A shower might be at the root of your regular routine, but a bath comes with health benefits. Bathing, in fact, can be used to combat all kinds of symptoms. There’s even a term for the practice: balneotherapy, aka the treatment of disease through bathing. Yes, a Magic Bath. One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that diabetics who spent just half an hour in a hot tub could reduce their blood sugar levels by around 13 percent - as the heat dilated their blood vessels, blood-flow improved and the body made better use of its insulin, the hormone that converts blood sugar into energy. A separate Japanese study showed that 10 minutes in a warm bath improved cardiovascular health in elderly men and women, helping them to cope better in exercise tests and reducing pain. Previous research had suggested that hot baths could be dangerous for heart disease patients, because they temporarily increase blood pressure. Now a new book, 48 Hours to a Healthier Life, claims baths can be used as a simple-form of hydrotherapy to keep the body in mint condition and reduce the risk of illness. 'I heartily recommend bathing,' says the book's author, Suzi Grant, a member of the Association of Nutritional Therapists. 'It can prevent colds and viruses, reduce stress, improve sleep, strengthen blood circulation, boost the immune system and detoxify the body.'
So what's the best bath for you and how long should you spend in it? Find out with our guide below.
Detoxing: Warm baths - 90-95 degrees F or 32-35 degrees C - open the pores and encourage sweating, which helps to release toxins. They are good for mild detoxing and slight colds. Warm baths can also help lower blood sugar levels, relieve painful joints and muscles, and help to keep your bowels working properly. Soak time: 10-20 minutes.
Stress: If you're really stressed out, a cold bath can be the perfect answer - but they're only for the very brave and those in robust health. The temperature needs to be 55-65 degrees F, or 12-18 degrees C, says Grant. 'Cold baths are fantastic if you're full of tension. They do the opposite of hot baths as they thin the blood and increase blood sugar levels.' Soak time: a quick dip - between six and 30 seconds at the most.
Eczema: For skin conditions such as eczema, hives or rashes, adding some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to your bath can make a big difference. It acts as a mild antiseptic, opens the pores and relieves itching and skin irritation. Fill the bath with lukewarm water, add about a pound of baking soda and mix well. Soak time: 10-20 minutes.
Morning wake-up: Morning baths are more tonic in nature. There main purpose is to relieve physical fatigue, stimulate the body and eliminate toxins. The ideal temperature of this bath is 96.8 degrees F. For these types of baths choose salts or oils that stimulate the senses, mint, eucalyptus or green fresh florals.
Relaxation: Sprinkle 1/5 lb of Epsom salt into the water and mix in well for a thoroughly relaxing bath. The cooler the water and the shorter the time spent in the bath, the more it acts as a tonic. Soak time: 10-20 minutes.
Colds and headaches: Hot foot baths can help with colds and headaches as well as refreshing tired feet. Pour enough hot water into the bath or a bowl to cover your feet and ankles and add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender, peppermint, thyme or lemon, or you favorite essential oil / massage oil formula. Finish by rinsing your feet with cold water. Soak time: 10-20 minutes.
Insomnia: A cold foot bath is absolutely brilliant if you're an insomniac or just sometimes have trouble sleeping. Soak your feet until they start to feel uncomfortably cold. This treatment is also useful for constipation, nose bleeds, tired feet and colds. Soak time: as long as you can bear.Circulation: Try alternating between hot and cold foot baths if you suffer from circulatory problems or varicose veins. Start by soaking your feet for one to two minutes in hot water, followed by 30 seconds in cold. Keep alternating between the two for 15 minutes, finishing with cold water. Soak time: 15 minutes.