Backwoods Home Magazine

Bath herbs

Bath herbs

By Cynthia Andal


Issue #86 • March/April, 2004

The visceral pleasure to be gained from drinking wild herbal teas that you have harvested yourself pales in comparison to lying in a steaming tub, scented with rose petal and pineapple weed. Add a beeswax candle and even a cup of said herbal tea and, all of a sudden, Heaven. Life doesn’t get much better than this and, it doesn’t cost a thing. Pleasure for free. A few herbs that are harvested easily and a bit of knowledge about their properties and you’ll be mixing up a bath herb blend for every occasion.

Wild strawberry

Easy to use and very versatile, bath herbs expand the enjoyment of wildcrafting a thousand fold and take it to a whole new plane. I just throw a handful of that night’s blend in the bath. But I’ve had complaints that this could lead to a plugged drain, so this is the easiest way to enjoy an herbal bath: Make a very strong tea using a handful of your chosen bath blend and about three to four cups of boiling water. Steep this for quite a while to gather as much of the plant’s essence as possible and then just pour this into your bath. It works wonderfully and allows you to enjoy the herbal scent without the mess of the actual plant matter in the tub.

With plants like rose petal, the actual matter is very small and rather flimsy. There should be no problem with a drain plug up so you can enjoy the absolute luxury of being surrounded by warm, scented water with beautiful, decadent petals floating around. I can think of nothing that would make me feel more divine. The other option is to make a muslin or cheesecloth bag that holds the right amount of herb and can be tied or fastened shut. This can float around in the tub with you while releasing its delightful scent.

Stinging nettle

Any herb that can be used for the bath can also be used as a steam facial. To do this, sprinkle the herb in the sink or in a pot on the stove. Pour boiling water over this and lower your face into the steam. Put a towel over your head and enjoy, breathing deeply of the scents. If you’re doing this over a pot, first boil the herbal water then remove it from the stove before leaning over with a drooping towel. Obviously, towel tails and lit burners are a dangerous combination.

Many of these herbs make a lovely and invigorating wash as well. Make a tea and and use it as a splash or a facial wash. Choose your herbs with great care depending on your skin type.

As you learn and discover, you’ll find which scents and types you enjoy using the most. You will, most certainly, come up with your own personal herb blends for all of your moods. Perhaps Yarrow/Strawberry leaf is evocative of a sunshine meadow or Rose petal/Pineapple weed is the height in luxury. Enjoy and experiment.


Bath herb properties

Rose petal (Rosa): Moisturizer. Gives one a great feeling of luxury. Use it in any soothing-type mixture. It blends well with the healing and sleep-type herbs like valerian and pineapple weed. Rose petals floating in a steamy tub by candlelight is the ultimate in self-enjoyment. Roses bloom prolifically in the late spring. Gather what you can during their rather short blossom period and dry them by laying the petals on a screen and stirring frequently.

Wild geranium (Geranium sp.): Aphrodisiac. Stimulating and exciting. Try it alone or in mixtures. Wild geranium, also called cranesbill geranium, can be found in recently deforested areas and also in waste spaces, even in the city. A pretty, and fairly large, though inconspicuous plant, the name confusion arises from the plant that so many people grow in pots during the summer. Wild geranium is actually the true geranium while the geranium sold in the garden centers with the showy flowers is really Pelargonium x. Regardless, the plant that most people refer to as geranium is not the geranium that we are looking for.


Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica): A bath-type pick me up. Increases circulation. Try it as a steam facial for its invigorating, stimulating feeling. Said to be good for arthritis. Good hair rinse.

Wild valerian (Valeriana sp.): Relaxing and stimulating, all at once, which makes it a great candidate for aphrodisiacal mixes. Promotes heightened awareness. Very soothing in mixes with pineapple weed. Domestic valerian is an equally good choice.

Pineapple weed (Matricaria Matricaria): Calming and soothing. Taking a bath with it is the same as drinking a cup of pineapple weed tea. The scent is heavenly. Mix with rose petal for a moisturizing bath and bunchberrry or yarrow for a slightly drying bath. The same applies for facials.

Yarrow (Achillea sp.): Drying. Particularly pleasant for oily-skin types, especially as a facial. Mix with bunchberry for a fairly powerful face wash.

Pineapple weed

Mint (Mentha Canadensis or M. Arvensis): Invigorating and “feel good” bath herb. Mix with nettle for a wake up tub.

Strawberry Leaf (Fragaria sp.): Drying and soothing. A core ingredient in healing type baths such as a new mother’s mix with raspberry leaf and rose petal.

Raspberry Leaf (Rubus Idaeus): The mother-type qualities extend to bath use. Slightly drying, counter this effect with rose petal or accentuate with yarrow or bunchberry. Again, this is an important healing type bath herb.

Spruce bud

Bunchberry (Dwarf Cornus sp.): Drying. Mixed with yarrow for oily skin baths, washes and facial toners. Mix with nettle to add colour and vibrancy to skin.

Fireweed (Epilobium Angustifol-ium and other Epilobium sp.): Soothing and moisturizing. Mix with pineapple weed or rose petal.

Spruce (Picea sp.): Be sure to add this as a tea and not as a plant as it can be rather spiky. Pleasant and exotically scented. Spicy and robust. Mix with nettle or mint. Very warming.