I often recommend a healing bath — including steam, vapor baths, and herbal diaphoretic therapy—to my patients as part of their protocol. The Eclectics, as well as other traditional healing systems prior to Eclectic Medicine, utilized a wide range of water therapies for healing in a practice called hydrotherapy. The vapor, or steam bath, constitutes an important part of the Thomsonian system of practice. Samuel Thomson said this about the vapor bath, “it diffuses warmth through the system, equalizes the circulation, imparts electricity to the blood, and increases the sensibilities of the system to the impressions of medicine.”
A form of the vapor bath that I have implemented into my practice is an aromatic Epsom salt vapor bath. I use Epsom salts, essential oils, or herb teas in the bath, along with hot water to raise the thermal level, which induces hyperthermia. I also have the person prior to, or during the bath, drink a hot diaphoretic tea blend to assist the body’s natural elimination through the skin and mucous membranes. This process raises the innate resistance ability of the immune system.
The purpose of combining alternatives, diaphoretic teas and hyperthermia is to strengthen our defenses and improve our eliminative functions. I find these healing baths to be a simple and highly effective “home remedy.”
The following are a few of my favorite healing baths:
Aromatic Epsom Salt Bath
Soak in a tub of hot water (106 to 108 degrees F.), with 2 cups of Epsom salts added until your body temperature increases to about 101 degrees. Monitor your pulse rate prior to the bath, as well as during treatment; your pulse should remain under 92 beats per minute. The bath should be about 15 to 20 minutes long. It is optional and not traditional to add essential oils, but I do and find it compliments the treatment. I often recommend lavender for a relaxing bath; 10-20 drops is sufficient.
Mustard Powder Bath
This potent stimulating and heating bath can be used either as a full body bath to ease cold and flu symptoms, or as a footbath for lowering a fever. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dried powdered mustard to the hot bath and stir well to dissolve. Essential oils such as eucalyptus and peppermint can be added to help clear congestion and improve breathing. Start with 5 drops of essential oil (too much peppermint can irritate skin), stir well with your hand, and add a few more drops as necessary (I generally use 10-20 drops).
Herbal Diaphoretic Therapy
I often recommend a tea blend of the following herbs: elder flowers, yarrow, peppermint, linden, chrysanthemum, and boneset. These herbs are traditionally used to stimulate diaphoresis (perspiration). Drink 1-2 cups of this tea hot prior to and during the bath to induce diaphoresis and enhance immune response.