Do you know that you are between 80 & 90% water. The fluid based, transport system of your body distributes nutrients, electrolytes and takes away waste in a continuous stream of activity moment by moment. It also encompasses the heating and cooling system of your body to maintain the right temperature to accomplish its many tasks. So when there is a breakdown or blockage of energy and vitality, water can often be a rejuvenating resource that is often overlooked. Sometimes combined with a few choice herbs, it can be the curative factor that starts you on the road to recovery.
Your body gives off energy and is in turn, affected by energy. Things like microwaves, TV, computers and other electromagnetics can negatively affect your body's energy. When you take a shower, water has the ability to wash the effects of negative energy (in a type of grounding) that helps put your natural body energy back into balance. That's part of why you feel so good after taking a bath or shower. This is why spas and other personal care centers have become so popular; but you can turn your own bath or shower into your personal spa treatment if you understand how it works.
The skin of your body is connected to every organ of your body via the nervous and circulatory systems. By changing temperature with water that is hot or cold, nerve sensations will stimulate or sedate specific areas. You can use local applications (applied to a specific external area) or a whole body submersion. Cold water applications reduce the amount of blood in an area, while warm to hot water applications bring blood flow to the surface. For example, a throbbing headache is caused by inflammation and thus blood accumulation in that local area. Cool or cold water decreases the blood flow and contracts the blood vessels, stabilizing the temperature and returning the area to warmth, relaxation and circulation flow. Cold clothes on forehead, temples and back of the neck can assist in this, as can wrapping the entire head in a cold towel. As the blood vessels contract, removing the cold application and wrapping up in warm robe or blanket, can return the temperature to normal, and the pain eliminated.
Any area that is inflamed or 'hot' like lower back areas due to poor circulation can be relieved with alternating hot and cold packs. It helps to break up congestion. Use warm packs for about 10 minutes and the switch to cool pack for 1 minute; alternating back and forth for about half an hour, finishing with a warm pack. It will bring down swelling, relax tight muscles by passively toning them and bring the area more flexibility. Add a topical herbal like arnica, that will bring oxygen into the area, and you have the recipe for pain relief.
It's a good idea to use a thermometer to check the temperature of a bath. Numerous treatments mentioned below are dependent on specific temperature ranges. Never use extreme temperatures when helping someone elderly or who is experiencing weakness. You will want to keep these temperatures between 80 and 100 degrees. You want to have clean clothing or towels/blankets ready to wrap up in and with a sick person take them straight to bed to lie down. Never let a patient get chilled or overheated so keep your eye on the temperature. Water does not need to be extreme to work. Adding a little mineral salts like Epsom to the bath will help pull toxins out through the skin and is especially helpful in debilitating conditions or cases of low immunity. Salt also has the ability to replace electrolytes on and through the skin.
Following are some general rules for specific temperature ranges and what they can be used for:
. Cold baths or stimulating showers - temperature 40 to 60 degrees
Generally used for strong patients, it helps increase circulation and tonifies the whole body to develop a resistance to disease. Being plunged into cold water can be quite a shock but in a good constitution, can develop great strength and resilience. Consider the Polar Bear Plunges that are popular in winter and early spring. You can do this as you shower by going from a few minutes in warm to cold and back again 2 to 3 times. Ending with cold is most invigorating but ending with warm is allowed. Cold water foot soaks can also work for sprained ankles, swelling & inflammation of the feet, and as a whole body tonic. (All your nerve endings in your feet connect to your entire body's nervous system.) Three minutes at a time, take out and let dry, then dip again 3 or 4 times remembering to wrap and clean, dry towel or cotton socks when done.
NOTE: It is best NOT to do a cold bath or shower on a damp, wet or rainy day as it is harder for the body to warm up under these conditions even when wrapped. Warm water would be better on these days.
