Learn how to draw an herbal bath and which herbs make the best bathing partners. Try an herbal foot bath, too.
The restorative power of water — from the ancient Greek and Roman bath to the modern jacuzzi — has been undeniable. A good soak can cleanse, soften, and nourish the skin, rejuvenate a tired body and spirit, and address sore and aching muscles. By adding herbs to your tub, you can customize and boost the effectiveness of bath time. So next time you draw a bath for yourself — or for your child or your partner — include a selection of herbs.
Drawing an Herbal Bath
Choose one of these easy methods to prepare an herbal bath:
- Wrap herbs in a muslin bag, cheesecloth, or a piece of clean cotton. Tie to the bathtub spigot and run the water through the herbs.
- Make an infusion by pouring a couple cups of boiling water over about half a cup of dried herbs (loose, or in a muslin bag). Steep, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and pour into your bathwater. (If you use a bag for the herbs you can use the bag to scrub with, too.)
- Make a decoction by adding about half a cup of herbs to about 2 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes, then strain and add to bathwater. Decoctions are good for roots and woody herbs.
- Add the herbs directly to your bathwater. Place a fine mesh strainer in the drain, though, to avoid clogging the pipes. (And you may want to rinse off afterwards!)
Best Bathtime Herbs
Choose one or a handful of herbs from the following groups, depending on the desired effect. Remember to include something aromatic!
Soothers, Tonics and Fresheners
agrimony herb, calendula flowers, chamomile flowers, mugwort herb, rosemary leaf, sage leaf, thyme leaf
Tip: Add a bit of oatmeal to your herbal blend to further soften and cleanse your skin.
flower herb, rose petals, sage
root bark, slippery
elm bark, valerian
angelica root, basil leaf, bay leaf, comfrey leaf, eucalyptus leaf, fennel seeds, lavender flowers, lemon balm, lemon peel, lemon verbena, lovage root, marjoram leaf, meadowsweet herb, nettle leaf, peppermint leaf, rosemary leaf, sage leaf, savory leaf, spearmint leaf, thyme leaf
Ask the Experts
I enjoy the softening effects of a milk bath. Can I incorporate herbs?
Sure. Simply infuse the herbs in warm milk for several hours, then pour into the bathwater.
What’s the best temperature for an herbal bath?
That depends on whom you ask and what the desired effect is. Some experts suggest that the most healthful baths are a warm room temperature, about 70 to 85 degrees. Others suggest that body-temperature water, around 98 degrees, is most soothing. If you're interested in loosening tense muscles and relaxing, you may opt for a warmer soak (not over 106 degrees), but don’t stay in too long or you’ll exhaust yourself and dry your skin. (Hot baths are not recommended for the very young, very old, or those with heart conditions or high blood pressure.) To close pores and energize after a bath, you might rinse in a cool shower. If it’s bedtime you’re after though, don’t break the warm spell; simply dry off and snuggle in.
How can I give myself an herbal foot bath?
Simply make an infusion or decoction of herbs and pour into a basin of warm water. Soak your feet for half an hour or so, then pat dry and moisturize. Follow with a foot massage, for maximum effect. Good herbs for a footbath include agrimony, alfalfa leaf, burdock root, eucalyptus leaf, lavender flowers, mustard seeds, peppermint leaf, sage leaf, and wormwood herb. For a relaxing treat - try our Fancy Foot Soak on our Herbal Foot Care page.