One of my favorite rituals on a cold winter’s night is a warm bath. Depending on the bath ingredients and water temperature, a bath can relax, energize or help soothe the aches and chills of a cold or flu. For the ultimate bathing experience, light a few candles, put on your favorite music, and prepare a mug of herbal tea or hot spiced cider to accompany your bath.
A few drops of fragrant essential oils transform a bath into a spa-like experience. But essential oils are far more than just pleasing aromas. These concentrated plant essences retain the healing properties of the herbs and flowers from which they are distilled. Relief from anxiety and stress, muscle tension and insomnia are just a few of the benefits attributed to aromatherapy.
For best results, add the essential oils to the bath water just before entering the tub and mix the oils into the water with your hand to disperse. Use caution with oils that can cause skin irritation, such as basil, peppermint, lemon and orange. These oils are best used in very small amounts—no more than a couple of drops per bath. To help essential oils disperse more readily, combine them with a tablespoon of whole milk, vodka or Epsom salts before adding them to the bath water.
Adding earth and sea minerals, such as Epsom salts, baking soda and sea salt to a bath replicates the healing effects of natural mineral springs. Baths with mineral salts relax the mind and body, stimulate gentle purification, soothe tired and sore muscles, and soften the skin.
Laurel Vukovic writes and teaches about herbs from her home in southern Oregon. She is the author of 1001 Natural Remedies (DK, 2003) and Herbal Healing Secrets for Women (Prentice Hall, 2000).