Water Therapy

A Brief History of the Bath

Although the Romans may not have invented the bath, they raised bathing to a high art. Roman citizens lingered for hours in communal hot baths, where they socialized, conducted courtship, and even sealed business deals. They built lavish baths wherever they found natural hot springs . The remains of Roman baths are still evident throughout Europe, the Mideast, and North Africa .

The Roman reverence for bathing has survived in Turkey , where patrons still visit public baths to be soaped, steamed, and scrubbed clean by attendants. Meanwhile, a highly ritualized bathing culture has evolved in Japan as well. Whole towns exist as destination resorts around Japanese natural hot springs . The harried Japanese make annual visits to these springs, and in between find time for frequent visits to the “Sento” — the local communal hot-tub house. Japanese homes are for the most part poorly heated, and the family bath becomes an important source of warmth in winter.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, bathing fell out of favor in Europe . For the next few centuries the practice was considered suspect and unhealthy, immersion a frightening and distasteful experience. Washing was an unpleasant and infrequent necessity, to be carried out quickly and furtively, with a basin of cold water.

Water Therapy

Water therapy as practiced today was introduced in Austria in the 19th century by the Reverend Father Sebastian Kneipp. Father Kneipp believed in the healing properties of water and prescribed treatments that included drinking mineral waters, soaking in hot springs, taking cold showers, and walking barefoot in the early-morning dew. Healing spas that subscribed to Father Kneipp’s philosophy sprang up all over Europe , and “taking the waters” became a popular social pastime for the rich and privileged.
Today health spas abound throughout the United States , Europe, and the Mediterranean . Modern spas have evolved beyond mere mineral-water treatments to offer many other complementary therapies as well as physical fitness, relaxation training, and nutritional counseling. Aromatherapy has been universally adopted as a valuable synergistic component of most spa therapies.

You can create your own spa experience with just a few essential oils and a tub of hot water. An aromatherapy bath is the ultimate luxury. Experiment with 3 to 5 drops of several different, complementary oils, adjusting the total amount to suit your individual taste. You can add the oils directly to the bath or, for added luxury, disperse them in a cup of milk first. Essential oils combine well with all other bath additives. Add Epsom salts, sea salts, and algae to mineralize the water and increase buoyancy. Add oatmeal or honey to soothe and nourish the skin. Add bicarbonate of soda to “soften” the water. Add fresh or dried herbs and flower petals for their aesthetic and therapeutic qualities.

— from The Aromatherapy Companion by Victoria Edwards.

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3 Responses to “Water Therapy”

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