one night but I had the feeling I was torturing my child with cold wet socks so I never followed through on subsequent nights or tried it again.

But then last month, when I had that cough I referred to in the last post, I decided to try it on myself after reading about it in a book on my shelf, An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants by Mary Bove, N.D. She recommended the wet socks treatment as one possible treatment for bronchitis, which I felt I had and which I was desperate to heal without antibiotics. And you know, the treatment wasn't bad at all. It felt pretty good, in fact, and certainly not uncomfortable. And in the morning when I woke up with dry and warm feet, I did feel much less congested and my cough was easier.

You must follow the steps exactly, though. Here is what you do, and then I'll explain the thinking behind this simple home remedy:

Cotton Socks (wet)
Wool Socks (dry)
Sinkful or bucket of very cold water
Tub or bucket of very warm water
A warm bed

1. Put cotton socks (they don't need to be 100% cotton, just mostly) in a sink of cold, even iced if you want, water. Another option: Mary Bove, in the book above, uses yarrow flower tea to soak the socks in, but I just used water. Yarrow flowers would get the circulation moving even better though. Let the socks soak till they're saturated.

2. Place your feet in a tub or bucket of very warm water, to warm the feet. Soak your feet as long as you want, but make sure the water stays warm and so do your feet.

3. After feet are warm, ring out the cotton socks and put them on your feet.

4. Have the dry wool socks right near you so you can them immediately put them on over and completely covering the wet socks.

5. Go right to bed, making sure the feet stay warm.

6. Do this for three nights in a row. You should feel relief from congestion, as well as dry and warm feet, in the morning.

What Herbalist and Naturopath Mary Bove says in the book is that "this will lessen congestion as the child sleeps." When I googled "wet socks treatment" I found the Bastyr Center for Natural Health site recommending it. It's very much a naturopath thing, as far as I can tell! The Bastyr Center says this:

A natural method of stimulating the immune system and zapping a cold or flu
is called the “wet sock treatment.” The treatment, which is commonly prescribed
by physicians at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, involves putting
on ice-cold socks and … are you ready for this? … sleeping in them!

It may sound strange, but it works because it rallies the body’s
defenses, according to Jamey Wallace, ND, clinic medical director at Bastyr Center for Natural
Health. And the best part about it is that it uses the healing power of nature
and doesn’t cost

The treatment is known as a "heating compress,” meaning that it's up to the
body to heat the cold, wet socks, says Dr. Wallace. “The body reacts to the cold
socks by increasing blood circulation, which also stimulates the immune system.
You have to ‘rev up’ the immune system, so it’s ready for battle against the
affliction or condition.”

This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and
decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head and throat. It also
has a sedating action, and many patients report that they sleep much better
during the treatment. The treatment is also effective for pain relief and
increases the healing response during acute infections.

The wet sock treatment is used in conjunction with other modalities to
treat inflammation, infection or soreness of the throat, headaches, migraines,
nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis and sinus

It’s best to start the wet sock treatment on first day of an illness,
ideally repeating it for three nights in a row. People with chronic conditions
or a compromised immunity should consult with a doctor before starting the wet
sock treatment. Dr. Wallace also points out, “The wet sock treatment is only one
component of an integrated treatment plan that includes hydration, proper
nutrition and immunity-boosting supplements.”

(Or, in my case, skip the supplements and use herbal remedies. I'm not a big believer in vitamins.)

Do you remember the scene in the latest movie version of Little Women--the one that stars Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon--in which sister Beth is almost dead from scarlet fever and Marmee whisks in from traveling and immediately feels Beth's feet? Her feet are ice cold while her head is burning with fever. Marmee immediately uses a remedy which is similar to this wet socks treatment, though I can't say for sure if it's exactly the same thing. Cold water and vinegar on the feet bring the fever down and out, and in the case of Beth it broke the fever and she was healed.

