Dear Annie, I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to soak in a bath of Epsom salts to ease sore muscles and to help relax, but I’m curious what you recommend for detoxing and if you have a detox bath recipe? – Jean, AK
Dear Jean, For centuries, people have honored the power of the bath, not only to cleanse the body, but to heal the skin and soothe the soul. Water has been known as a healer since the dawn of human history, revered throughout the ancient world as a simple and effective cure for many conditions, both physical and spiritual. Heat stimulates the immune system to fight off viruses and bacterial infections. Cold water baths stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation.
Most of us have heard about the recommendation to take saunas to sweat the poisons out. But baths? Absolutely. Epsom salts and hot water help you sweat, and as you release the fluid, toxic chemicals go with it. We store a lot of toxic chemicals in our fat, chemicals that are long-lasting in the environment, and sweating reduces fat stores, hence releasing the toxic chemicals at the same time. In fact, it is said that the skin eliminates over one pound of waste acids every day through the sweat glands.
Hydrotherapy makes our cells more malleable, helping their membranes to release. Soaking in water is great for our bodies in this way. After all, our cells are 75 to 90 percent water.
Hot water opens the pores, and cold water closes them. Hot water draws toxins out of the body to the skin’s surface, and while the water cools it pulls toxins from the skin, according to Naturopath Dr. Hazel Parcells. Epsom salts augment this detoxification by causing you to sweat.
The Skin’s Acid Mantle
When I recommend salts, I am speaking of Dead Sea salt, Epsom salt, and sea salt. Not baking soda. There is another consideration for your skin, and that is a thin layer on the surface of the skin, called the acid mantle. The acid mantle is typically a pH of 5.5 (with neutral being a pH of 7, and anything over that an alkaline pH), which kills germs and bacteria protectively for the body. Baking soda is alkaline and will destroy the acid mantle. If you use it you need to help the skin to return to an acid mantle at the end of the bath. Some do this by adding a cup of vinegar to the tub at the end of a bath, neutralizing the alkaline salts (and you will get bubbles while you do this, and make sure to keep the vinegar water from your eyes); others rub the body with coconut oil, an oil with an acidic pH.
Neutral pH: 7
Optimal pH level of healthy skin surface: 5.5
Dead sea salts 5.8 pH
Sea salts: generally around neutral once disolved
Epsom salts: 5.5-6.5 (considered a neutral salt)
Baking soda: 8.2
I don’t recommend baking soda baths because they will remove the skin’s acid mantle. Too much use of soap will do this as well. If you choose to have a baking soda bath do it with a commitment to restore the acid mantle of your skin once you are done. However, an alkaline water wash can neutralize acidic and polluted matter, as well, and a baking soda and Epsom salt bath is often recommended after ionizing radiation.
Positive and Negative Ions
Clays are rich in negative ions, the good ions like what you find at the ocean. By soaking in clay baths, or rubbing clay on your body, you surround and saturate yourself with the negative ion charge, revitalizing you while eschewing pollution. Negative ions bind positive ions to them (toxic chemicals are rich in positive ions), and pull them from the body.
Dry Skin Brushing
Before you hop into the tub, consider dry brushing your skin, which also opens the pores to release toxins. Many recommend you do this once a day. Dry skin brushing is also considered to give an internal massage, stimulate skin renewal, remove cellulite, cleanse the lymphatic system, and a host of other benefits.
Hot Water Bottle Pillow
Why not make your homemade detox bath experience as comfortable and mesmerizing relaxing as possible by filling a hot water bottle and using it as a pillow against the rim of the tub?
Very hot baths can be harmful for people with high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes, as well as for pregnant women. Even if you don’t have one of these conditions, extremely hot baths can actually dry the skin and make you feel drained, so be sure to use water that feels comfortably warm, not too hot.
If you are sick or have a chronic illness, heart disease, or take medications, check with your doctor before using these detox baths. Before using detox therapies for children, check with their pediatrician. Pregnant or nursing women shouldn’t detox.
Hot detox baths can be very enervating. You might even feel dizzy when you get out of the tub, so be aware and have a place to sit or hold as you get out of the tub. Start your experience of detox baths by only staying in the tub for 10 minutes or so to start, and gradually increase as you better gauge your person reaction to the experience.
Have a question for Annie B? Write to her at annie@thetruefind [dot] com
By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).