Bathing for Health and Well-Being

Enjoy the soothing pleasures of a leisurely bath.

By Amanda Kimble-Evans


Rest in the Garden
Imagine yourself falling asleep to the sound of bees buzzing and the scent of flowers floating on the breeze.

1/2 teaspoon rose mix
1/2 teaspoon lavender mix
2 roses
10 sprigs fresh lavender

Light rose-scented candles in an array of colors and open the window to let spring or summer air in. Run a warm-water bath. Add both mixes after the bath is full. Float lavender sprigs and rose petals on top of the water.


Bathing has been used to treat or help treat injuries, diseases, and ailments of all sorts for centuries. The Native Americans, Egyptians, Chinese, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Hebrews, and Hindus all used water, in many forms, to treat poor health. Until recently, many modern hydrotherapy treatments were prescribed only by alternative-health practitioners. Today, alternative and traditional doctors alike are using water therapy to treat a range of medical conditions.

Most athletes are familiar with some form of hydrotherapy. Whirlpools and hot-water baths are suggested in schools, gyms, and fitness centers for sore muscles or injuries. Hydrotherapy simply uses hot, warm, tepid, cool, or cold water, as well as ice and steam, to prevent or treat health problems. Some forms of hydrotherapy include baths, saunas, whirlpools, mineral baths, flushes, wraps, and compresses. The conditions treated with hydrotherapy are as wide-ranging as the treatments. From acne to varicose veins, anorexia to stress, hydrotherapy has positive effects on a diverse array of health concerns.

The hydrotherapy treatments involving hot water produce both stimulating and relaxing effects. Although hot water relaxes the body, it stimulates the immune system and helps in healing colds, viruses, and the flu. Hot water also causes the body to sweat, allowing the water to carry toxins out of the body and letting you replenish the body with new liquids. Hot hydrotherapy treatments include heating compresses, hot packs, hyperthermia, and immersion baths.

Cold-water hydrotherapy treatments are restorative and build resistance. The cold water constricts blood vessels to reduce inflammation, including fever. It also acts as a pain reliever, an anesthetic, and a muscle toner. A cold treatment can be used to lower body temperature, reduce blood circulation, and reduce swelling after an injury. Cold hydrotherapy treatments include cold compresses, baths, showers, ice packs, and ice massage.

Contrast hydrotherapy involves using both hot and cold treatments alternately. The contrast therapies are designed to dilate and contract the blood vessels. This keeps the vessels in shape and also alleviates inflammation, improves organ function, improves digestion, increases circulation, reduces congestion, and stimulates the adrenal and endocrine glands.

Whirlpool baths are the most well-known of the hydrotherapy treatments. Not only are whirlpool baths recommended to heal injured muscles and joints, as in the case of sports injuries, they're also used to heal edema (swelling) and improve circulation. Minor frostbite pain, skin sores, infected wounds, and burns are all soothed and healed by whirlpools. The moving water of a whirlpool acts as a gentle and unintrusive massager, working internally and externally.

A neutral bath is a neutral-temperature water bath that involves submerging the entire body up to the neck. The water temperature ranges from 92 degrees F to 98 degrees F to mimic the body's own temperature. A neutral bath has a soothing effect that is used to treat emotional disturbances, insomnia, and to calm the nervous system. It also helps those with mild heart conditions, swollen joints, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Hyperthermia is a hot-water treatment designed to raise body temperature and induce a fever. Although a fever is often considered a negative sign when dealing with illnesses, elevated body temperature kicks the immune system into action to help fight a disease or a virus.