Inspiration short #10: Herbal Baths

by Danielle Charles

I just love drinking tea, but if I could have my way, I’d rather sit in it. Immersing myself in a steaming hot tub full of fragrant, petal flecked water is just about as close to heaven as it comes. And such baths aren’t purely for relaxation either: the skin, being the largest organ of the body and having enormous absorptive surface area, makes the bath a handy way to deliver the medicinal effects of herbs.

While you could take a pill to get your dose of herbs, a bath offers a far more enticing and luxurious way to do so.  Just imagine yourself easing into the warmth of the water, the heady, floral scent of the herbs mingling with the steam as it rises up around you. You submerge yourself, let the water completely envelop you in its silky embrace, and lay your head back. Eyes closed, your cares float away as the herbs and the warmth of the bath work their magic spell upon you. Now how could you improve on that!

For obvious reasons, baths make great delivery vehicles for herbs geared towards quieting the nervous system and soothing the skin. But they can also be used for a myriad of other purposes: to relieve sore and achy muscles; for easing the symptoms of a cold or flu; to reduce edema and support circulation. And baths don’t have to be calming, they can be enlivening too! (Just try the good morning sunshine bath below and you’ll see what I mean…)

Here are a few herbal bath ideas to get you started. Sometimes I like to let the herbs float free in the water for aesthetic impact, but most of the time I prefer to place them in a muslin bag and infuse them into the water like that (it’s far less messy and you won’t end up with bits of herb stuck to your skin when you get out). If you don’t have a bath tub, you can either a) start being very friendly to someone who does, b) try the herbs in a foot bath, or c) use the bath bag as a washcloth, which is very lovely too.

Calming Flowers Bath: A relaxing and tension relieving bath perfect for bedtime. Mix together 1/4 cup each of rose petal, lavender flower, chamomile flower and linden flower with 2 tbl of hops. Place in a muslin bag or 9 by 9 inch square of cheesecloth tied with twine. Attach the bag to the faucet and let the hot water run through it. Once the bath is drawn, untie it from the faucet, and let it float in the water, squeezing it occasionally to release its delicious mix of aromas.

Skin Soother Bath: A great bath for any sort of skin inflammation, from rashes and bug bites to sunburns. Mix 1/2 cup oatmeal with 1/4 cup elderflower, lavender, chamomile and calendula and 2 tbl comfrey leaf.  Draw your bath, following the procedure described for the previous bath. This mix can be used as a washcloth, squeezing the soothing milky water over the skin.

Sore Muscle and Achy Joint Soak: This bath can help to relax sore, tense muscles, ease arthritic pain and is also great for relieving the chills, aches and pains of a cold or flu. In a large pan, bring 1 gallon of water to boil and add 2 cups fresh chopped ginger, then simmer, covered,  for 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add 1/2 cup arnica flowers, 1/4 cup each of meadowsweet, juniper berry and rosemary, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Replace the cap and let sit for a further 20 minutes. Strain out the herbs, and add to the bath along with 1 cup of epsom salts or celtic sea salt.

Good Morning Sunshine Bath: An enlivening, stimulating bath to get you moving in the morning (and a new creative way to get your daily cuppa). Mix 1/4 cup each peppermint, rosemary, and ground coffee with 2 tbl each of cardamom, juniper and orange peel. Follow the instructions listed  for the calming flowers bath.

Now, go and draw yourself a bath!

P.S. Celia Linnemann over at Dandelion Revolution has some great posts on baths too, including this one on a lovely Juniper berry bath, and this one on foot baths for all you bathtub lacking folk.

And be sure to check out Lucinda’s great post on the merits of the oat bath here