In a world that constantly buzzes with activity and stimulation, finding moments of tranquility and self-care can feel like an out-of-reach luxury. But self-care can be simple, affordable, and accessible. You hold the ability to immerse yourself in a rejuvenating oasis. Enter the enchanting world of herbal bathing – a centuries-old practice that combines the therapeutic power of nature with the art of relaxation.

If you don’t have access to a bathtub, you can still experience the benefits of herbal bathing. Find yourself a large bowl or bucket and you have the container to hold a glorious, relaxing herbal foot soak, which offers many of the same health benefits of an herbal bath.

In this blog post, we'll delve into the art of the herbal bath, exploring the profound health benefits it offers, guiding you through the process of creating your own herbal bath – including safety tips – and even sharing a delightful recipe for a soothing bedtime herbal soaking blend. Prepare to embark on a journey of holistic well-being, where the healing touch of herbs meets the serenity of warm water, creating a blissful synergy that can transform your daily routine into a ritual of self-love and rejuvenation.

Whether you're new to the concept of herbal baths or a seasoned enthusiast, there's something magical waiting for you in this exploration of nature's gift to our well-being. Let's dive in and discover how the simple act of soaking with aromatic plants can nurture your body, mind, and soul.

The Art of the Herbal Bath

The history and origins of herbal baths, sometimes referred to as “tea baths,” can be traced back to ancient civilizations and have been an integral part of various cultures worldwide for centuries. Herbal baths have a rich history in ancient Egypt, where various herbs were used in bathing rituals for both medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Ancient Egyptians believed that bathing in fragrant herbal and aromatic waters could cleanse the body, promote good health, and bring one closer to the gods. 

The Greeks and Romans were known for their public bathhouses where people would soak in hot water infused with herbs and oils. These bathhouses were not just places for hygiene but also served as social gathering spots, many of which still exist today. Herbal bathing is also seen in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Native American traditions, Traditional African healing practices, and other cultures. 

Throughout history, herbal baths have played a vital role in promoting physical and mental well-being. While the specific herbs and practices may vary from one culture to another, the underlying belief in the healing power of nature's botanicals remains a common thread in the history of herbal bathing.

Herbal Bath Health Benefits

People have been soaking in warm water for centuries not only because it feels good, but because it is also good for you. On its own, soaking in warm water is beneficial to your health through the power of thermotherapy – a process that gently raises your body’s core temperature which in turn promotes heart health and lowers body inflammation [1].

Warm water can also alleviate mild muscle and joint pain by promoting healthy blood circulation, which can help reduce inflammation in the body. If a pain-relieving soak is your goal, you can also add Epsom salts to the warm water, which are believed to be absorbed into your body through the skin and work as an anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant.

Steam from a warm bath can help open up nasal passages, ease congestion, and provide relief from respiratory conditions like allergies or when you are sick. Soaking in warm water can also open up the pores, which can help cleanse the skin and remove impurities. It can also soften the skin, making it more receptive to moisturizers and other herbal skincare products.

Sinking into the comforting, warm waters of a bath envelopes you in an environment free from stress and distractions. (Just be sure to leave your phone on silent or in another room!) This simple act can help lower stress and anxiety, promoting serenity and relaxation. A warm herbal bath or foot soak before bedtime can signal to your body that it's time to wind down, improving sleep quality.

Add in aromatic plants that also soothe the nervous system, support the respiratory system, ease muscle aches, or amplify skin health. The healing powers of the plants and warm water work in synergy with one another, each amplifying the other's powerful effects. Herbal baths were also often called “tea baths” because that is essentially what they are – the warm water extracts the medicinal benefits and volatile oils in the aromatic plants that you inhale through your lungs and absorb through your skin, creating aromatherapeutic soaking waters.

