Baths’ long history
Water has been used as a therapy as far back as the ancient Egyptians. Native Americans used hot springs in the treatment of disease. Water can be used beneficially in baths, steam baths, mists, footbaths, enemas, douches, and compresses. Hippocrates, the Greek physician, knew water was a type of hydrotherapy, or water cure. Historically, since man’s earliest times, baths have been used as both a means of relaxation and to induce a state of healthfulness.
The Bible refers to bathing in Leviticus 16 and 17, and Numbers 19. A 3000-year-old built-in bathtub and drainage system lies in the ruins of King Nestor’s palace near Pylos, Greece. The Romans had warm public baths in which they used natural mineral springs. Two famous ones were near Naples and Thermopolis. Bath, England, is still famous for its ancient baths. Native Americans congregated at the warm springs in Bath, West Virginia, now called Berkeley Springs, as did our founding fathers.
Varied purposes for baths
Baths have been used to cleanse the body, relax the mind, remove evil spirits, improve attitudes, create awareness, celebrate life, attract love, relax, produce invigoration, and aid in meditation. The infirm in hospitals and nursing homes are placed in protective seats and lowered by pulleys into warm, jetted tubs. Taking a bath can be a very pleasant, relaxing, almost ritualistic experience.
I remember on sweltering hot summer days, we would get up very early to work in our apple orchard. We had no pool or pond or creek. In the heat of the afternoon, we would climb a tall ladder to bathe in a raised water tank that resembled a giant “pork ’n beans” can on stilts. The water was cold and invigorating, and conducive to getting us back to work for the rest of the day and evening.
Increasing the benefits
There are many products, herbs, and essential oils you can put in your bath to heighten the experience and to make your skin soft and moisturized.
You can buy prepared bath products or you can easily make your own using an infusion, or tea, of chamomile, calendula, arnica, lily, and rose. Put any combination of these herbs in your bath. You can also put them in almond or safflower oil first and let the herbal properties impart to the oil, then put the oil in your bath. Putting essential oils in almond oil and then adding it to your bath is also a wonderful experience and a remedy for dry skin.
Persons who perspire freely and have oily skin should bathe more frequently. People with sensitive skin can bathe less often. In the winter, itching may develop with too much bathing unless creams, oils, or moisturizers are used.
Different kinds of baths
- Milk bath. Use one cup powdered milk with ten drops of lavender oil. Sprinkle milk into tub.
- Vinegar bath. For dry or itchy skin, add one-half cup organic apple cider vinegar to bath.
- Honey bath. Add one-fourth cup honey to bath to relieve tiredness or as sleep aid.
- Epsom salts bath. To reduce inflammation and chemical pollutants, draw a deep bath, add four cups of Epsom salts, and soak for at least twenty minutes.
Herbs in your bath
Today’s pace of life—the pressures, the increasing tempo, the constant demands—absolutely requires us to build in small blocks of time to renew, relax, and recharge. One easy, fun, and great way to do this is to take two hours a week for yourself for a long, comforting, wonderful bath. Many herbs can have a powerful effect on the mind, some by encouraging calmness, others by stimulation.
Start by planning the time, then turn down the lights, lock the bathroom door, light a candle, and sink into a warm or hot herbal bath. Rest your head and neck on a folded towel. Let your arms float.
One of the easiest ways to prepare an herbal bath is to put dried herbs into a small cheesecloth or nylon-net bag, or an old nylon stocking, and hang them from the spout while running the water. When you have filled the tub, let the bag steep for awhile before removing it. Be sure to squeeze it often to release the essences of the herbs.
A second school of thought on herbal baths is to simply bring the herbs to a boil in a nonmetal pot on the stove. Let them steep for five minutes, then strain the herbs out, pouring the liquid into the bath. I do not recommend putting the herbs directly and loosely into the bath because of the mess they cause all over you and the tub!
You can also place tea bags in your bath. For example, chamomile is soothing both to mind and spirit and helps reduce aches and pains. The benefits of the herbs’ essences are absorbed through the pores.
Another way to alleviate aches and pains, add a cupful of equal parts of the following herbs: agrimony, comfrey, St. John’s wort, mugwort, sage, plus one tablespoon of Epsom salts to your bath water. Or take a mixture of the herbs and bring them to a light boil in a nonmetal pot for fifteen minutes. Or you can put the herbs in a small muslin bag to run under the hot water as it comes out of the faucet.
Hot baths are used to relax, warm baths to enjoy, and cold baths to stimulate. You can choose the temperature of the water, the herbs, the essential oils, the time of day, the use of candles and incense, and the thoughts in your mind—you can alter the experience.
To relieve tension, try using valerian, sweet flag, lavender, and hops. For general beautifying, try lavender, rosemary, comfrey, and mint. For stiff joints and muscles, try sage, strawberry leaves, mugwort, chamomile, and comfrey. For overall toning, try lavender, parsley, comfrey, blackberry, and nettle. To aid in circulation, try calendula, bladderwrack, ginger, and nettle. And think virtuous thoughts.
Ritual baths were practiced in Africa and elsewhere for healing, love, success, spiritual cleansing, and any other important event in life. A love bath, for example, contained rose, cloves, cinnamon, and honey.
