From the bathhouses of ancient Greece to the spas of today, people have long recognized the relaxing or stimulating effects of a good bath. A hot herbal bath can soothe, heal or refresh, as well as cleanse the skin – the results you want are up to the herbs you choose to include.
Making simple herbal soaps is easy. Shown here are rosemary mint, lavender mint and rose lavender (with a burgundy colored pigment.) In front are a rosemary sprig and lavender buds, used in making the soap.
Photo Credit: Judith K. Mehl
Sage is a great herb to add to your bath if you want to soothe sore muscles.
Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens
Add a handful of lavender flowers to any bath concoction to provide a relaxing aroma.
Photo Credit: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
A special herbal bath may be the solution to the stresses of everyday life. By growing just a few herbs geared toward that long soak, you can alter how you feel when you emerge. Do you want to soothe achy muscles, relieve tension, deodorize your body or just relax? Here’s what some herbs can do for you:
For skin irritations, try thyme, which is antiseptic. For tension, try chamomile, hyssop or lemonbalm. Add some sage to that for achy muscles. Need to soak off the grime? Snip some thyme, lavender buds and rosemary flowers. To perk up the senses, use energizing rosemary leaves or sage.
While you may already have some of these herbs in your culinary garden, you might find you want to establish a specialty “bath garden” to ensure you have enough for your soak and your soup. If that’s the case, be sure to plant your bed in an area with good air circulation. Buy established plants for a quick start, or plant from seed if you’ve got lots of patience. A few of each of the abovementioned herbs would give you plenty for all your bathing needs – and they all grow well together. Just give them full sun in well-drained soil, and mulch them when established.
Once you’ve grown your herbs, the easiest preparation for bathing is to pick fresh sprigs of flowers and leaves. Wrap about cup of fresh herb clippings or cup dried herbs in a small cheesecloth bundle or a pretty muslin bag and just hang it from the faucet as the water runs.
Or you can concoct an herbal oil moisturizer or make an infusion – both are a little more time-consuming, but they’ll store well and can be used long after your herb bed is covered in snow. To make a wonderfully beautifying bath moisturizer with your favorite herb oil, just pulverize 4 ounces of herb leaves and flowers. Then combine that with 1 pint olive or pure vegetable oil. Let the mixture stand in a warm location for several days. Strain and store the oil in a dark place. To create the moisturizer, combine 1 part of this herb oil and 3 parts vegetable oil. Next, climb into the tub and soak well. Then pour your moisturizer mix into the bath and relax. When you get out of the tub, the oil will have coated your skin, sealing in the moisture.
A simple infusion provides a little more strength to the potion. For a pleasantly fragrant bath, add ¼ cup each of fresh chamomile flowers, sage leaves and lavender buds to a quart of boiling water. Let steep for 20 minutes. This process extracts the useful qualities of the herbs. (For instance, in addition to the pleasing scent, the lavender reduces puffiness.) Strain out the herbs and pour the infusion into your bath water.
If you want to have some fun with your herbs and end up with a great product for the bath, try making some herbal soap. Though there are complex recipes for homemade soap, you can do it the safe and easy way by working with glycerin soap.
To make, add 1½ cups fresh herbs (as an example, use lavender and mint to soothe, or rosemary and mint to refresh) to 6 cups boiling water, and simmer for a half hour. (If you don’t like bits of herb in your soap, pulverize them first.) Cool slightly and add 2 cups glycerin soap slivers and boil for several minutes. Pour into a mold and cool completely before removing. Molds can be decorative or something simple like plastic piping. Just be sure to oil the inside surface before adding the soapy solution.
Whatever bath soak method you choose, get ready to enjoy the scents and soothing effects of those herbs you’ve lovingly tended. One long soak, and you’ll know that all your work in the garden has been well-worth it!