• Tame your tension with herbal bathing

    Herbal bathing is a simple practice that has many healing benefits. Steeping your body in a bathtub full of medicinal leaves and flowers is more than pampering; it is preventive medicine that washes away stress and tension. Many herbal constituents can be absorbed through the skin and taking the time out to lie down in the bathtub is healing in itself. Herbal bathing can help to calm the mind, lift the spirits, reduce stress, relax sore muscles, increase circulation, promote mental clarity, and help the body to release toxins.

    Bathing is more than getting the dirt off; it is a ritual with water. Bathing often marks the beginning or ending thresholds of the day and we take special baths before dates or exciting occasions. We bathe for spiritual purification and to calm our minds and relax. Our water rituals are enhanced as we bring in the physical and spiritual properties of the herbs. Use rosemary and sage to invigorate your morning wake up bathing ritual, sprinkle chamomile and lemon verbena in your bath water to mark the end of the day. Soak your body in rose petals when you want more love and beauty in your life. Make herbal bath mixtures for each season, reflecting the needs of your body during different times of the year. Turn your bathing area into your healing sanctuary.

    I love herbal bathing because it is a powerful therapy that is easily incorporated into our busy lives. Everyone washes with water, so it really is not that much extra effort to throw some herbs into the routine. I bathe in herbs almost daily and feel that my herbal bathing rituals are an extremely important part of my preventive health care plan and my spiritual practice. If you do not have a bathtub, maybe it is time to remodel your house or move!

    Herbal baths are a great tool for introducing herbal therapies to children or for getting herbs into people that do not like to drink tea. Not everyone will drink herbal teas, but most everyone would like to take a break in a warm tub full of aromatic flowers. Sometimes bathing in herbs can be more effective than drinking them. This makes sense if you think about how much of a full body experience bathing with herbs can be. You are completely immersed in the herbs, including your hands and feet. You are embraced by the smell of the steaming herbs and inhaling the healing aroma. You are surrounded with bath water colors of gold, purple, and deep blue, and the smell of the herbs linger in the house for hours.

    Bathing herbs that have a gently stimulating effect are: basil, bay leaf, calendula flowers, elder flowers, eucalyptus leaves, pine tree needles, ginger root, lemongrass leaves, mugwort leaves, peppermint leaves, rosemary, sage leaves, thyme leaves, witch hazel bark and yarrow flowers.

    Bathing herbs that have a relaxing effect are: borage flowers, catnip leaves, chamomile leaves and flower, hops flowers, lavender leaves and flower, lemon balm leaves, lemon verbena leaves, motherwort leaves, oat straw seed pods, passionflower, rose geranium, rose petals, skullcap leaves, St. John’s wort flowers.

    Mix together a few of the herbs listed. Put one cup of herb mixture in a pot with four quarts of water. Bring water to a boil; turn off the heat and let steep for ½ hour. Pour this infusion directly into your bath water. If staining the bathtub is a problem then strain the herbs from the infusion before pouring into the tub. Another simple way to bathe with herbs is to take one cup of an herb mixture and tie it in a sock or piece of cotton muslin and let the herbs steep directly in the bathtub while contained in the fabric. This method makes much less of a mess but the herbal properties extracted into the tub will not be as strong as with the first method described.


    Herbal Bathing Recipes

    Wipe off the Day Bath

    Equal parts of lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm

    Better than Coffee Bath
    Equal parts of ginger, bay, lemongrass, and elder flowers

    Clearing Colds Bath
    Equal parts of yarrow, elder flowers, peppermint, and mugwort

    Relax and Renew Bath

    Equal parts of rose petals, lavender, rose geranium, and chamomile

    Mental Clarity Bath

    Equal parts of rosemary, sage, pine tree needles, and mugwort

    These recipes are a starting place. There are many other herbs that can be used, some of which can easily be grown in your garden. It won’t be long before herbal baths become one of your most favorite ways of nourishing and caring for yourself. Happy herbal bathing!


    Kami McBride is the author of The Herbal Kitchen and has helped thousands of people learn to use herbs in their daily lives in ways that are healthy, safe and fun. She is the director of Cultivating the Herbal Medicine Woman Within, an experiential training in using herbs in the home for everyday health. An intuitive and inspiring teacher, Kami works to revive the cultural art of home herbal care and teaches herbology as a relationship with the Earth and a way of life. For a schedule of classes or herbal consultations Kami can be reached at (707) 446-1290 or sign up for her free herbal e-newsletter at: www.livingawareness.com


    • I’m so inspired by this… I like the idea of bathing as the end of the day ritual… getting all the “ick” of the day off. Can’t wait to try steeping the herbs in advance. I usually just throw sprigs of rosemary right into the bath water, and other herbs… what a mess. Will try the cotton muslin trick. L)

    • I love taking baths. I use oil extracts from herbs because I don’t like cleaning the bath afterwards:) But putting them in a sock is something I have not thought of and will definitely try.I soak for a myriad of reasons and everything you mentioned works for me. Off to target to buy some socks.

    • Hey, this is step number 7 on how to increase your brain matter! So Madge, you have a bunch of pairs of socks-one is brown and one is white? After you take a herbal bath, can you smoke the herb when it drys?

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