Wrap yourself in herbs and indulge yourself in a relaxing home spa.
For pure self-indulgent pleasure, nothing beats an herbal body wrap. More and more people are discovering the benefits of being bundled in warm, moist, herb-scented cloths or bandages, either at a spa or in the tranquility of their own homes. As the owner of a spa, I have wrapped grandmothers, prom queens, body builders, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and everybody in between. Judging from the serenity that envelops my customers during the body wrap—and their repeat appointments—this herbal treatment tones the body while it calms the mind.
Interests in health and fitness have led many to try herbal body wrapping recently, but this “new” body and skin-care treatment is older than Egypt’s pharaohs. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians, known for their skills in medicine, perfumery, pharmacology, and embalming, were extremely conscious of the importance of health and hygiene. Wealthy Egyptians routinely enjoyed regular spa-like pampering, often using milk and honey for their natural soothing and hydrating properties. Papyrus leaves, moistened with herb-infused water, served as soothing and healing compresses. Cloths steeped in aromatic liquids played a prominent role in many facets of daily life, including childbirth, religious ceremonies, and the preparation of corpses for burial.
Today, body wraps can serve a variety of purposes. Many clients enjoy the invigoration of a wrap at the end of a fasting period. Making a healthy lifestyle change such as giving up smoking, alcohol, or junk foods calls for a soothing, calming wrap that reinforces feelings of increasing well-being.
When people who have lost a lot of weight visit a day spa, it’s often a well-earned reward. Many are pleased to find that the gentle pressure of a body wrap leaves the skin feeling firmer and looking younger, helping to ease feelings that weight loss has resulted in sagging skin.
For a special occasion, an herbal body wrap is the perfect preparation for slipping into your most fabulous dress. It gives an all-over glow, refines the skin’s pores, and dissipates the two to five pounds of water weight that women often carry. I recommend a body wrap using dandelion and lemon balm to achieve the look of overall health. For an added kick, moisten the wrap with an infusion of green tea leaves, black pepper, gingerroot, and coffee. Combine herbs to suit yourself; whether relaxing or stimulating, any body wrap is a superbly restorative experience.
Preparing for a body wrap
Most people are more comfortable if they eat little or nothing in the three hours before the body wrap; the pressure of the wrap on a full stomach can be uncomfortable. Some report that a juice fast on the day of the wrap is ideal, especially when the juice is freshly squeezed.
If you are a bit claustrophobic, you may wish to substitute a cotton sheet soaked in the herbal infusion for the bandages. You receive the all-over benefits of the herbal infusion without feeling restricted or confined.
For a body wrap at home, assemble your “cocoon” of heated blankets and plastic sheeting in the most comfortable place possible. Use your sofa or bed; you may want to use a sunny patch of floor, or even a lawn chair on a secluded patio, weather permitting.
A do-it-yourself herbal body wrap is easy and not particularly time-consuming, but it’s more fun to try it with a friend—or friends. Invite your best friend over for a treat and brew up a special infusion for the body wrap. Host a body-wrap party as a bridal shower, birthday celebration, or another happy event. Try several infusions, and take turns wrapping one another as well as exchanging foot and scalp massages; then quietly luxuriate in the warmth of the wrap—and your friendship.
How to do a home body wrap
You probably already have most of the materials you need, and the others are easily obtained.
2 1/2 quarts water
3-quart saucepan with lid
3 tablespoons dry herbs, or 6 tablespoons fresh
8-inch-wide elastic bandages, torn muslin strips, or a cotton sheet
2 big plastic sheets (painters’ drop cloths work well)
2 heated blankets, fresh from the dryer
1 heavy blanket, unheated
2 slices fresh cucumber
Bring the water to boil in a saucepan and add the herbs. Cover, remove from heat, and steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the herbs and discard them. Add the elastic bandages or muslin strips to the tea, and keep warm but not hot.
From here on, work quickly. On the sofa or bed, spread out a big plastic sheet and one heated blanket. Cover the blanket with another layer of plastic sheeting. Top the stack with the second heated blanket and then the unheated one. Pull your hair back and apply moisturizer to your face, and place the cucumber slices where you can easily reach them from the bed.
One by one, wring out the bandages or strips and begin wrapping yourself. Wrap as you would a sprain—no tighter than a knee sock. Begin with your feet and legs, and move up to cover your torso and arms. Wrap your hands and neck last.
Now slip between the two layers of plastic in your “spa cocoon.” Place the cucumber slices over your closed eyes, and rest. Enjoy the splendor as your body seems to melt and you reach a blissful, relaxed state of comfort.
Tips for a better body wrap
• Don’t shave your legs or underarms the day of your body wrap. The resulting skin irritation can cause discomfort.
• Schedule a deep-muscle massage before or after the body wrap to enhance the inside-and-out feeling of relaxation.
• Many people fall deeply asleep during a body wrap. Set the alarm if this doesn’t suit your schedule.
• After the wrap, drink plenty of cool herbal tea or water to replace fluid lost in perspiration.
Melinda Minton is a spa consultant and health and beauty expert living in Fort Collins, Colorado. She is a licensed massage therapist, esthetician, and cosmetologist and holds an MBA in marketing.