Herbal baths are an ancient practice. Both Dioscorides and Galen 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, and 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.” (1) Cormac’s glossaries mention the fact that forthrucud (medicinal baths) were used to treat leprosy. (2) Herbal baths are mentioned in curing the wounds or warriors. Cuchulainn was cured of his fits of feverish rage by bathing in Ius Cuchulainn (meadowsweet). Conchobhar’s physician Fingen was said to have mended his wounds by making up a bath of herbs and marrow.
it is a good method of delivering herbal constituents. The heat from the bath helps the herbs 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 have to be immersed in boiling water in order 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 herbs which do not have aromatic qualities have soothing properties and should be considered when blending bath teas. Valerian root and kava root are two examples that come to mind. Furthermore essential oils are expensive and do not represent the range of constituents present in a particular herb 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 tub tea bags. My husband is a fan because all the loose herbal material isn’t going down the drain and clogging up the pipes. I have added a link to the bags I used to make these to my Amazon store.
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. My tub tea mix includes Epsom salts and various herbs known to have relaxing qualities including lavender, heather and monarda.
1.Gregory, L. (1905). Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan . London: John Murray
2. Ellis, P. B. (1995). The Druids. Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Erdmans Publishing Company.