What Is An Herbal Bath Tea?

Learn what an herbal bath tea is, how to make one yourself and the best herbs to use for a variety of therapeutic effects.

An herbal bath tea is an easy and effective way to absorb an herb's active ingredients through your skin. It was a traditional method of providing healing therapies for centuries. The Ancient Romans employed bathing therapy, but as bathing went out of fashion in the Dark Ages, so did herbal bath therapies. Modern methods of dosage controlled medicines might seem to have made bathing therapies obsolete, but more recently they have made a comeback, as people learn to appreciate more natural alternatives. They are certainly a more pleasant way to 'take your medicine' than bad-smelling skin rubs. Bath teas can be used for relaxing, managing pain, helping heal skin conditions, or simply to enjoy the warmth and scent.

You can purchase commercial bath 'tea bags' containing a premixed blend of herbs for a variety of effects; they are typically packaged in a bag made of muslin. These tea bags are tossed in the bathtub as you fill it with hot water and the herbs allowed to steep. Then cold water is added to your comfort level.

Few of us keep our hot water heaters turned up high enough to effectively steep herbs, however, and the 'toss in the tub' variety of bath tea actually wastes a lot of the herb. A better method of preparation would be to prepare the 'tea' on your stove, and pour into the bathwater when ready to bathe.

A true tea is an 'infusion', in which boiling water is poured over herbs and allowed to steep for five to twenty minutes. While this is sufficient to pull the therapeutic components out of delicate herbs such as lavender and chamomile, other, woodier herbs may require a 'decoction', in which you simmer the herbs in the water for twenty to forty minutes. If you are using a blend of herbs, decocting is usually recommended, to get the strongest brew.

Use several quarts of water and at least a quarter pound of mixed herbs. You can buy herbs in bulk at your local new age or health food store. Either confine the herbs in a cloth bag or strain the tea before pouring into the bath - stewed herbs in your pipes are probably not good for overall drainage.

To make a relaxing bath tea, pour two quarts boiling water over four-eight ounces of mixed lavender and chamomile and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add to bathwater.

For troubled skin, make a decoction of marshmallow, an emollient, calendula (marigold) to promote healing and thyme, for toning and disinfectant properties.

To ease the pain associated with arthritis or common muscle strains, make an infusion of arnica, comfrey, feverfew and lavender.

To ease the congestion of a bad cold, make an infusion of eucalyptus, thyme and lavender.

Some herbs, of course, are difficult to obtain in their natural dried form. But there's no reason why you can't incorporate them into your healing bath in the form of their essential oils. Add tea tree oil to your bath for troubled skin, or Ylang Ylang oil to your relaxing bath to help with minor depression or anxiety symptoms.

Take the usual precautions against allergic reactions; for instance, if you know you are allergic to daisies, there is a whole family of herbs, including calendula and arnica, which you should avoid. As always, consult your doctor on health issues that recur or do not clear up, and ask him about possible interactions between prescription drugs and any herbal remedies or treatments you might be considering.

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