Relaxing herbs and oils for baths
- Elder flowers
- Epsom salts
- Sandalwood essential oil
- Ylang ylang essential oil
- Rose, orange blossom, geranium
General detox herbs and oils for baths
(three drops of each to bath and soak for 30 minutes)
Invigorating ingredients for baths
- Lemon verbena
- Lemon peel
Skin-soothing ingredients for baths
- Aloe vera
Tension-relieving ingredients for baths
- Sweet flag
Beautifying ingredients for baths
Ingredients to relieve stiff joints and muscles in baths
- Strawberry leaves
Ingredients to increase circulation in baths
Toning ingredients for baths
Essential oils in your bath
I have always enjoyed the art of bathing. I like to feel my body immersed in water. Water is such a wonderful element. Aromatic baths can influence us in many ways through the fragrance, thus pleasing our spirit, improving us psychologically as well physiologically. Bathing cannot only drench our skin in wonderful essences and soothe the body, but also the mind. It is wonderfully therapeutic.
There are two ways to use essential oils in your bath. One is to just add a couple drops of oil in a drawn bath. Do not put the oil in sooner because the oil can dissipate while the hot water is filling the tub. Another way of using an essential oil in your bath is to mix it with a fixed oil such as almond or sunflower. Put three or four drops of the essential oil per tablespoon of fixed oil, and then put the mixture into a full tub of water.
- If you have ever used any of my products, you know this is one of my favorite essential oils. It has a classic scent. In a hot bath, lavender is very relaxing and helps induce sleep, but in a cool bath, lavender can be a stimulant.
- Ylang Ylang. This is my favorite, and smells just wonderful. It is an anti-depressant, an aphrodisiac, and has been used as a sedative.
- Like the tea, this oil is used to calm nerves and reduce tension.
- Rose oil. Valued for its ability to reduce tension in women, this oil is particularly for post-natal depression and the stress that follows a broken heart.
- This oil is reputedly good for depression and helping the body fight infection.
- With its warming and soothing effect on the mind and emotions, some traditions used this to ward off evil spirits that we create (our fears, obsessions, and anxieties). It is useful to induce a meditative state, plus it is an astringent and an anti-inflammatory.
- Used to reduce tension and encourage sleep, This oil calms the mind and is especially useful for those who are prone to upset themselves unnecessarily. It is said to work on a cellular level, stimulating the elimination of old cells and promoting the growth of new ones.
- This oil comes from the lemon balm plant. Its soothing properties are used as an antidepressant and to remove negative thoughts.
- For promotion of emotional well-being. It is both a sedative and uplifting. It also helps to produce confidence and optimism.
- Cooling, invigorating, and refreshing, this oil is great for a summer bath.
- Useful for muscular pain and its astringent and antiseptic properties, this oil is stimulating and clean smelling.
It’s possible to overdo a good thing. Be aware of heat hydration. I’m presuming your tub has adequate handrails. Keep a bottle or cup of cool water within reach to sip or to splash yourself.
If, by chance, you feel lightheaded during one of your hot soaks, open the drain and let the hot water flow out, so your body gradually gets exposed to the cooler air. Do not try to get up. Sip some of your nearby cool water. Splash yourself with it. Stay put until you truly feel able to get up. If lightheadedness strikes you after you’re out of the tub, find a place to sit. Lower your head until you feel okay.
I’ve never had this happen to me, but as I’ve stressed repeatedly in this book, everybody is different. In fact, even the same body can react differently at different times and under various conditions. I add these remarks so that like a good Girl Scout, you can always “be prepared.” You decide what’s good for your body. You make the decisions, and then take responsibility for those decisions. Thus you become more self-determining, more self-reliant, and more and more self-actualized. And there’s beauty, health, and happiness in that, too!
Natural springs involve the use of special waters. They may be hot, cold, carbonated, bubbly, sulfured, and/or gently flowing. We are blessed in Colorado to have a great abundance of natural hot springs. I have made it one of my personal goals to visit each and every one of them. I have not succeeded yet, but I have been to many. There is a great book out by Rick Cahill, Hot Springs Guide of Colorado. The issue I have is old, but it is still a great reference.
One of my commercial favorites is Hot Sulphur Springs, which was recently voted the worst hot springs in Colorado! However, it has inside caves with flowing water at all temperatures, an outside swimming pool, and outside hot springs. It is never crowded. To get there, you traverse Berthoud Pass. Hot Sulphur Springs is also the name of the adjacent unspoiled Colorado mountain town, and it is only eleven miles to Granby and Grand Lake, one of my favorite recreational areas.
Idaho Springs is the closest hot springs to Denver, with easy access from the metro Denver area. It offers massages between soaks and a darkened room where you can lie down and nap for complete relaxation. Idaho Springs has women’s caves and men’s caves, so the main caves are same-sex only and you must bathe nude. They also have private caves for couples and a mud bath is available.
Glenwood Springs is a very nice town right off I-70, convenient if you are traveling through and do not have much time. It’s even better if you can linger.
If you ever get so wound up that you cannot relax, hot springs are for you. You cannot spend a few hours at a hot springs without relaxing; it is physically impossible. You will be relaxed. I think hot springs are definitely curative measures and they have a reputation of being very helpful in the treatment of rheumatic disorders, chronic fatigue, and skin, muscular, and nervous disorders.
All Tuckered Out and ready for a Lily Farm Fresh Tuckered Farmer Bath Soak!