Chinese herbal bath and soak
Why Herbal bath
Chinese herbs can be taken internally and used externally. One way of external use is to make a herbal soak for the bathtub. There are many reasons for taking a bath in an herbal water. Some popular reasons include treating skin problem, relieving body aches, balancing body odor, increasing circulation, and enhancing mental relaxation. Herbal soaks can be used on the whole body or locally such as foot bath (foot spa) that is becoming more popular recently in the US.
Most of the herbal functions are the same when used externally or internally. For example, if you want to treat dampness, use herbs that transform dampness. To cool the body, use cooling herbs. Check reference books, google online, or consult an herbalist before you try it yourself. Since it is for external use, the side effect is usually less. However, safety should be first concern and always use common sense.
As a general rule, collect dry herbs and boil them on a stove for a few minutes to extract more “herbal juice”. You can put the herbs in a cheese cloth or herbal pouch so it is easier to separate the herbal water from the herbs. After the water is cooled down, pour the liquid in the bath water.
If boiling on the stove is too much trouble at the moment, add boiled water to the herbs and steep for a few minutes like making a tea. The herbal water will be weaker but still works. If you add dry herb pouch directly into the bath water, it will only have minimal effect because the water temperature is too low. That’s why cooking it first is a better technique. You can cook it up to 20 minutes depending on what type of herbs and the effect you are looking for. Light and fragrant herb (such as Mint) should be added at the end of cooking to prevent overcooking.
Depending on the size of your bathtub, or the container of footbath, you can adjust the size of the pot for herbal water. A typical internal herbal formula has about 5 to 15 herbs, but 3 to 5 herbs (with one handful each) makes a good standard soak. An herbal soak can be as simple as 1 or 2 herbs. Just increase the amount of each herb to make it more potent.
How long does it need for us to soak in the tub? It depends on the person’s age, condition and desired treatment. 15 to 20 minute is a good start. Reduce for the elderly, little kids, or weak patients. Also, watch out for the water temperature. Not too hot or cold. Add more hot water if the water gets cold at the end of bath time.
Simple recipes to try
1. Summer soak
This recipe clears summer heat, calm the mind and lift up the spirit.
- Ju Hua, Lian Zi, He Ye, Dan Zhu Ye, Bai He, Mei Gui (10g or a handful of each herb)
Ju Hua clears the toxic heat, Lian Zi calms the mind, He Ye and Dan Zhu Ye clears heat, Bai He also clears heat and calms the spirit. You can also add any flowers for natural fragrance such as rose (Mei Gui Hua).
2. Skin calming soak
Skin rashes and itchiness are usually from Wind, Damp, Heat, or Blood Heat evils. Recommended herbs include:
- Di Gu Pi, Jin Yin Hua, Lian Qiao, Ban Lan Gen, Dan Gui, Long Dan Cao
These herbs all clear toxic heat, blood heat and dampness to various degrees. If you can not find all ingredients, just part of them will be effective too.
These are stonger medicinal herbs. Use locally in affected area with a wet towel might be more effective. Use frequently for the first few days until the symptom relieved. Not suggested for long term use.
Since herbal bath is easy to prepare, quick to see result, and fun to try, why not make it part of your wellness routine, like drinking teas and tyding up your house? It can be integrated into everyday mind body health effortlessly.