Friday, November 21, 2008

How to Unwind: Herbal Hydrotherapy

I've recently begun working until late in the evening a few nights a week. I come home at 10 pm after being on my feet for hours, talking to people, under bright artificial light, and being rather busy.
It's been hard to get to bed at a decent time, mostly because it takes me a while to unwind after 8 hrs of work. But getting to bed at midnight isn't doing my body good. So I've accquired a new habit to help me unwind. A hot herbal foot soak. Simple, beautiful, effective.

Being of a somewhat watery constitution, hydrotherapy has always felt good to me. Water is calming, soothing, flowing, and for many folks a lukewarm/nuetral temperature bath before bed can really help them to relax and get ready for sleeping, and it's a nice technique to use for folks with chronic insomnia, especially if it is related to too much activity or tension late in the evening.
A bath at 10 pm just wasn't feeling very feasible for me, but, a foot soak. That was something I could handle after a long day, and served a similar purpose.

I simmer 2-3 cups of water in a BIG pot (big enough to put both feet in), turn it off as it starts to bubble, and throw in a few handfuls of some relaxing herbs. The soles of the feet are suprisingly very absorbent, and many folks find that herbal compounds absorb through the feet well.
The first night I tried this my feet were rather sore and achy, so I steeped a combo of sage and lavender flowers in the hot water for 5 min. Then I topped off the pot with cool water until it was a safe temperature to put my feet in without burning them.

Last night, a combo of lavender and hops was just the ticket.
I prepare the pan of hot herbal water and a tea kettle at the same time. I fix a cup of relaxing herbal tea, I choose lavender and linden, and sit down on the couch with the hot tea, and rest my feet in the steamy, fragrant herbal bath.

The warm water draws heat, blood and energy down from the head into the lower regions of the body, and the relaxing herbs soak in through the feet and the aromatics float up on the steam to relax the mind and spirit.
10 min of this treatment, and I'm completely ready for bed. I dry my feet off with a soft towel, then rub a nice herbal oil all over my feet to pacify vata, and encourage the calming and relaxing. A favorite foot oil of my creation is infused St Johns Wort oil with a touch of sandalwood and ylang ylang essential oils. Rosemary oil is especially nice for cold and aching feet, and I use that often as well. After that, I lay down, and fall right to sleep, and sleep all night long.

And it only takes about 30-40 min to prepare, soak and sip, and oil. I can be in bed by 10:45 instead of midnight (if I don't dally or soak for longer than 10-15 min), the quality of my sleep is deeply restful, and my aching feet don't hurt.

Lovely, simple remedies are often the best. Some other nice herbs to try for foot soaks include:


treesa said...

Wow Darcy, this sounds perfect! My brain has trouble turning off at night, especially if I didn't do anything really physical that day (very Vata-Kapha), and I have a tendency towards arthritic and cold footsies... So this and some rosemary oil sounds like great combination. Thanks for the post!

Tara said...

Is a peppermint foot soak still relaxing?

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~