For many a shower is preferable to a bath: it’s quick and it uses less water than a bath does. However, a bath offers several benefits a shower can’t and the love affair with bathing goes back many centuries and there are some unique benefits to the tea bath experience that are worth exploring.
The Japanese turned bathing into an art form with a formal ritual to purify the bather physically and spiritually. The ancient Greeks and Romans built beautiful and imposing bath houses. Interestingly, the Greeks just wanted to get clean but the Romans used bathing to promote overall health.
The modern attitude to bathing combines these views. It’s about getting clean and relaxing, de-stressing, detoxifying, purifying, soothing, and healing mind and body. Many individuals develop a personal bathing ritual and work out what works well for them.
For centuries people have used various substances in the bathwater that produced an aroma they enjoyed or had a health-giving or healing effect. Now there is an exciting (relative) new-comer that offers so much: tea!
Types of Tea Baths
Tea baths don’t just involve conventional types of tea; using Earl Grey or Darjeeling may not achieve anything. Tea baths involve herbal teas and / or herbs and / a combination of the two. Furthermore, some herbs are absorbed through the skin while the goodness in others is inhaled. What one uses depends on what one wants to achieve.
The main, broad categories are teas that heal, relax or soothe. Some herb combinations straddle more than one category. The most common reasons people take tea baths are to ease or heal skin conditions, to relax the muscles and / or the mind and to ease muscular pain or bruises.
While the range of teas / herbs that can be used is very wide, some are particularly popular:
- Green tea aids with relaxation and detoxification, is an antioxidant, and softens skin.
- Chamomile relaxes the body, calms the mind, and may ease certain types of pain.
- Lavender, like chamomile, is calming and has also been shown to rejuvenate the skin.
- Jasmine refreshes the skin and appears to enhance or lift one’s mood.
- Rose petals are thought to aid with relaxation and refresh and soften the skin.
One can use more than one of these in combination to achieve the desired effect. Some people add other items such as Epsom salts, essential oils, or sea-salt to an herb or tea bath. Each individual needs to experiment in order to discover which teas and combinations work best.
How much tea should one put in a tea bath?
The question of how much to use depends on which tea or herb one uses and, to a degree, one’s own preference. Consensus appears to be that with loose leaves one uses a handful and with good-sized bags one should use 5 or 6.
One can add the loose leaves or tea bags to very warm or hot bath water as it runs. Alternatively, one can steep the tea in a container first and then add it to the water. In either event the tea will be fully steeped after 15 or 20 minutes.
Other herbs that can go in a tea bath
While some teas are less commonly used in bathing they are no less valuable. Several of these are also becoming better known and more popular in a world increasingly looking to natural ways to deal with certain conditions and to manage the stresses and strains of modern life.
The less commonly used but nonetheless useful bath teas and herbs include:
- Dandelion flowers enhance mood and rejuvenate the skin.
- Linden flowers aid in relaxation and may ease the early symptoms of a head.
- Orange blossoms promote relaxation and are said to lower blood pressure.
- Calendula softens and soothes the skin and aids relaxation.
- Grated ginger is said to improve circulation and blood flow.
- Parsley is believed to promote the healing of bruises.
- Rosemary, Thyme, and Bay Leaf all aid with relaxation.
- Sage prevents stiff, sore muscles after a physical exertion.
- Stinging nettle promotes circulation and eases aching joints.
- Mint, Basil and Lemon Grass stimulate and apparently heal the skin.
- Eucalyptus aids relaxation and can ease breathing problems and nasal congestion
- Bee balm and Lemon balm both have relaxing and soothing properties.
- Hops promotes relaxation and is believed to promote sleep / relieve insomnia.
- Meadowsweet eases muscular aches and pain and lifts one’s mood.
Many of these can be grown in window boxes or as pot plants or in gardens. Others can be purchased from retailers including supermarkets; after all many of these are used in cooking too! The more unusual ones are available at health shops.
Making one’s own bath tea bags
One has the option to use tea or herb bags or loose leaves. The bath tea bags that one purchases from stores can be expensive. Why not opt to make them? The shopping list is simple: the teas and herbs one wants to use, unbleached cotton muslin or a similar fabric that will hold the tea but allows the seeping to occur, and string or something to tie the bag closed.
One simply sews bags—square or rectangular—and fills them with the tea or mixture before tying them closed. They certainly don’t have to look beautiful. If one is not up to challenge of sewing bags, one can purchase ready-made bags that one can just fill with the tea and herb mix of one’s choice.
A word of caution about tea baths
The benefits and enjoyment one gains from a really hot bath enhanced by the addition of teas and herbs are undeniable. However, one must also acknowledge and protect oneself from potential dangers too. While bathing in water that is not especially hot doesn’t pose risks, the type of heat used to seep teas and herbs does. Consensus seems to be that one should only have this kind of bath once a week.
Why? Firstly, very hot water can cause a degree of temporary muscle weakness which could lead to a fall. Secondly, immersion in very hot water can reduce healthy fat deposits. Thirdly, the heat lowers blood pressure which can lead to temporary dizziness and weakness. Finally, some people have plant allergies. Pregnant women in particular should check with their doctors before having a tea bath.
That said, you don’t need to make the water so hot that you’re literally steeping yourself, you can let it cool down first, and if you aren’t sensitive to any of the plants and you feel good, tea bathe away!
And in closing…
A hot bath that has been enhanced with health-giving and well-being promoting teas and herbs is one of the greatest gifts one can give oneself. Discovering which teas and herbs—or combinations of them—works best is all part of the enjoyment.
As with all things, when enjoyed in moderation there really is no downside to a tea bath; one simply needs to lie back and enjoy both the experience and the effects.