It was Sylvia Plath who famously wrote: “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath, but I can’t think of one.” And it’s true. Bathing is the ultimate wellbeing ritual.
From the Romans to the Greeks, and from Japan to Morocco, most ancient cultures have long believed in the healing, therapeutic effects of bathing. Today, submerging yourself in warm water remains a time-honoured ritual, as soothing as it is cleansing.
The benefits of bathing
For many of us, the bath is one of the few places we can be still and alone, without screens, soaking in the warm embrace of water in meditative silence.
Immersing yourself in water for just 10 minutes can improve mental and emotional health, while other studies have shown that taking a warm bath before bed can help you wind down and sleep better.
But beyond the more obvious relaxing and mind-soothing benefits, researchers at Osaka University in Japan discovered that taking frequent baths can drastically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
After comparing the bathing rituals of more than 30,000 participants, the researchers found that daily bathers had a 35 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 23 percent lower risk of stroke.
A bath a day can, in fact, keep the doctor away.
How to (safely) add essential oils to your bath
Adding essential oils can instantly elevate the average soak, adding a beautifully fragrant, spa-like experience to your ritual, not to mention aromatherapeutic oomph – like calming a racing mind and preparing you for a restful night’s sleep.
Before adding essential oils to your bath, it’s important to follow some important safety information. The number one rule? Never add essential oils directly to your bath.
Essential oils are not water soluble, which means they won’t mix with water. If you add them undiluted to a bath, the oil will remain on the surface in droplets. This is risky, because if these droplets come into contact with your skin (which they will!) they can cause mild to severe skin irritation, or worse, a chemical burn.
To safely add your favourite essential oil or essential oil blend to your bath, simply dilute it in a carrier, such as your existing bath foam, a liquid castille soap or a natural vegetable oil like jojoba, coconut or olive oil. Fractionated coconut oil is a great option, and tends to be less slippery!
For skin safety, the rule of thumb is to aim for a 1-4% dilution (e.g. between 5-20 drops of essential oil per tablespoon). Any more may cause red, inflamed skin – which is no fun, especially if you ran a bath to wind down before bed.
You can add the oil mixture directly to the bath, or even better, slather the mix over your body before you get in the tub.
More into bath salts? All you have to do is mix your chosen oils into a carrier oil before stirring it into the salts. Pink Himalayan salts are ideal for baths: they’re skin-nourishing and also packed with essential trace minerals and elements to help you relax, including magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron.
Which essential oils are best for the bath?
They might smell amazing but there are a number of essential oils that have no place in your tub. Lemongrass, peppermint, cinnamon and thyme are just some of the more skin-irritating essential oils to steer clear of.
Instead, opt for soothing, skin-nourishing oils like lavender, which is deeply calming to the nervous system and proven to aid with sleep. Try blending lavender with eucalyptus – an all-time spa favourite – for a relaxing yet reviving bath.
Frankincense essential oil is also ideal for de-stressing and unwinding, and it's also wonderful for your skin (you can read more about the skin-nourishing benefits of frankincense essential oil here) as are the relaxing and mood-enhancing essential oils like bergamot, clary sage and geranium.
Florals like rose, jasmine and ylang ylang are also heavenly but can be quite overpowering and even headache-inducing, so use only one or two drops per bath.
Scent is personal so it’s up to you whether to use a single oil, or a combination. You can also opt to for pre-blended essential oils, like those in The Calm Series, which were designed especially for their ability to instantly relax the body and mind.
It all depends on the mood and the moment, but whatever you choose – just be sure to take your time. A bath is a rare moment of relaxation, something we all need more of these days. There's no need to rush.
A spa-like bath formula
3 tablespoons pink Himalayan salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Jojoba or castile soap
3 drops frankincense (Boswellia sacra)
2 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
2 drops eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata)
Method: add essential oils to the jojoba or castille, and then stir into the salt. Add to your bath and relax!
IMAGE: Villa Massilia via @sonyapan