How to Make a Herbal Bath

There are several techniques for creating an herbal bath. First, you need to decide what container you are using – a bathtub or a large bowl – to calculate your proportions of herbs for an herbal bath or foot soak. You can use dried herbs, essential oils, Epsom salts, or a mixture of these ingredients to create your personalized herbal bath blend. If you are using essential oils, it is imperative to dilute them first! More on this later. 

There is no right or wrong amount of dried herbs to use in an herbal soak creation. Feel free to use as little or as much as you would like. Some people like to sprinkle the herbs directly into the soaking water so the aromatic plants float around as you are immersed in the tub, which is quite a beautiful, magical experience. 

However, plants clinging to the tub can be a huge headache to clean up afterward, so you might opt for steeping the herbs in a teapot ahead of time as the bath is filling with water, then straining it and adding the herbal tea to your soaking water. Or you can simply place the herbs in a muslin cloth bag and add that to your soaking water as the tub fills and as you soak. My favorite method is soaking with free-floating herbs, and then using a metal strainer to sift them out before draining the tub.

You can customize your herbal bath blend based on your personal preferences of the moment. The aromatic plants you choose may depend on your intention for soaking. For example, an herbal bath for respiratory support might include aromatic herbs like Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and Sage. A soak for pain relief might contain Peppermint and Epsom salts. An herbal blend for skin health might include plants like Yarrow, Calendula, and Lavender. As you deepen your knowledge of aromatic plants, you can get more creative with the herbal bath blends you make.

Safety Tips

How To Use Essential Oils in the Bath

The most important thing to remember is oil and water do not mix. Essential oils are hydrophobic, meaning that based on their chemistry, pure essential oils do not mix with water, but actually float on top of it. If you add essential oils directly to soaking water, they will remain concentrated floating on top of the water. Then, as you enter and move around in the water, your skin is likely to come into direct contact with those oils, risking sensitization, an allergic immune response to an essential oil on the skin that can cause irritation, redness, rash, or even blistering.

To safely incorporate essential oils into your soaking water, it is crucial to dilute the essential oil before placing it in the water. You can do this by mixing essential oil in liquid Castile soap or a carrier oil, shaking well, and then adding the mixture to your water. This also creates a fun, natural bubble bath experience!

In general, it is recommended to use a 2-3% dilution ratio for herbal baths. The amount of essential oil drops you use depends on how much soap or carrier oil you mix it in, but a standard rule of thumb is to use around 2-6 essential oil drops. Refer to our Proper Essential Oil Dilution Chart for more specific measurements.

Water Temperature

Most scientific studies emphasize that therapeutic water temperatures for soaking range from 100.4-105.8°F. A water temperature of 106°F or higher can be risky, especially for those who are young, elderly, pregnant, or have a pre-existing medical condition.

Soothing Bedtime Herbal Soaking Blend

All of these aromatic plants are soothing to the nervous system, helping to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety, and carry the body and mind toward a good night's sleep. 

Ingredients:
2 cups Epsom salt
½ cup Rose petals
½ cup Lavender flowers
½ cup Chamomile flowers
¼ cup Jasmine flowers

Directions:

Simply add all of the ingredients into your bathtub or soaking bowl, add hot water, and enjoy!

Alternatively, for an easy cleanup, you can bring a large pot of water to a boil, then turn off the stove. Place all ingredients inside the pot, give it a stir, then cover the pot with a lid to keep the volatile oils from evaporating. Allow the herbs to steep for 15 minutes, stir one more time, then strain out the herbs. You may need to stir the contents again if the Epsom salt is not fully dissolved. You can then add this herbal tea and salt mix to your soaking water, and enjoy!

Article Written By Melissa Szaro

references

Cullen, T., Clarke, N. D., Hill, M., Menzies, C., A.  Pugh, C. J., Steward, C. J., & Thake, C. D. (2020). The health benefits of passive heating and aerobic exercise: To what extent do the mechanisms overlap? Journal of Applied Physiology.

© 2023 The Northwest School of Aromatic Medicine. All rights reserved.

*The statements above have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your physician before you use this information for health purposes.