How To Do a Herbal Soaks and Baths

The long awaited soaking bath

Sometimes, if you want to work a wonder, there is nothing like a long soaking bath, and that’s just from soaking in water! Just imagine, if you added the wonders of herbs, infused and essential oils and other natural minerals, now what good could it do, and that’s just the aromas, but what if you actually hopped into the bath, double wow.

But seriously, a herbal soak or bath can do a lot of good, and I believe not only a lot of good directly to the body, but also to the mind and emotions. So having a good soaking or bath, is a true ‘holistic’ treatment’, as it affects the person in several different ways, not just one.

But there really is a lot more to a ‘soak’ than just hopping into a bath and putting in a few smelly things and away you go.

Now there are those who cannot afford a ‘whole’ bath load of water, due to reasons of location, supply, cost, and that they just don’t have one, amongst other possibilities. But, there is a very easy way around this problem, and they are your hands and feet. Now nothing seems to beat a full body soak, but for therapeutic benefits, you only need to soak your hands or feet.

The reason for this, is that the hot water actually stimulates blood circulation, due to the body moving blood to that ‘hot region’ in and attempt to balance the body’s temperature. As the circulation is being stimulated, the pores of the skin are opening up as it does when you are sweating, and then the benefits of the herbs can also move through, being distributed throughout the body.

Reasons why to have a Soak

One of the unique things about performing a soak or bath is that, even though you are trying to ‘get it through your skin’, the skin acts like a border control, managing and monitoring what and how fast things go through and into your body, therefore, it does provide some protection against an adverse effect.

A typical soak is very easy to organise, and this is especially true with hand and feet soaks, as a basic hand and foot soak only requires a few pieces of gear, which most people already have, keeping the cost down, and quick to organise.

Another reason why to have a herbal soak, is that if you are using certain herbs or oils, the aromas have their own therapeutic benefits, just as walking through a forest or flower garden, the aromas stimulate your senses, often adjusting your mood, therefore altering your very physiology and hormones, such as endorphins etc.

There is a gland found in the limbic system, which is about the middle of your brain, called the amygdala, and back in 1989 they found out that this gland stored and released emotional trauma. And, it is said that the only way to stimulate this gland is via ‘fragrance’, so if carefully chosen pure essential oils or herbs, such as rosemary are chosen, maybe the ‘tough’ emotional trauma could be healed? Begs thinking doesn’t it.

How to do Soak

Soaks or baths can be very simple to make or complex, depends on how ‘fancy’ you want to get, but even a simple one with just your feet can do much good, so don’t worry about getting fancy, but if you do want to try new things, then maybe you should get fancy.

The “very” basic process is this:

  • Boil a pot or saucepan of water with some herbs in it
  • Pour it into a bath
  • Hop in

And that’s it! I suppose you could get fancy and strain out the herbs before pouring it in, but there you go. Okay, okay, you probably should take some clothes off to.

When using fresh herbs, it is best to crush them before use, this is simply done by crushing them either in a mortar and pestle, under a rolling pin, or a bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin. This is especially so for a sitz bath.

One point that you should always adhere to with ALL types of baths and soaks, and that is to never use any soaps or detergents, as this will completely destroy the whole process.

A more detailed basic procedure for soak and baths

  • Prepare 1 Litre / 1 quart of a strong infusion or decoction
  • Pour it into a bath or large container suitable for either hands or feet
  • Do not go over 41C /105F
  • Soak for 20 minutes
  • Hop out and dry off and have some bed rest
  • It is best to do this 3 times per week

Rosemary or Lavender Bath

  • Prepare 2 Litres / 2 quarts of a very strong infusion with Rosemary
  • Strain out the herb and empty it into a hot bath (Deep enough to immerse the body in)
  • Soak in the bath for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Hop out and wrap yourself in a bed sheet still wet
  • Put a plastic sheet on your bed
  • Hop on your bed and cover up (You will sweat)
  • After the sheets have soaked up the moisture
  • Change into dry bed sheets and rest for an hour
  • Do this three times a week
  • You can use 30 drops or a dropper full of the tincture, but the raw herb is better.
  • Add 4 cups of epsom salts, to boost the affects (See safety warning below before using)

Choice of herbs for a Soak

The herbs that I am about to suggest, can also be swapped for essential oils at a rate of 10 to 15 drops to 1 Litre / 1 quart, of the mixture, not the whole bath full.

