When sickness strikes, many holistic wellness devotees recommend sipping some ginger tea or sweating it out in a hot bath. But did you know that combining both—in the form of a ginger bath—is also said to help alleviate aches, digestive discomfort, or cold symptoms?
Okay, so there’s no formal evidence proving a ginger bath’s alleged benefits. But there are tons of anecdotal reports online from those who swear the practice is a super effective form of a sweaty detox.
Why? “Ginger speeds up circulation, which creates heat, causing a sweat response,” says Jennifer Palmer, a holistic wellness coach with a doctorate in traditional naturopathy and owner of wellness center Nourishing Journey in Columbia, MD. Baths obviously create some heat of their own, so it’s easy to see why some people choose to combine the two—even if it’s not a research-backed wellness hack.
Why take a ginger bath?
Some people take ginger baths to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, while others use them to detox after a big night out. Still others take them regularly in hopes of purging the everyday chemicals we’re all exposed to in the modern world.
Palmer says ginger baths are “a fabulous option for sweating out toxins, but they are good for many other things as well.” According to her, a ginger bath may:
- Calm digestive discomfort
- Aid in proper digestion
- Increase blood circulation
- Aid in reducing inflammation
- Help improve metabolism
Again, Western medicine might raise an eyebrow at these claims. Yet anyone can get behind the idea of stress-relieving tub time—so if you’re already taking a weekly soak, there’s likely nothing wrong with adding some ginger to the water and seeing whether you experience any of its purported health benefits.
How to take a ginger bath
Before your soak, be sure to test skin for irritation—an especially important step for those with sensitive skin—by placing freshly grated ginger or a paste made from water and powdered ginger on a small patch of skin. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes, and remove it immediately if irritation develops.
Don’t try a ginger bath if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a history of heart disease. If you’re pregnant, have a liver condition, or are taking blood thinners, consult with your doctor first. Ginger baths are not recommended for children under two years of age.
Once you know you can safely take a ginger bath, creating one is easy. Simply add 1/2 cup of freshly grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger to a warm bath, then soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Be aware that the ginger can turn the water yellow or brown, so don’t be grossed out by the color.
To reap the most benefit from the bath, the temperature of the water should be as warm as you can handle without discomfort. Keep in mind that the ginger will raise your body temperature, causing you to sweat, so you may want to keep a cool, damp cloth nearby to cover your forehead or neck to avoid overheating. (Just be careful to avoid getting the bath water in your eyes—it’ll sting.)
After your bath, plan to spend some time lounging in your bathrobe, as your body could continue sweating for an hour or two after the bath. Take a cleansing shower after you’ve cooled down and stopped sweating.
If you don’t have time for the full detox experience, you can shower immediately after the bath to reduce the duration of the post-bath sweat. And as with all detoxes, drink plenty of water before, during, and after the bath.
Ginger bath upgrades
Want to take your bath to the next level? You can add the following ingredients:
- 1 cup of Epsom salt: This is said to give you a hit of magnesium, and might help soothe aching muscles.
- 1 cup of apple cider vinegar or 1/3 cup of baking soda: When added to the bath, these may help balance the PH of skin. Keep in mind that baking soda and vinegar react when combined (remember those science fair volcanoes?), so it’s best to use one or the other.
- A few drops of essential oils: Lavender, chamomile, or rose oils can provide relaxing aromatherapy benefits. If you’re adding essential oils, put them into a carrier oil first (such as coconut or jojoba oil) to keep the potent essential oils from settling directly onto and irritating your skin. Add the combined oils to the bath after you’ve turned off the water so that you get the full aromatherapy benefit, instead of simply scenting your bathroom.
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