The Skin-Soothing Bath An Herbalist Draws Every Spring
Spring is when our bodies naturally crave detoxification. Just before we shift our focus to the outdoors and from "being" to "doing," there's an instinctual desire to spring clean our homes and our bodies, detoxing and shedding what accumulated during the stillness of winter.
Toxins, unfortunately, have become an everyday part of modern life. And while it's certainly worth our efforts to minimize exposure via our food, air, and water, it remains inevitable that we will encounter them. Subtle signs that your body could use a detox include skin flare-ups (blemishes, rashes), mental fog, memory loss, lack of vitality, and trouble sleeping.
When thinking about a spring refresh, most folks immediately turn to diet, but I tend to gravitate toward baths made with soothing, cleansing herbs.
I love this Gentle Detox Bath Tea for inviting the body to release toxins while soothing the skin. If you don't have time for a full-body soak, cut the ingredient amounts in half and use as an herbal foot soak. Enjoy!
The story behind the ingredients
Holy Basil: You're no doubt familiar with basil, which comes in several varieties, as the indispensable leaf in dishes from Thai basil chicken to Caprese salad. But have you ever steeped your body in it? Research suggests that the topical application of basil can help soothe acne, moisturize skin, decrease roughness, and minimize the appearance of wrinkles. One variety, holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), has a long-standing history1 of medicinal use in India, where it's used to ease skin issues linked to inflammation. This is the variety I'm recommending for this seasonal bath, though any type of basil will do—use what's available to you.
Burdock: Burdock (Arctium lappa) is a mineral-rich root that promotes proper elimination via the skin and other organs. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), burdock is used to detoxify the blood2 and promote circulation to the skin's surface. Its history of use in Western herbalism includes acne, boils, bruises, itching, and skin cancer. Burdock root has demulcent properties that help ease inflammation and irritation. Many Asian grocery stores will stock burdock root. If you can't find it there, look for dried burdock from a reputable herbal retailer.
Ginger: You might have used ginger (Zingiber officinale) during cold and flu season to help increase circulation and ward off congestion. Those same principles apply here, but we'll put them to use for a different purpose. Ginger's ability to increase circulation—aided here by the warmth of the bathwater itself—can usher us into a state of perspiration. From the sauna to the steam room, we know that sweating has long been a method of releasing toxins and cleansing the body.
Gentle Detox Bath Tea Recipe
I've found that the following loose-herb technique works best for drawing the botanical compounds from roots.
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 8 quarts water
- A large pot
- 1 cup holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) leaves, fresh or dried
- ½ cup burdock (Arcticum lappa) root, chopped, fresh or dried
- ½ cup ginger (Zingiber officinale) root, sliced, fresh
- Put water and herbs into a large pot.
- Bring water and herbs to a boil, turn off the heat, and let herbs infuse for one hour.
- Strain the herbs from the water, or leave them in the water if you want the herbs poured into the bathtub. (Leaving the herbs in will require immediate cleanup after your bath, as the herbs can stain your tub.)
- Reheat tea.
- Draw your bath.
- Pour strained or unstrained tea into drawn bathwater.
Whether you're looking for an alternative to a dietary spring cleanse or a complement to one, this Gentle Detox Bath Tea is just what the herbalist ordered. More than a luxurious experience, it's self-care in the most literal sense of the term. Taking herbal baths also deepens our connections to the plant world and the wisdom of our bodies—providing the kind of lived experience that's needed so we, as a collective, can remember how to heal in harmony with the earth.
Kami McBride is an experienced herbalist, educator, and author whose well-known book, The Herbal Kitchen, has helped thousands of people unlock the healing potential of their spice cabinets and herb gardens. She developed and taught the herbal curriculum for the Complementary Medicine Department at the University of California School of Nursing, and she founded the Living Awareness Institute in 1994 where she offers online herbalism courses to students of all skill levels. Kami lives in California with her husband and children, and she can often be found concocting seasonal recipes in her kitchen and spending time with her favorite plants outdoors.