. Cool water Therapy - 60 to 70 degrees
Excellent temperature for healing as it stimulates circulation. You should not be in cool bath longer than 3 minutes. Very good way to reduce a fever. It will feel cold to the fever sufferer. When out of the water dry well, wrap in clean gown and put to bed wrapped in warm blankets. You can also do this as a sponge bath if patient will not get into the bath. "cooling" herbs like boneset, catnip, hyssop or peppermint can also be added to the water. Also remember to keep the head cool with a cool cloth to protect the brain from a high fever.
. Warm Baths - 90 to 100 degrees
This is a very good temperature for a person to remain in the water for up to half an hour. It can be used for pain due to poor circulation, fevers and tonic applications for a person's general constitution. Again, add appropriate herbs like those listed below or Epsom salts to pull toxins, treat specific conditions and give strength to a weak constitution.
. Hot Baths - 100 to 105 degrees
These baths are used to warm, relieve pain, relax and draw toxins out of the body. This is a good temperature for salt baths. Drawing herbs for skin eruptions work well here or breaking up extreme congestion with eucalyptus, menthol or other decongesting herbs. This is the right temperature for adding epsom (mineral) salts which will draw toxic substances out through the skin. When you are not sure about what to use medicinally for a debilitating problem, think of hydrotherapy.
Compresses and Poultices.
These are a combination of herbs with water for localized problems. Heat draws, cold constricts. Cool compresses used for insect bites, sprains, bruises and swellings. They can be used to reduce swollen glands like mastitis, inflamed prostate or lymph. They can be used for toothache and big bruises. After the swelling and tenderness has been reduced, warm poultices can soothe and heal. Everyone realizes heat helps sore muscles, as you bring blood flow back into the area. The following are some useful herbs that make good poultices (they can also be used in the bath by crushing a handful or two of dried material and adding to the water):
Echinacea - for disinfecting and pulling toxins
Ginger - for stimulating and warming
Goldenseal - for infections & drawing
Sage - draws, astringent, very healing
Plantain - drawing, drying, insect bites
Yellow Dock leaf/root - Skin eruptions, boils, bee stings, wounds
Chickweed - soothing, excellent for eye irritations
Cabbage - an old time remedy. Cabbage leaf poultice is used for ulcers, varicose veins, shingles
Rosemary - improves circulation, relieves pain & tension
Basil - crushed leaf, mild sedative, soothes nerves, good for treating nervous headaches
Thyme - clears sinus congestion, tones skin
Recipes for compresses or poultices
Here are 3 recipes you can try
Fresh Comfrey Poultice: Comfrey is known for its ability to regenerate skin.
Pick comfrey leaves, rinse and shake dry
Blend with enough distilled water to create a thick mash
Place in some gauze or cheesecloth and apply to area of rash, wound, or burn
Wrap with roll of gauze or muslin to hold in place
Change daily if treating a wound and observe how the skin rejuvenates.
NOTE: Occasionally skin rash develops from irritation of small hairs found on the leaves.
Discontinue use if necessary but a little olive oil smeared on the skin around the area
before placing the gauze may alleviate this.
Marshmallow Fomentation: This helps get immediate relief from pressure of overfull and inflamed breasts
1/2 cup powdered Marshmallow root
1 quart distilled water
Stir marshmallow into water, bring to a boil & reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes, covered
Soak cloth in mixture and apply to affected breast as hot as patient can stand
Cover with plastic wrap to prevent losing the mucilage, then cover with 2 clean towels to retain heat
When cool, soak again and reapply.
Repeat 3 times for each breast
Cooling Peppermint Compress - useful in preventing swelling and reducing fevers. This will stimulate production of white and red blood cells and reduce the pulse rate.
1/2 cup peppermint leaves
1 quart distilled water
Pour boiling water over peppermint, cover and let steep 10 minutes, strain & cool
When lukewarm, place in freezer or add ice cubes to make it really cold.
Soak a cloth in the tea and apply to patient forehead and back of neck
When cloth warms up, soak again and reapply.
Repeat 3 to 5 times adding ice if necessary
Dry area thoroughly when finished
Over 40 years of Herbal and nutritional experience.