Bath time Essentials: Balneotherapy

10 Natural Remedies for Your Most Relaxing Bath Ever

Baths are one of my favourite ways to reset myself and relax, especially if I’m sore, tired and overwhelmed. It’s a ritual that doesn’t take much effort with huge benefits for your nervous system, your detoxifying organs, your muscles, your skin and your spiritual wellbeing. With a few simple tweaks to this cornerstone of self-care, you can take your bath to the next level, providing natural remedies to heal your body, mind and spirit.

The practice of enhancing the healing capacity of your bath is known as balneotherapy; the treatment of disease through bathing, and it’s something that I often find myself prescribing to treat stressed-out, tired an anxious individuals. It may sound a little bit hippy, but before you discount it completely, I have a story to share with you:

I was introduced to the art of balneotherapy through a dear lecturer of mine, Elizabeth Greenwood. It was my last day of uni, and Elizabeth had planned a special celebration for us, including teas and foot baths with special formulas she’d created herself. When she walked in, she found me huddled in the foetal position and green in the face under a table, and quickly got to work preparing a foot bath for me. Little did I know, I was in the midst of a full-blown fever, induced by a kidney infection. I knew at the very least, it would be nice, so I sat in the chair snuggled under my blanket-scarf with my feet submerged in warm water, clay, salts and herbs. Within 10 minutes the colour had come back to my face, the pain had subsided and I didn’t feel the effects of the fever again for a full 16 hours – I was hooked!

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Classic me took of photo of the foot bath for Instagram, of course

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This is me on that fateful day, only 1 1/2 hours after my foot bath celebrating the final minutes of my degree

Ever since that day, I’ve taken my bath time very seriously, acknowledging just how powerful the absorption of our skin truly is; if we can absorb enough medicinal benefits from simple products to reverse the symptoms of my fever that quickly, then our bodies can absorb just about anything – including the nasty chemicals in bath products that are so readily available. Not only that, but a warm bath open the pores to allow the release of toxins, and the ritual itself is relaxing to the muscles and the nervous system. Balneotherapy is all about taking advantage of these effects by adding natural medicines that further improve the healing capacity of your bath.

Perhaps I’m ranting, but my point is that bathing can truly be a healing experience if you really allow it to be. Keep the products you use simple, but effective and allow yourself to completely immerse in the experience.

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Here are my favourite ways to really step up your bath time ritual (even if you can only do a foot bath):

  1. Stick to natural ingredients and avoid soaps and bubbles. I know bubble baths are lots of fun, but in order to keep those bubbles there, chemicals are added to stabilise the structure of the bubbles – but these chemicals also start to break down the outer, protective layer of skin. This is why people prone to eczema and dermatitis are sensitive to soaps. A lot of these products also have fragrances and other toxic chemicals – including formaldehyde?! – that are best avoided. But don’t worry, I’m about to tell you plenty of fun and beautiful bath time alternatives that are not only non-toxic, but have added medicinal benefits.
  2. Epsom salts – salts made of magnesium sulphate, epsom salts are commonly used to relax the muscles and pull toxins out of the body via reverse osmosis. Use at least 1 cup of salts in the tub for at least 40 minutes to get the full benefit of this special salt.
  3. Bicarbonate soda – I find bicarb beneficial for easing inflammation on the skin, especially in cases of bites, burns and yeast infections (thrush, tinea, etc). The alkalinity of the bicarb can be calming to the skin and reduce the stinging pain and itchiness associated with it.
  4. Essential oils – there are plenty of benefits from essential oils, but due to their concentrated strength and the fact that oil and water doesn’t mix, its essential to use a solublising agent, such as bicarb soda or epsom salts to add the oils to before you put them in the tub. I also recommend that you avoid using peppermint oil (especially if you’re sick) – its bloody cold if you do (not that I would ever make that mistake whilst mid-fever… :s). My favourite oils include rose, orange, lavender, bergamot, chamomile and ylang ylang, but I also use a few blends, like Evohe Harmonie blend, Oil Garden’s Relax & Unwind and Tranquil & Calm and Perfect Potion’s Happy and Calm blends. (Please note that I am not an aromatherapist)
  5. Herbal teas – for those of you with sensitive skin, essential oils may be very irritating, in which case, I recommend bathing in herbal tea. Herbal tea still allows you to absorb the benefits of these plants, but in a much more gentle way. You may like to get a stocking and fill it with loose leaf tea, or dump the tea straight into the water like I do. After the tea has steeped for a while, I like to gather the tea and rub it into my skin for maximum benefits. Great teas to try include; rose, lemon myrtle, lemonbalm, passionflower, chamomile, calendula, lavender, sage, valerian.IMG_3265
  6. Mud masks and bathing in clay – to further enhance the detoxifying capacity of your bath, smother a mud mask over your face, and/or add clay to your bathtub. Clay has a powerful capacity to draw out and bind to toxins, especially in a warm environment when your pores are already open. Bentonite clay is a great one to bathe in (try Grasses of Life Bentonite Clay), while my favourite mud masks include Botani Exfoliating 2 in 1 Scrub & Mask, Sukin Supergreens Detoxifying Clay Masque and Evohe Silica Mask. All natural and all have been incredibly effective for my acne-prone skin.
  7. Exfoliation – I always feel like I’m looking after myself like a real proper grown-up woman when I exfoliate – not to mention how silky-smooth my skin is. Exfoliation helps to slough away dead skin cells and stimulate the flow of lymph and blood to and from your extremities (again, improving detoxification and reducing the accumulation of fluid). You can exfoliate with a natural loofa, bamboo facial cloth or a wash-away exfoliation product, but do be aware, if using a coffee scrub, such as Frank (a favourite, but mostly, I just use organic ground coffee on its own), to do so at the end of the bath so you don’t absorb the caffeine in the coffee right before bed.IMG_3263
  8. Organic oats – adding oats to your bath in a stocking is very soothing to inflamed skin from eczema and psoriasis. You can also use the oat sock as an exfoliant once its soaked up warm water, and rub the soothing pulp on particularly inflamed areas.
  9. Bath bombs – for starters, these are super cool! And while there are some amazing ones out there claiming to be “natural”, but they are still full of nasty chemicals, purfumes, soaps and dyes that can breakdown the outer layer of your skin and put extra pressure on your liver.  Bath bombs are fantastic though, they’re a lovely way to add a few of the elements I’ve discussed above and feel all bubbly when they’ve been put in the tub (and fun to make at home, this is also a good recipe). Avoid any bath bombs with SLSs (sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium laureth sulphate), unnatural dyes, parabens and unnatural fragrances.
  10. Set the scene – to get the most out of this time you’ve set aside for yourself, make sure you truly give your whole body a break. Put on some relaxing music (fun fact, I love listening to the theme that Mario swims to in Super Mario 64), light some candles, turn off the lights and leave your phone in another room. Breathe deeply, immerse your entire body (head and all) and truly relax. There will be plenty of time for social media later on.

Don’t forget, if you want more tips to help manage your stress and how stress can affect your health, tune into the Sun & Earth Organic Healthcare Clinic Natural Adrenal Health Summit, ‘Unleash Your Inner Holiday’ on Facebook all week long.

I’ll be talking tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7pm about Anxiety & the Adrenals LIVE on Facebook. I’d love for you to join me.

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