Who doesn’t covet a serious soak in an ample tub of light, silky bubbles and sweet, scented oils? After a tough day on your feet, or hunched over a desk, battling the boss or fighting gritty fumes from city traffic, chauffeuring kids or drowning in household chores and sweaty yard work (or for many of us, all of the above), a sublime soak can do wonders for the soul. But what if, in addition to relieving sore muscles and restoring a spent mind, a bath could also address deeper issues like arthritis and other diseases of inflammation, psoriasis, cold and flu, fertility, cellulite, and more, just by infusing it with key ingredients?
Herbal baths and wraps have been around for thousands of years in about as many world venues, and are still used prolifically today at spas and resorts where travelers often spend mega-money to reap their benefits. Promoted by everyone from alternative health practitioners to aestheticians to Western health care professionals themselves, the medicinal and/or therapeutic properties of ingredients like turmeric, seaweed, ginger, milk, nettles, rosemary, thyme — even beer — can promote balance, healing, and overall good health, and can be added to warm or hot bathwater at home for mere pennies in comparison.
The following ingredients added to your bath may promote healing and better health in general, though always be sure to check with your physician first if medical issues are present:
Turmeric: Known for its antiseptic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric reportedly mitigates arthritis by soothing joints. Add half-a-cup to a warm bath. (Note: turmeric can stain, so be sure to have a good cleaning agent in ready supply to use afterwards.)
Seaweed: Mineral-rich seaweed is celebrated for its purifying qualities and ability to reduce the appearance of cellulite. It also stimulates the adrenal glands, according to some. Fill a muslin bag or old stocking with 3-4 ounces of a mixture of dried kelp and dulse, available online (from companies like Maine Coast Sea Vegetables–www.seaveg.com – are a good source). First boil water in a large pot and add bag of seaweed. Let steep for an hour and add water and bag to bath. Some refer to these baths as iodine baths, as seaweed is high in it. (Note: may affect high blood pressure.)
Ginger: The ginger bath is said to promote healing by ridding the body of toxins connected with colds and flu. Add half a cup of fresh, grated ginger or a rounded teaspoon of powdered ginger to a hot bath and soak for 20 minutes. Practitioners say you will sweat profusely, even after the bath is over, which is the method the body uses to eliminate toxins that caused the illness. Be sure to drink plenty of water to replenish. Added benefit: ginger also reportedly increases circulation to the reproductive system.
Beer: Identified by the Germans and cited for hops’ strong medicinal properties, beer baths are said to aid in the dissolution of psoriasis and other skin conditions. Add two cups to a warm bath.
Nettles: Known for centuries to influence the lungs, kidneys, skin, and blood, specifically to relieve mucus congestion, stop bleeding, address acne and eczema, increase milk flow for nursing mothers, reduce water retention, and even add shine to hair, nettles (aka stinging nettles) were used by medical doctors well into the early 20th Century. Combine equal parts dried nettles, rosemary, lemon balm, comfrey, lavender, and mint in a muslin bag and float in warm bath.
Milk: The lactic acid in milk (a known alpha hydroxy acid) added to the bath is said to dissolve the proteins which bind dead skin cells. Combined with flowers like lavender, essential oils, and other ingredients like honey, historical beauties who espoused its cosmetic benefits include Cleopatra and Elizabeth I.