Feel-Better Baths

A long soak in the tub can boost your circulation, alleviate your arthritis, tame your tension, and more. Just add these all-natural ingredients to the water and enjoy.

Boost Your Circulation

A technique that’s been practiced around the world for eons is contrast hydrotherapy. Alternating between hot and cold water causes blood vessels to alternately dilate and constrict. This translates into a sort of pumping action that increases circulation and is said to reduce congestion and inflammation, enhance digestion, and stimulate activity of the organs. Natural healers believe it also boosts immune function. To try this technique at home, you’ll need a large basin to act as the second bath, or you can simply sit in a warm tub and use a handheld shower nozzle to douse yourself now and then with cold water. Always start with hot water and finish with cold.

End the Itching

If itching is your problem, a bath—with certain ingredients added—may be just what the doctor ordered. Here are some soothers to put in the tub.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a wonderful remedy for itchy skin, as you may well know. If your child has the chicken pox, add a half-cup of baking soda to a shallow bath or one full cup to a deep bath to soothe the itch.


For relief from poison ivy, skin rashes, or an itchy sunburn, take a lukewarm bath to which you’ve added a few tablespoons of colloidal oatmeal (like Aveeno), sold in drugstores. If you don’t have colloidal oatmeal on hand, simply place a cup or so of plain old oatmeal in a discarded nylon stocking, tie the top, and float it in the bathwater while you soak. Be extra careful when getting out of your oatmeal bath—oatmeal makes the tub very slippery.


Vinegar is another substance that can tame itching. It works by acidifying the skin. To relieve an itchy sunburn or psoriasis, take a cool bath, adding about 2 cups of vinegar to the bathwater before you get in.

Alleviate the Pain of Aches and Sprains

For minor sprains, an Epsom-salt bath can provide rapid relief. Epsom salt draws fluid out of the body and helps shrink swollen tissues. Add 2 cups Epsom salt to a warm bath, and soak.

As it draws fluid through the skin, Epsom salt also draws out lactic acid, the buildup of which can contribute to muscle aches. After a vigorous exercise session, add a cup or two of the salt to a hot bath and enjoy a relaxing soak.

Benefits of Adding Essential Oils

A wonderful way to enhance a bath’s medicinal value is to add essential oils, available at natural food stores. Each oil has its own healing profile. And after a long, hard day, a few drops of pine oil added to the water can be wonderfully invigorating. Eucalyptus oil promotes alertness and breaks up congestion. Geranium oil reduces anxiety. Lavender fights depression. Rosemary is said to stimulate memory. Combinations of essential oils can be especially beneficial.

Arthritis-Away Bath

Try a combination of four drops of juniper oil and two drops each of lavender oil, cypress oil, and rosemary oil, along with a half-cup of Epsom salt. For a simpler soak, use three drops of lavender oil and three drops of cypress oil.

Deep-Sleep Soak

Use two to four tablespoons of sea salt, four drops of lavender oil, three drops marjoram oil, and three drops lemon oil. Other oils that help promote sleep include lime-tree flower, Roman chamomile, frankincense, neroli, and rose.

Tension-Taming Bath

Add five drops of lavender oil, three drops of ylang-ylang oil, two drops of bergamot oil, and a half-cup of Epsom salt.

If you’re prone to allergies, test your reaction to essential oils before using them. Dab a small amount of diluted essential oil on the inside of your arm. If you don’t have a reaction within 12 hours, you’re good to go.

If you have dried herbs on hand instead of essential oils, you can use those. Add chamomile—along with other calming herbs such lavender and valerian—to bathwater for a nerve-soothing soak. To disperse dried herbs in the water, wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth and hold it under the faucet while you fill the tub.

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