I remember the precise moment when I realized bath time was not a chore but an opportunity to connect with my kids and nurture their well-being. It was autumn, and we had been battling a number of common skin conditions: poison sumac, unexplained patches of eczema, and dry, flaky skin. Then I started reading (and experimenting) about natural ways to deal with these ailments.
Had I not perfected the art of herbal bath additives that season, I don’t know how we would have made it through the subsequent winters. Here’s a list of natural bath enhancers to combat the most common winter ailments families face.
Milk and Almond Oil
Believe it or not, you and your child will still be clean if, once a week, you skip the harsh cleansers and bask instead in a mixture of milk and sweet almond oil. The recipe is simple. Just add a quart of organic whole milk and 3 tablespoons of sweet almond oil to your kids’ hot bath. Let her swish it around until the whole bath is equally cloudy, and have her soak for at least 10 minutes. When it’s time to get out, rinse her hair only—not her body. Then pat dry. This treatment fights winter’s tendency to dry out your skin.
This bath additive tops the list for at-home cold treatments. The University of Maryland Medical Center confirms what many moms already know: Eucalyptus loosens phlegm, soothes throats, and suppresses the cough often associated with the winter months. I’ve found the only thing better than rubbing a homemade (super-diluted) ointment on your chest is to bathe in the stuff. Just a fresh eucalyptus leaf or two creates a gentle detox bath for cold symptoms. This remarkable element, especially when combined with the power of good, old-fashioned steam inhalation, can have your child feeling better in minutes. Close the bathroom door so the vapors stay locked in the room with you and your child.
When one of my kids is battling something, there’s only one thing I want him or her to do: sleep. Chamomile and lavender essential oils can relax your child, according to the University of New Hampshire Health Services. Simply drop five or six drops of each into your child’s bath, and swish it around for the best dispersion before having your child get in. Dim the lights, speak softly, and move slowly to help your child transition to a restful night.
Childhood rashes are often no big deal, but their appearance is always alarming to adults. In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, herbal bath therapy using green tea extract proved to be “an effective, safe, and nonsteroidal therapy for treatment of patients with AD,” also known as “atopic dermatitis.”
Another way a green tea bath benefits skin is when used to treat sunburn. You may associate sunburn with the summer months, but did you know it’s a common skiing and snowboarding injury? Outdoor play is often safe, but those UV rays can be tricky when the temps are cooler, hoodwinking both adults and kids into getting burned. Have kids take a dip in an antioxidant-rich green tea bath. Splash a little green-tea-infused bath water on those sweet cheeks for some potential relief.
Turns out Grandma was onto something when she had your mother soak in a bath of oatmeal to alleviate itching. Doctors at the University of Utah Health Sciences Radio say adding oatmeal to a bath can neutralize painful itching and swelling of skin blisters.
For almost 5,000 years, some Asian and Middle Eastern cultures have put basil in bath water to ease a variety of ailments. From sore eyes and even diarrhea, an herbal bath of basil can potentially outperform more conventional alternatives, according to ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America. If, like me, you have a windowsill herb garden, basil bathing can become a weekly treat for young digestive systems.
Relieve joint pain and muscle stiffness with dried sage leaves. The Clark County Master Gardeners in cooperation with Washington State University experts recommend adding dried sage leaves to your bath for your choice of pain relief (hot water) or stimulation (cool water).
Skin is a strong indication of what’s going on inside your body. Throughout history, parents have watched kids for signs of sickness, with the skin being both the first point of observation and the first part to treat. With these ideas, you’ll have tools to work with for treating those irritating winter complaints, so you can focus on the more important things in life.
Do you have a go-to bath remedy? Let us know on Twitter.
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.