A Beginner’s Guide to Medicinal Bath Soaks

A Beginner’s Guide to Medicinal Bath Soaks

Bathing has been used as a form of medicine for thousands of years. From ancient Roman soldiers soaking in hot springs after returning from war, to 19th Century arthritis sufferers seeking relief from their symptoms at famous beaches, bathing has long been recognized for its physical benefits, giving rise to the word “balneotherapy” - the bath as medicinal therapy. Check out our post on the history of balneotherapy for more on this long-standing tradition! In the meantime, this guide will inspire you to transform your bath time into a healing ritual targeted to your specific needs.

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Bath Soaks For Skin & Hair Benefits

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of bathing is the effect it has on skin. Adding ingredients to your bath such as herbs allow you to steep in the benefits of a plant, with the additional aid of heat allowing your pores to open and be even more receptive. For example, hibiscus flower, when added to bath water, —— Hair is topically benefitted by a bath soak in a similar way.

 Some skin- and hair-beautifying herbs and plants to add to your bath to ensure topical benefits: 

  • Hibiscus flowers:

Hibiscus contains natural antifungal properties that balance the skin's microbiome, while increasing moisture retention and improving microcirculation. The high vitamin C content promotes collagen synthesis while suppressing collagenase (an enzyme that degrades collagen). Hibiscus even contains alpha hydroxy acids, which gently exfoliate and brighten the skin by sloughing away dead skin cells.

  • Mugwort:
Mugwort, traditionally used in Korean baths, relieves itching and burning and has antibacterial properties. It also aids in relaxation, but avoid use during pregnancy.
  • Citrus:
Using citrus in juice or powder form, or just sliced to make pretty floating rounds in your bath, helps shrink pores and brighten your skin while regulating sebum. Citrus has long been used for a traditional Japanese winter solstice bath - we can definitely all use a little brightening of both our skin and our days around that time of year!


 Bath Soaks For Aches & Pains 

Bathing in hot water is beneficial to the internal body just as it is to the external. The gentle pressure from water, coupled with heat, is extremely soothing on aching joints and can help relieve back pain. It reduces inflammation and soothes the nervous system. The heat from a bath increases blood circulation, which helps heal wounds faster as well as keeps your heart healthy and your other organs well oxygenated.

Tips to make sure your bath benefits you internally as well as externally:

  • Ensure your bath water is as hot as you can comfortably stand.
  • Add Epsom salts, which soothe sore joints and muscles.
  • Try a magnesium bath soak - magnesium, a mineral essential to numerous body functions, is believed by many scientists to be best absorbed through the skin!


Bath Soaks For Detoxification

Bathing is also a wonderful way to aid in detoxification of the body. Not only can certain ingredients added to the bath aid in pulling out unwanted substances from inside, but the heat from a steaming bath soak can help your body sweat out toxins as well. For example, heavy metals such as mercury are most effectively expelled through sweat.

 Some ingredients you can add to your bath that are believed to aid in detoxification by drawing toxins out through the skin:

  • Baking soda
  • Epsom salt
  • Apple cider vinegar

Make sure to check out our guide on Medicinal Bath Basics to make sure your bath water is detox-ready and safe for you to soak in.  


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When done right, baths can be a form of medicine that can aid in any number of physical troubles. We hope you enjoy trying some of these tips and creating a soothing retreat for your body!

 * Take care - Please consult with your doctor before testing out any new bathing therapies!

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