Celebrating a Century of Contributions to Homeopathy by Emmanuel Felke

This year, the town of Bad Sobernheim—in which Emanuel Felke’s eponymous work has been immortalized through statues, a school bearing his name, a museum and several exquisite spa clinics—is holding a centennial celebration in honor of its most famous patriarch. Pastor Emanuel Felke, the father of combination homeopathy, developed complex remedies that enabled individuals without extensive homeopathic training to select a medicine appropriate to their needs by focusing on indications, e.g. cough and cold.

In 1915, exactly one century ago, Felke moved to Bad Sobernheim, a beautiful town on the Nahe River in Germany, where Hevert was later established in 1956. Felke established a flourishing healing oasis based upon his carefully formulated collection of therapeutic agents and systems. Because of this, Bad Sobernheim became a successful spa town, anchored by Felke’s work. He became renowned as the “clay pastor,” administering free health care not only to his followers, but to any in need.

The Life and Work of Pastor Felke

Pastor Emanuel Felke lived from 1856 to 1926 and this great healer accomplished much from which we continue to benefit to this day, most notably in the Naturopathic arena. Felke is credited with being the first to use complex homeopathic remedies developed by incorporating other modalities such as iridology to fine tune his homeopathic combinations.

The name “Felke” is not as familiar outside of Germany as, say, Kneipp, Priessnitz, or Just, but, during his lifetime, Felke was known beyond Germany's borders for his unconventional but effective treatment of patients. He developed a holistic curative concept based on the doctrines of various healers and physicians. Aside from the preparation of complex homeopathic treatments, according to his teaching, light, air, water and clay as well as nutrition and exercise are the elements that return humans to a natural state of health. Though he faced much opposition, it did not detain him from using his knowledge and skills to benefit patients who came to him daily to request his help.

The Pillars of the Felke Cure

True healing should include the entire organism as well as the personality of the patient. Felke thought that symptoms of illness were the body's attempt to free itself of the actual illness, namely of blood putrefaction. Today, a hundred years later, no one speaks of blood putrefaction anymore. However, modern naturopathy is concerned with a holistic approach, which Felke also advocated.

A cure can only apply to the entire person, not an individual organ. Aside from homeopathic and phytotherapeutic remedies, Felke always recommended a healthy diet, or nutrition according to the pathological process, as well as light, air, water and earth as natural remedies. Felke primarily used iridology as a diagnostic tool. He was one of the leading pioneers in this diagnostic procedure, which is successfully used by experienced naturopathic therapists to this day.

Diet

Felke advocated that quick digestion and metabolism of food promotes convalescence in the body. According to his knowledge at the time, accumulations of "bad humors" in the body could thus be minimized, which in turn had a positive impact on blood formation.

Today we know that easily digestible foods have a positive effect on one's health. The nutrients can be absorbed by the body more rapidly, and are thus available more quickly, and digestive processes do not put undue strain on the organism. Felke recommended recognizing food as life-giving, i.e. as a remedy for maintaining life. He especially advocated the consumption of regional food, as natural and untouched as possible – preferably raw – and in accordance with the natural local growing season. The diet consisted primarily of fruits, nuts, lettuce and raw vegetables. Yogurt was also one of his preferred foods, and an exception to the general rule, since despite it being "cooked," it supports and positively influences intestinal activity and digestion.

Felke recommended eating raw fruits and vegetables BEFORE taking a cooked meal. Eating lettuce as an appetizer complies with this approach, but eating fruit salad afterwards does not. In his opinion, eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and insalivating the food help people learn what and how much is healthy for their own bodies.

In response to patients who complained of flatulence after eating a meal of raw fruits and vegetables, Felke responded, "The effect of raw fruits and vegetables on the human stomach and intestines can be compared to a broom which whirls up dust while sweeping: you don't throw the broom away for that reason, but keep on calmly sweeping until the room is clean."
Felke advocated whole grain bread instead of white bread. He believed that cooking foods saps life, which is why he categorized cooked food as "second class." According to Felke, healthy people could consume meat and eggs at most three times a week; sick persons should not consume them at all. If a sick person did not want to refrain from eating meat, then a bit of fish, game, or poultry could be consumed.

Butter and sauces were allowed in moderation, according to the Felke diet. As for beverages, he recommended buttermilk, uncooked raw milk, fruit juices, and herb teas. He advised against coffee and black tea and discouraged drinking malt coffee and decaffeinated coffee as well. Said Felke, "Our ancestors had black bread, white beverages, and red cheeks; today people have white bread, black beverages, and pale cheeks."

If patients nevertheless did not want to go without coffee, sucking on a lemon after drinking coffee was advised as a means of defusing the damage caused by caffeine. Felke was a bit more pragmatic about alcohol. He said nothing against moderate consumption of beer or wine.

Despite his manifold recommendations, Pastor Felke tended to be pragmatic and refreshingly undogmatic. He believed that people should not impose inflexible rules on themselves or repress their feelings—if one had an urgent impulse to eat something "unhealthy," one could give into it once in a while, in moderation.

Light, Air, Water

As a passionate advocate of natural medical practice, Felke considered light, air, water and earth to be assisting elements in his treatment.

The most favorable seasons to enjoy a “light and air bath” are the spring and the autumn. In these seasons, the human organism is particularly ready to free itself of old spiritual and physical toxins. To this day, many people hold a fast in the spring, not just for religious reasons. Also according to Felke, this season is significantly more effective for detoxification than in the summer.