For raw herbs, a general rule of thumb, is 30 grams / 1 ounce of dried herb to 1 Litre / 1 quart of boiling water or 60 grams / 2 ounces to 1 Litre / 1 quart of boiling water. Boil them for about 15 minutes to make a strong decoction.

This is by no means a complete list:

  • Thyme, Peppermint: General tonic
  • Hops, Lavender, Lime flowers and Lemon balm: Encourages sleep
  • Lavender, Rosemary and Bergamot: Removes body odour
  • Chamomile Lemon balm, Passionflower: Hyperactive children
  • Valerian, Californian poppy, Chamomile, Damiana: Nervous stress
  • Mustard: Rheumatism (only 2 teaspoons)
  • Rosemary: Low blood pressure
  • Yarrow: Feverish

Variations of Soaking

Using a Herb Bag

To use a Herb Bag, is a simplistic system, but I find not quite as strong, where you place into a loosely woven cloth bag, such as, a muslin or nylon stocking, the herbs you want to soak in. Tie the bag at the top with a string or cord that is long enough to tie up the bag as well as tie to the bath tub tap. This is so that as the hot water is coming out of the tap filling the bath, it also runs through the herbs extracting the contents of the herbs.

A simple Herbal Bath Bag

A Sitz Bath

What is a Sitz or Hip bath, its simply where you ‘Sits’ in a bath, but in this case, it is only a shallow bath or container, which is just enough to sit in and bathe you ‘nether’ regions. It is used basically to treat the persons genitalia, infections, bladder infections, inflammation, prostate and haemorrhoids.

A sitz bath can be as simple as very warm water, or a complicated blend of herbs and oils, but either way, you only need to make enough that once you sit into the container, the amount will fully cover the area to be treated. If the bath is a bit too much to bear, but not too hot, then apply a cool cloth to the forehead, or stop.

Yes, sitting in a big bowl will look ridiculous, but it can do wonders and you will get quick relief, and promote faster healing too, something we all want. Sitz baths can be done several times a day too, and are great for Postpartum conditions, stitches and haemorrhoids.

Sitz bath Baby Style

The basic sitz bath procedure is to take 30 grams / 1 ounce of recommended herb, add that to 2 Litres / 2 quarts of freshly boiled water and allow to steep for 1 hour. Strain and pour into a container and just make sure that the levels reach the areas that are to be treated. Sit in it for 15 to 20 minutes, hop out and dry yourself off and wear loose clothing. This procedure can be done 3 times per day. Add more hot water if the bath loses its temperature.

If you have any dressings over a wound, you will need to remove this and replace once finished gently dried off and replace the dressing.

Another alternative if you are want to increase circulation, reduce inflammation and disinfect, is to make a solution by dissolving 0.5 grams of Potassium Permanganate crystals to 4 Litres of warm water (never hot), and make sure it is thoroughly dissolved.

A word of caution, do not spill ‘pure’ Potassium Permanganate anywhere on your body as it may cause harm, so wear gloves, but once diluted, it is very safe, also do not ingest it. Plus, it does stain, your skin and the bathtub/container for a while. It will not stain your skin ‘permanently’ as in, eventually it clears up, but the bathtub make need some hard cleaning.

My own supply of Potassium Permanganate, KMnO₄ otherwise known as Condy’s Crystals

Potassium permanganate, is simply called “Condy’s Crystals”, developed by a London chemist called Henry Bollmann Condy, and has been used since 1857 as a disinfectant, and is found in some chemists, and even rural produce suppliers.