I think the wet socks treatment is an important home remedy for people to know about. It's simple, cheap and can be very effective in easing respiratory congestion and fever. In my case of bronchitis, it really seemed to help. The next morning, I was much less congested. I repeated the treatment for three nights, as recommended, and each morning I was a little better than the day before.

A person with very little herbal or medical knowledge could try this treatment and it might just provide deep healing!


Mon said...

Yes! This is an old wives' treatment. In many European countries, they use cold alcohol (homemade moonshine). I'm not sure this is better or worse? But it's basically the same idea.

Thankyou for such a good post on it. Glad it worked for you and that you're feeling better. I hadn't realsied your cold had become bronchitis!

comfrey cottages said...

wow, what a simple, cheap treatment! makes sense also. thanks for sharing it lisa an glad you feel better!

Anonymous said...

I have wrapped kids feet in wet rags to bring high fevers down but I had never heard of this for bronchial stuff.

I have done mustard poultices though and warmed shoulder wraps on the chest.

Ellen in Conn said...

Our naturopath in Connecticut calls it "The Wet Sock Torture". It works well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa, finally getting a chance to check out your other blog!

I've never heard of this treatment, but I have done lemon socks for fever reduction, which works well.

My daughter has one of those wicked nighttime coughs that's been lingering after a cold a week ago. Sounds like not quite the right time for the wet sock treatment, but I'll remember it for next time.

Herbmonk said...

This is just a traditional Healing Method from Europe, we also make Vinegar Socks to bring down Fever. In Germany this is a Standard recommendation even from Doctors.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can confirm vinegar socks are a classic to bring fever down in Switzerland, too. Not sure wet socks against bronchitis are the same thing but will definitely remember this next time round!

- Bee

Mooreganics said...

We have used the wet sock treatment for over 2 years now whenever one of the family members starts up with a cold. It also has helped whoever is ill to have a much deeper and restful sleep.

Lady C said...

I have heard vic's vapo-rub (so any herb tincture with the same qualities?) on the bottomw of the feet at night helps a cough. From my Mexican friends.

God's Not Finished With Us Yet said...

You mentioned to put the warm socks over the cold wet ones and then get right in bed keeping them on to make sure your feet stay warm. I find that impossible because naturally if I put the warm socks iced the ice cold one the warm socks would simply be warm no longer but ice cold like the wet ones. How could I possibly keep my feet warm???? Am I missing s step or reading this wrong???

shaheel said...

Chest pain is considered a chief symptom of heart related problems. It can occur due to various causes such as heart attack, pulmonary embolism, thoracic aortic dissection, oesophageal rupture, tension pneumothorax and cardiac tamponade.

By conducting several medical tests, the above causes could be ruled out or treated as recommended by medical professionals. If acute chest pain occurs, the patient should be admitted immediately for observation and sequential E.C.G.'s are followed up.

Just like in all medical cases, a careful medical history and detailed physical examination is essential in separating dangerous from minor/trivial causes of disease. Sometimes, there is need of rapid diagnosis to save life of patient. A deep study of recent health changes, family history, tobacco consumption, smoking, diabetes, eating disorders, etc. is useful in treatment of chest pain.

Features of chest pain could be generalised as heaviness; radiation of the pain to neck, jaw or left arm; sweating; nausea; palpitations; pain coming from exertion; dizziness; shortness of breath and a sense of impending doom. On the basis of these characteristics, a number of tests can be carried out for proper treatment. X-ray and CT scan of the chest help in determining the basic cause of pain. An electrocardiogram helps in detailed study of the problem.

bookishredhead said...

I can't believe you commented on the scene in Little Women. That scene-and actually putting that into action when my partner was sick with a fever-was the reason I started down the path of natural medicine as a profession!!

I just love your blog. Thanks for putting all this wonderful information out there for the world to see.

bookishredhead said...

I can't believe you commented on the scene in Little Women. That scene-and actually putting that into action when my partner was sick with a fever-was the reason I started down the path of natural medicine as a profession!!

I just love your blog. Thanks for putting all this wonderful information out there for the world to see.