Bathing for Health and Well-Being

Enjoy the soothing pleasures of a leisurely bath.

December 7, 2010

The Bath Treatment
Today many of us still enjoy the soothing pleasures of a leisurely bath in our homes. Retreating to a warm, scented bath lit by candlelight can calm your mind and body: the privacy and peace of the bathroom allows for quiet meditation. Or maybe you need a boost of energy to get you through the day: a cool bath and the scent of lemons on a sunny day could be just what you need.

To add another dimension to your bath water, look for scented oils in natural foods stores and many shops specializing in products for body and bath. You can use the oils in combinations that promote calming, energizing, or healing.

Many of the following recipes call for the use of essential oils. Because these oils are highly concentrated, dilute them before adding them to your bath to prevent them from irritating your skin. "Carrier oils" you can use to dilute the essential oils include almond, apricot, hazelnut, olive, grapeseed, and sesame. Combine 25 drops (or 1/4 teaspoon) essential oil to 1 ounce carrier oil. Also, check with your doctor before using any essential oils or herbs on yourself if you are pregnant or on children. If you are prone to allergies, test a small amount of diluted essential oil on the inside of your arm and wait for 12 hours.

Energize and Focus
Three spices reminiscent of India work to sharpen your senses and clear your mind. Try this bath to start your day or when you begin a new project.

1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon powdered cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1 large orange sliced

Light red and orange, citrus- or spice-scented candles. Tie the powdered ginger, cinnamon, and cloves in a piece of muslin. Run a warm bath and add the bag of spices. After the bath is full, float the orange slices. Have a cup of iced spice tea or fresh orange juice to sip while you enjoy your bath.

Silk and Satin Skin
This bath, which moisturizes and smoothes rough skin, is perfect in the winter when dry air often makes skin brittle.

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup whole milk
2 cups sugar

Light vanilla or unscented white candles. Run a warm-water bath and add the milk. Tie the oatmeal in an old stocking or a square of cheesecloth and let it float in the bath. Use the sugar to exfoliate by rubbing small handfuls over your skin. Then rub the oatmeal ball on your body to help soothe your skin.



Clear Headed
Some headaches just won't go away no matter what you try. A healing bath may be just what you need to clear your head.

1/4 teaspoon lavender mix
1/4 teaspoon chamomile mix
1/4 teaspoon peppermint mix

Brew a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea to sip while in the tub. Run a hot-water bath. Add all the mixes when the bath is full. Breathe the steam in with long, slow breaths and concentrate on relaxing the muscles in your face.


Rest in the Garden
Imagine yourself falling asleep to the sound of bees buzzing and the scent of flowers floating on the breeze.

1/2 teaspoon rose mix
1/2 teaspoon lavender mix
2 roses
10 sprigs fresh lavender

Light rose-scented candles in an array of colors and open the window to let spring or summer air in. Run a warm-water bath. Add both mixes after the bath is full. Float lavender sprigs and rose petals on top of the water.


Bathing has been used to treat or help treat injuries, diseases, and ailments of all sorts for centuries. The Native Americans, Egyptians, Chinese, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Hebrews, and Hindus all used water, in many forms, to treat poor health. Until recently, many modern hydrotherapy treatments were prescribed only by alternative-health practitioners. Today, alternative and traditional doctors alike are using water therapy to treat a range of medical conditions.

Most athletes are familiar with some form of hydrotherapy. Whirlpools and hot-water baths are suggested in schools, gyms, and fitness centers for sore muscles or injuries. Hydrotherapy simply uses hot, warm, tepid, cool, or cold water, as well as ice and steam, to prevent or treat health problems. Some forms of hydrotherapy include baths, saunas, whirlpools, mineral baths, flushes, wraps, and compresses. The conditions treated with hydrotherapy are as wide-ranging as the treatments. From acne to varicose veins, anorexia to stress, hydrotherapy has positive effects on a diverse array of health concerns.

The hydrotherapy treatments involving hot water produce both stimulating and relaxing effects. Although hot water relaxes the body, it stimulates the immune system and helps in healing colds, viruses, and the flu. Hot water also causes the body to sweat, allowing the water to carry toxins out of the body and letting you replenish the body with new liquids. Hot hydrotherapy treatments include heating compresses, hot packs, hyperthermia, and immersion baths.

Cold-water hydrotherapy treatments are restorative and build resistance. The cold water constricts blood vessels to reduce inflammation, including fever. It also acts as a pain reliever, an anesthetic, and a muscle toner. A cold treatment can be used to lower body temperature, reduce blood circulation, and reduce swelling after an injury. Cold hydrotherapy treatments include cold compresses, baths, showers, ice packs, and ice massage.

Contrast hydrotherapy involves using both hot and cold treatments alternately. The contrast therapies are designed to dilate and contract the blood vessels. This keeps the vessels in shape and also alleviates inflammation, improves organ function, improves digestion, increases circulation, reduces congestion, and stimulates the adrenal and endocrine glands.

Whirlpool baths are the most well-known of the hydrotherapy treatments. Not only are whirlpool baths recommended to heal injured muscles and joints, as in the case of sports injuries, they're also used to heal edema (swelling) and improve circulation. Minor frostbite pain, skin sores, infected wounds, and burns are all soothed and healed by whirlpools. The moving water of a whirlpool acts as a gentle and unintrusive massager, working internally and externally.

A neutral bath is a neutral-temperature water bath that involves submerging the entire body up to the neck. The water temperature ranges from 92 degrees F to 98 degrees F to mimic the body's own temperature. A neutral bath has a soothing effect that is used to treat emotional disturbances, insomnia, and to calm the nervous system. It also helps those with mild heart conditions, swollen joints, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Hyperthermia is a hot-water treatment designed to raise body temperature and induce a fever. Although a fever is often considered a negative sign when dealing with illnesses, elevated body temperature kicks the immune system into action to help fight a disease or a virus.