In the morning, directly after rising, he recommended a cooling sitz bath. This practice stimulates the metabolism as well as the organs of elimination. The cooling wetness ensures good blood circulation and strengthens the immune system. Felke advised going outdoors for the morning sitz bath. He was a fervent advocate of nudity; in his opinion, every piece of clothing impaired the skin's breathing. Today, we know that even the thinnest clothing prevents not so much the "breathing of the skin" as the formation of vitamin D in the skin by sunlight. Vitamin D is important for bone stability and muscle development. Also, the immune system, nervous system and circulatory system benefit from sufficient vitamin D metabolism in the body. With his prescribed light and air baths, Felke intuitively anticipated today's current scientific state of knowledge.

After the sitz bath, he recommended rubbing the body dry by hand. This reinforced the effect of the oxygen intake. Being outdoors, in turn, stimulates the metabolism and facilitates the excretion of detrimental substances via the intestines, skin, and kidneys. Simultaneously, one should breathe deeply, which also promotes the saturation of blood with oxygen. Felke felt that taking a sitz bath and light and air bath – especially shortly after sunrise and before sunset – created the best opportunity for warming the body, boosting the circulatory system, and strengthening the immune system. The baths were accompanied by exercises in deep inhaling and exhaling, as well as simple gymnastic exercises: "From birth to death – do gymnastics with every breath."

Today it certainly makes sense to adopt at least parts of the curative program developed by Felke. Many saunas have an outdoor area where one can expose one's whole naked body to air and light. After awakening in the morning, one can try breathing deeply and consciously while standing near an opened window for five minutes and take note of the positive effect on the entire organism.

Felke also emphasized the power of one's thoughts. He believed that the more the exercises he advocated were performed with concentration and benevolence, the more effect they would have. Felke considered that frequently thinking about one's own illness and fixation on one's fears and worries are just as detrimental to health as bad nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles. Another component of a healthy lifestyle was a natural sleeping and waking rhythm, according to Felke, who postulated that since we are a part of nature, it would do us good to make use of the quiet repose at night and the vitality of the day. Therefore we should try to go to sleep by 10 p.m. and rise around 6 a.m. in the summer and around 7 a.m. in the winter. Furthermore, Felke recommended ample daily exercise in the fresh air.

In summary: the daily time spent unclothed outdoors – no matter whether in sunshine, rain, or snow – a cold sitz bath in the morning, sufficient sleep and a healthy diet as well as positive thoughts were the principles supporting a long and healthy life, according to Felke.

Earth and clay

In his day, Pastor Felke was also known as the "Clay Pastor." Earth and clay were a central component of his natural medical practice. Felke preferred clay to earth and claimed clay had a more intensive curative effect. To Felke, "clay" meant white alum earth, available in every pharmacy today. When applied externally, this substance has an anti-inflammatory, detumescent (swelling relieving), analgesic, anti-itching, drying, and soothing effect: bacteria and wound secretions are bound, metabolism is stimulated. Felke used wraps, poultices, baths, and compresses for these treatments.

For internal application, he recommended clay primarily for gastric and intestinal diseases. Aside from its dissolving, cooling, and analgesic properties, clay also supports a healthy gastrointestinal tract. This application – more or less comparable to healing clay – is still being practiced today. Felke applied the clay in moist as well as dry form. He attained an additional effect when he stirred the clay with an herbal infusion targeted for the respective illness.

Clay is a component of the soil. To keep in contact with the earth and take part in its powers, Felke also advocated walking barefoot as often as possible and sitting down on the ground instead of on a chair. Felke even recommended sleeping on the ground – at best with the head facing north and the feet facing south.

For quite a while, it has been customary for city dwellers to have as little contact with the earth as possible. Now an urban garden movement has emerged in urban areas today. This consists of small garden boxes or plots in which vegetables and flowers are sown, cultivated, and harvested. Apart from producing natural foods, an additional reason behind this development is certainly the contact with the earth and the (restored) introduction of this important element of life to our children.

Homeopathy

Apart from light, air, water, and earth, Felke considered homeopathy to be the central pillar of his treatments. He used the opportunity to provide a specific, individually customized treatment for each and every patient. Felke's prescriptions took not only the symptoms of the disease into consideration, but also the associated organs and the entire temperament of the person, the so-called "constitution."

Felke was one of the founders of complex homeopathy, also referred to as combination homeopathic remedies. This is a derivative of the classical homeopathic practice developed by Samuel Hahnemann in which only one active substance is always used to treat the patient. In contrast, Felke began to very successfully combine different homeopathic medicinal products into a single medication in order to provide the patient with effective remedies in a single administration of medication.

In the mid-1920s, Emil Hevert dedicated himself to this form of homeopathy as founder of the Hevert-Arzneimittel company. Nothing has changed with regard to this dedication, right down to the generation of grandchildren who now run Hevert-Arzneimittel for the benefit of patients and in the tradition of Emanuel Felke, the Clay Pastor.

The treatment methods and cures of Pastor Felke described in this article and the suggestions for promoting self-healing that are based on them constitute non-binding advice only. Where complaints are persistent, unclear or newly occurring, a doctor should be consulted, as diseases requiring medical attention may be involved.

Further reference literature

  • Felke E, Rheinfeld M (1916) Handbuch der Felke-Heilweisen. Selbstverlag, Cologne.
  • Kramer W (1986) Lehmpastor Emanuel Felke. Dr. Waldemar Kramer oHG, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Bier E (1925) Der kleine Felke. Selbstverlag, Sobernheim.
  • Bolland A. Pastor Felke. www.hevert.de/pastor-felke
  • Hevert (2012) Pastor Felke und die Komplexmittelhomöopathie. www.hevert.de/unternehmensfilme