For millennia, healers across the globe have understood the benefits of baths and water therapy. From muscle aches to anxiety, coughs to constipation, the positive effect of a warm bath can be downright magical.
Baths are one of my favorite ways to relax, regroup, and rejuvenate myself because they make me slow down and BREATHE. It’s like someone handing me an oxygen mask, as I described in a previous blog.
By now, however, everyone has heard about the water crisis here in California, how we are in the 4th year of one of the worst droughts in our state’s history. We now face water rationing and a steep hike in water prices.
This means I have had to rethink my bath-as-self-care strategy.
And I think I’ve found the answer: Foot baths!
What?! I know what you’re thinking. A foot bath doesn’t seem nearly so romantic or luxurious as a whole body bath.
Well, on some levels, this is true. A good foot bath, though, can be as healing as a full body soak, and it also takes a lot less effort — not to mention a lot less water — than a tub bath. I often recommend foot baths to clients who are dealing with any type of viral or bacterial infection. According to Christine Murphy, in her book Practical Home Care Medicine, foot baths are also an easy, drug-free remedy for headaches, depression and fatigue. [Thank you, Laurie Schmiesing, for the book recommendation! (Laurie is an anthroposophical nurse and wonderful BodyTalk practitioner.)]
The simplest, least expensive type of foot bath uses epsom salts, which contain magnesium salts. Magnesium is considered a “sedative” mineral that can help us relax, encourage a sluggish digestive system, and calm a broken heart. To this one could then add a few drops of your favorite essential oil or dried herb. See “Some Tips on Foot Baths” below for some suggestions.
My favorite combination for viral or bacterial infection, suggested by Andrea Reisen at Healing Spirits Herb Farm, uses chamomile tea, freshly pressed garlic, and dried lavender or lavender essential oil. I used this soak successfully in conjunction with other natural remedies when I was a nursing mom with mastitis and did not want to treat it with pharmaceutical antibiotics.
One can also purchase pre-made foot soaks. Two of my favorites are the Medi Body Bath and Medi Soak from Premier Research Labs. These foot baths, which contain various salts, clays, oils, crystals, and seaweeds, are powerful. I usually do them at the end of a long day, because they relax me so deeply that I have to go straight to bed!
Being environmentally and fiscally conscientious doesn't mean giving up healing habits. On the contrary, it opens up a new world of possibilities that we might not have noticed before. It's another fun way to turn what could be a challenge into many healing blessings.
Some Tips on Foot Baths
- You only need between 2-4 quarts or liters (1/2-1 gallon) of warm water for a foot bath. (Always double check with a quick finger or toe dip that you won’t get burned!) Soak for 10-20 minutes, or until the water temperature becomes uncomfortably cool.
- If you are using unfiltered water, consider adding a scoop of vitamin C powder to neutralize chlorine and chloramines that are present in tap water. You can read a previous blog about chlorine here.
- Use a bucket or bowl that is not normally used for cleansers or chemicals.
- Essential oils make a lovely addition to any foot bath, up to 5-10 drops. Try lavender and geranium to relax and uplift, or cinammon and rosemary to warm and energize.
- Dried sage added to a foot bath helps with upper respiratory congestion from colds and allergies.
- After the bath, moisturize your feet with a natural lotion such as coconut oil orPangea Pyrenees Lavender and Cardamom body lotion.