Herbal baths are an ancient practice. The Greeks prescribed aromatic baths for various disorders and injuries. Medicinal baths are also mentioned frequently in Irish mythology. Diancecht and his children Miach, Airmid, and Octruil, were regarded as the deities who presided over healing. They are given credit for turning the tide in one battle due to their ability to make “a bath of healing, with every sort of healing plant or herb in it.” Cormac’s glossaries mention the fact that forthrucud (medicinal baths) were used to treat leprosy. Herbal baths are mentioned for curing wounds and emotional imbalance. Conchobhar’s physician Fingen was said to have mended his wounds by making up a bath of herbs and marrow. Cuchulainn was cured of his fits of feverish rage by bathing in Ius Cuchulainn (meadowsweet).
While I don’t suggest bathing in marrow, bathing is a good method of delivering herbal constituents. The heat from the bath helps the constituents absorb through the skin. I think they are particularly useful in cases where digestion may be impaired.
There is a trick to making an herbal bath though that is often overlooked. The herbs must be immersed in boiling water to break down cell walls and release their constituents. Your average bath water is just not hot enough to do the job effectively.
While essential oils can replace some aromatic herbs, many plants which do not have aromatic qualities have soothing properties and should be considered when blending bath teas. Heather and oats are two examples that come to mind. Furthermore, essential oils are expensive and do not represent the range of constituents present in some plants which limits their potential benefits.
I used to make tub tea the same way I make an infusion, but while flowers floating in your tub are pretty it isn’t all that practical. As sealable tea bags have become more widely available, I have taken to making bags of tub tea ahead of time. My husband is a fan because all the loose herbal material isn’t going down the drain and clogging up the pipes. Try tying the following blend up in a muslin hops bag or cheesecloth.
Relaxing Tub Tea
1 pt Epsom Salts
1 pt heather or lavender flowers
1 pt hops flowers
1 part rose flowers
To get the most out of your tub tea blend, pour boiling water over them and let them steep in a covered container, for a good long time. The same way you would make a medicinal infusion. The water in the container should take on the color of the herbs like this:
When it is time for a bath, pour the contents of your container into the tub. Using this method to make an herbal bath, should increase the benefits of whatever herb blend you are using.