Witch Hazel Sitz Bath

Make a very strong decoction with 60 grams / 2 ounces to 1 Litre / 1 quart of water, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, strain and pour into 4 Litres / 1 gallon of lukewarm water. Sit in this mixture and soak for 20 minutes. This process will give great relief to swollen tissues, reducing pain and promotes healing. A tablespoon of either myrrh or calendula tincture or succus will help if there is any infection.

Seaweed Bath

A Seaweed bath is both nutritive and even sleep restorative, and can be used in both a bath or a shower.

Grab a handful of fresh seaweed, lightly wash out any salt and sand, place this into a stocking or muslin cloth bag, and use it as a sponge and rub yourself all over.

Skin Washes

Skin washes are made in exactly the same methods and strengths as those written above, but are usually in smaller quantities. Here, you may only want to bathe a small area of the body, say just a foot or elbow, for example. But most often a skin wash is applied with a soft wash cloth or cotton wool, to sore, infected and inflamed areas.

An example of this could be to use a skin wash for cystic acne, where you would make a lukewarm mixture and then gently rub a soaked, but not dripping soft cloth on the skin in circular motions stimulating circulation, this can be done several times a day and continue until healing has taken place.

Epsom Salts Soak

Okay, okay, Epsom Salts is not a herb, but frankly it is an excellent addition to soaks and can be simply used on its own. It is a natural mineral substance. It will assist in drawing out gunk in the skin or injury, and increase circulation at the same time.

It is said to help greatly with, infections that are slow healing, septicemia, wounds, open ulcerations, pustules, bed sores, as well as aches and pains. This is due to supplying magnesium, which most people are usually deficient, and the sulphur, which acts like a disinfectant. (It is best to see a health care professional or hospital with septicaemia.)

Epsom Salt Bath (Hand or Foot)

Sometimes a foot bath can do so much

Apart from assisting with improving blood circulation, and saving water if you cannot prepare a bath, a hand or foot bath is good for dealing with fungal and other types of infections in the skin, fingernails and toenails.

Mixing rate: 1 cup of Epsom salts to 2 Litres /2 quarts of hot water, maximum of 41C / 105 F

Alternating Hot and Cold

A way of greatly increasing the effects is to alternate from a hot bath to a cold bath. Here you make the hot bath as hot as reasonable, but not so hot as to cause harm, and a cold bath with some ice floating in it. First, you need to make up the mixture described above, for the hot part, the cold part only needs to be very cold water, as it works by encouraging the tissues and vessels to shrink. Over a period of 20 minutes, you need to alternate about 3 to 5 times from hot to cold, and ending up in the cold soak for a couple of minutes.

This system is excellent for those with athletic injuries, such as, sprains and strains, pulled muscles, tendonitis and back strain.

Full Epsom Salt Bath

A Full Epsom Salt bath is a great way to treat the whole body, and here you could swap Epsom salt with Magnesium chloride, but it is more expensive. It helps with aches and pains and soothes the nerves. Its an adjunct to those receiving cancer treatments, drawing out toxins. As well as improving circulation and increases the heart rate. (Magnesium Chloride is better for magnesium absorption and absorption through the skin is better than oral intake.)

Mixing rate: 4 cups of Epsom salts to a bath of hot water, maximum of 41C / 105 F, and 1/2 to 1 cup of Magnesium chloride.

Those who have hypertension and a low red blood cell count should not have a full Epsom salt bath, only a hand or foot bath.


  • The first and most obvious, is to not burn, yes, you want it quite hot, but not to cause harm or injury. Stop, if it’s hurting.
  • If you have hypertension and a low red blood cell count, you should not have a full Epsom salt bath,
  • Do not have very hot baths if you have congestive heart failure.

Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda


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“The dilemma with a hot bath is that it cures many things, except the bathtub ring”

Herbal Panda

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