Natural Bath Essences for Winter
As the warm days of early autumn become a distant memory, daylight is reduced to just a few hours, night-time temperatures plummet, and mornings bring icy rain, frost and wind, a hot bath becomes an increasingly desirable prospect. It can be wonderfully warming and comforting, and it is possible to make it even more enjoyable by adding natural herbal essences. Herbal bath essences can evoke the sent of summer in the depths of winter. And on the contrary, spicy aromas, appropriate for winter, can be delightfully relaxing and uplifting, and enhance the enjoyment of the season. By using different herbal ingredients, one can get creative and experiment with mixing various scents.
Most people shower, rather than take a bath, and it is of course a quick and extremely convenient way of bathing. Yet scientific evidence from cultures where ‘emersion bathing’ is common, such as the Japanese, suggests that baths are significantly better then showers for overcoming fatigue and stress, relieving pain, and improving mood and a sense of well-being. To give just one example, a study by Yasuaki Goto, et al. ‘Physical and Mental Effects of Bathing: A Randomized Intervention Study’ published in 2018 in the journal Evidence-Based Complement Alternative Medicine, reports that those who had a habit of bathing in hot water regularly, tended to sleep better, feel more rested, have lower levels of stress, and a higher subjective sense of health and happiness. The authors conclude that ‘immersion bathing should improve both physical and emotional aspects of quality of life’.
There are three benefits of having a bath that are emphasized by Goto and colleagues, and other researchers:
1. The heat from the water (‘hyperthermic action’) warms the blood in superficial vessels and increases the deep body temperature. This results in improved supply of oxygen and nutrients to the body and improves elimination of ‘metabolic waste materials’. In other words, heat stimulates circulation, improves metabolism, eliminates waste and thus refreshes the body. Goto and colleagues report that several of their studies demonstrated that these benefits result from ‘immersion bathing’, but not from shower bathing.
2. Heat from the water also systemically relaxes the muscles, soften collagen in ligaments and improve ‘musculoskeletal function’. This is responsible for pain-relieving and improved flexibility effect of bathing.
3. Finally, baths are therapeutic not only due to temperature, but also due to physical properties of water. Water reduces the action of gravity on the body – the body becomes ‘lighter’ when submerged in water. This creates special, beneficial conditions for circulation and the work of the heart. As scientists explain, the reduction of the force of gravity may lead to the improvements of tension, anxiety, depression and anger, and bring the benefits of stress relief, refreshment, and relaxation.
So how does one take a bath? The medical advice for a healthy person is that the water temperature should be 38-40C, and the duration of the bath 10-20 minutes. The older is the person, the cooler should be the temperature and the shorter the bathing time.
Therapeutic and mood-enhancing effects and enjoyment of taking a bath can be increased by using natural bath essences. Here are some recipes using simple ingredients that can be collected from the garden or are widely available from health food shops and online suppliers.
Essences particularly appropriate for winter and Christmas
1. Pine bath
Cuttings of pine or fir often remain after installing a Christmas tree, making festive wreaths or simply pruning in the garden. This time of the year there are also usually plenty of broken branches blown off by the winds in woods and parks. Such branches can be cut into segments that would fit into a medium-sized pan. Ideally they should be 10-15cm long and come from the ends of branches, thus being the current year’s growth. Fill 1/3 of a pan with cuttings. Add the water to fill the rest and bring to boil. Cover and simmer gently for an hour. Leave to cool and infuse until the next morning. Strain and add to bath. Pine baths promote calm, reduce irritability, stabilize blood pressure, and promote good sleep.
2. Winter spice bath
Put a cup of juniper berries, a handful of eucalyptus leaves (perhaps bought from a florist or left from a flower arrangement, since they are one of the main ingredients in Christmas bouquets), and the peal of one orange in a pan. Add two litres of water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool for two hours. Strain and add to bath. All the ingredients in this essence are traditional remedies for colds.
3. Ginger bath
Grate 100g of fresh ginger root and put in a pan. Add 1 litre of water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool, strain and add to bath. Ginger is a wonderful spice for winter; it warm, improves immunity, energizes circulation and helps to fight colds.
To make herbal bath essences both fresh and dry ingredients can be used. If using dry herbs, you will need 50g, if using fresh herbs – 300g. Put herbs in a pan and add 1 litre of water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Cool and infuse for 2 hours. Strain and add to bath.
1. Nettle bath. Use young nettles and wear gloves when collecting and washing them. Nettle improves circulation and is very beneficial for the skin. It heals, reduces irritation and helps to fight allergy. Nettle is one of the most important ingredients in natural cosmetics.
2. Lavender flowers, lemon balm leaves, and lime flowers. Herbs can be used individually or in equal parts in a mixture. Promotes relaxation and deep sleep.
3. Sage and camomile, used individually or in a mixture in equal parts. Both are excellent for skin, reduce irritation and help to fight allergy. Camomile is one of the most important ingredients in natural cosmetics.
4. Rosemary. Rosemary is a tonic, improves circulation and increased energy.
A simple cosmetic treatment
Dissolve 200g of baking soda in a bath at a temperature of 37-38C. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. Stay in a bath for 15 minutes. Baking soda bath is excellent for dry, itchy or irritated skin.
Featured image: early morning frost makes engineering achievements of spiders easier to see.