Clay cures by Emanuel Felke

In his day, Emanuel 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.

What is clay?

Clay consists of a mixture of relatively coarse sand, somewhat finer silt, and very fine clay mineral particles. Due to its structure, clay can absorb water particularly well and store heat. These characteristics also give clay its unique advantages in the medicinal healing arts: Warm clay applied to body regions retains the bodily heat for a long time and improves blood circulation. Cold applications of clay, on the other hand, withdraw heat from the treated body region and develop a sustainable cooling effect that is both gentle and simultaneously pleasant.

Aside from good thermal conductivity, clay has a distinctive detoxification potential, and can therefore bind bacteria, toxins and metabolic products of the body. These properties support the cleansing effect of clay, both in external as well as internal application: When applied externally, clay has an anti-inflammatory, detumescent (relieves swelling), analgesic, anti-itching, drying and soothing effect. Clay also binds bacteria and wound secretions.

In addition, clay stimulates metabolism in the affected area and promotes the removal of toxic residues as well as the supply of oxygen. Felke used wraps, poultices, baths, and compresses for these treatments. For internal application, he recommended clay primarily for gastrointestinal disorders. 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.

In former times, clay was dug, cleaned, and then used as a therapeutic remedy. However, in the case of open wounds there was always the danger of infection, since microbes found naturally in the earth could get into the wound. Already in Felke's time, it was therefore possible to purchase Bolus alba, or "white alum earth" as it was also called, as a purified and sterile product.

The use of healing clay is also a possible alternative to Bolus alba. The ingredients are very similar to clay, only the structure is somewhat finer and the quantitative composition varies compared to ordinary clay. Adolf Just, who founded the Heilerde-Gesellschaft (healing clay society) in 1918, was one of those people whose natural medical practice deeply impressed and inspired Felke.

The clay bath

"Felke disciples" in the clay bath: Pits were dug into the earth and filled with clay, which was mixed with water to create a muddy slush.

In Felke's Jungborn (the name of his spa facilities at the time), clay was primarily used as a bathing medium. To this end, an outdoor "natural bathtub" was dug out and filled with approx. 40 centimeters of clay. After the clay was mixed with usually cool water to form a mud of proper consistency, the patient climbed into the clay bath.

Today, almost 100 years later, the traditional clay bath is still used in selected naturopathic-oriented sanatoriums, for example in the Felke sanatoriums in and around Bad Sobernheim.

The clay mash comes up to the patient's chest; the neck, throat, chest and arms are additionally smeared with clay as well. The patient remains "packed" this way for about 45 minutes in the natural bath. When drying, the slightly alkaline clay can draw acids and liquids from the body and. for instance, help alleviate inflammations. Furthermore, the bath invigorates the circulation, since the blood vessels contract when the heavy clay is applied, and blood is drawn back into the internal organs.

Vigorous kneading of the clay stimulates the circulation.

After the clay bath, the patient wipes the clay from the body, lets the residues dry in the air, and then uses cool or lukewarm water to rinse off completely. During this process the blood vessels expand again and the circulation is stimulated. This effect can be reinforced by exercising during the bath, for example by kneading the clay or massaging the arms and legs.

It has been scientifically confirmed that the treatment strengthens the immune system and improves the blood values. Furthermore, the clay cure helps relieve joint and spinal complaints, rheumatism, vein problems, fatigue, or menopausal symptoms, just to name a few.

The clay wrap

An alternative to the clay bath is the clay wrap. It is easier to handle and nevertheless very effective. The clay wrap acts as an irritant that stimulates blood circulation in the skin and has a positive impact on metabolic processes.

A clay wrap is prepared by mixing clay with water or herbal tea to make a pulpy mass. The temperature of the clay mass ranges from cold to warm, depending on the patient's disorder and desired effect. Fundamentally, the principle is: The colder the clay, the more anti-inflammatory its effect; the warmer the clay, the more spasmolytic (anti-cramping), circulatory-stimulating, and relaxing its effect.

The patient's feet should, in principle, be kept warm during the entire treatment, independent of whether a cold or warm wrap is applied.

A layer of the mixed clay to two centimeters thick is applied to a thin linen cloth, which is then placed on the body region to be treated, with the clay side face-down on the patient. The entire area is then loosely wrapped again in a soft and dry woolen cloth, which is then fixed in place.

The principle for cold wraps is: Do not fear the cold – the clay quickly assumes body temperature and stores the heat. The wrap is removed after about ninety minutes, and the skin washed off with lukewarm water.

Cold wraps are used to treat acute and inflammatory processes in the musculoskeletal system, but also for phlebitis (inflammations in veins), for hemostasis (arrest of bleeding), and for "blunt" injuries (contusions), as well as for glandular or tissue inflammations.

A further method is the heat-discharging clay pack. In this case the cold clay is smeared on the skin in thin layers and is not covered up. While evaporating, the clay draws heat from the tissue, producing an anti-inflammatory effect. This method is primarily used to treat thromboses, contusions, acute gout attacks, and arthritis. The method can also be applied on patients with open wounds.

A warm wrap can remain in place for two to three hours (or also overnight) on the painful bodily part. Afterwards it is removed, washed, and possibly renewed. The clay should not exceed a temperature of 40 °C. Warm wraps are primarily used for joint and muscle pain (myalgia), but also for chronic complaints of the digestive apparatus. In fact, warm wraps are generally helpful whenever stronger blood circulation is desired (however not in the case of massive circulatory disorders or varicose veins). Since clay cools off relatively rapidly, a warm wrap must be mixed with warm fluid and prepared for use very quickly.

In all cases the used clay is disposed of and not reused.

The so-called clay water poultice is used when a heavy clay wrap appears unsuitable. Mix a bit of clay in water, soak a cloth in the mixture, fold the cloth over four to six times, and otherwise proceed as with a clay wrap. Cover the treated region warmly and let the poultice act on the body part for some time before removing it.

Internal applications

Innere Anwendung - Lehm

For internal application, fill a large glass about half full with not too cold water. Then add a quantity of Bolus alba, i.e. white clay, equal to about half the amount of water and wait until it has settled in the glass. Then take a spoon and stir the mixture vigorously. This way the clay does not form clumps and becomes finely distributed in the water. Over a longer period of time, take small sips of the clay water, stirring thoroughly between every sip.

When taken this way, the clay binds toxins (similar to medicinal coal), gases and harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, due to its high mineral content the clay provides the body with important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and silicon. The clay drink can be taken for heartburn, flatulence, diarrhea with vomiting (please consult a physician), and for every kind of gastrointestinal irritation.

The treatment methods and cures of Emanuel Felke described on this web page 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, because diseases requiring medical attention may be involved.

Further reference literature

  • Kramer W (1986) Lehmpastor Emanuel Felke.
    Dr. Waldemar Kramer oHG, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Bachem M (1920) Der praktische Lehm-Doktor.
    Wilhelm Möller, Frankfurt a. M.
  • Felke E, Rheinfeld M (1916) Handbuch der Felke-Heilweisen.
    Selbstverlag, Köln.
  • Die Felke-Kur - Schriftenreihe der Ärztlichen
    Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Felketherapie. (1975) H. Dhonau,
    Th. Menschel, G. Schlau, W. Schulz (Hrg.) Waldemar Kramer,
    Frankfurt a. M.
  • Zubehör für Wickelauflagen können bei Wickel & Co
    bezogen werden:
  • Informationen zur Felke-Kur finden Sie hier
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