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PHOTO: Tessa Zundel
Rituals and traditions are pillars of family life, and even the simplest among them can become important rhythms in our daily lives. Bath-time rituals, especially for young children, are among those that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’d like to step away from spending money on chemical-laden bubble baths full of synthetic fragrances and colors, it’s possible to create your own bath teas from herbs you may already grow on your farm or homestead.
Bath teas are just what they sound like: herbal preparations added to your child’s bath to soothe them and prepare them for bed. You don’t drink bath tea, of course, but you’ll absorb many of the good benefits these herbs bring through your skin.
The following are some tips and herbal combinations that will make the simple ritual of bath time a special one that will calm tired children (and adults), and even administer to health when everyone is full of sniffles.
Growing Your Own Herbs
Planning and planting an herb garden doesn’t have to be complicated. Books like Mareitta Marcin’s Herbal Tea Gardens can help inspire and teach you about planting herb gardens that suit your needs. Do you need a sleepy time garden? A shade garden? A tonic garden? This little book can tell you exactly what to plant.
If you don’t have space for an in-ground garden, many herbs lend themselves well to indoor and outdoor container growing. Always remember to feed and water your indoor plants consistently—that’s the part I stink at.
Herbal Combinations For Bath Time
Here are some suggestions for herbal combinations you can use at bath time. I’ve broken them up by USDA plant hardiness zone in case you’re planning to grow them yourself. All of these herbs, except the Rugosa rose, will happily grow in pots and even indoors if you’re unable to grow them outside in a garden plot. To learn more about each herb, and for further ideas, I suggest reading the simple but thorough book The Complete Book of Herbs, by Leslie Bremness.
Lemongrass and rosemary will grow well and easily in plant hardiness zones 9-11. Both are highly aromatic and cleansing. Their light, invigorating scents will clear droopy spirits, while helping everyone feel clean and ready for a good night’s sleep. Add a few hibiscus flowers for a dash of color.
Lavender and basil make a rich combination for bath time. Lavender is miraculously good for both waking up and going to sleep, while basil vapors can help soothe an irritated stomach, even just by soaking in it. If you have it available, a dash of lemon or orange peel added to this bath tea combination would make it that much more heavenly.
Mint and thyme are your herbal friends in colder climes, and both make happy additions to bath hour. A cousin to basil, mint is also soothing to the stomach and is probably the herb your child knows best. Thyme will stimulate circulation and is especially useful if your little one has a cough. For fun, toss in a few Rugosa rose hips for orange- or pink-tinted water. All of these herbs will often survive outdoors down to zone 2 if given heavy winter protection.
How To Use Bath Teas
Using bath teas is not complicated. You can purchase muslin bags for your bath-time teas, or you can make your own without too much effort: In a clean, white sock or piece of muslin cloth that you don’t mind staining with herbs, add a handful of each dried herb you’d like to use or two handfuls of each fresh herb. Secure the sock or cloth, and place it into a hot bath to steep for a few minutes prior to entering the bath. Have your child climb in and squeeze the bag once or twice to agitate the ingredients and release more beneficial properties from the herbs.
It’s important when working with herbs to be conscious of potential allergy problems. For example, some people with ragweed allergies may have a bad reaction to chamomile. Watch for rash and, if irritation occurs, have your kiddo hop into a shower and wash with oatmeal soap.
In fact, oatmeal is another great ingredient to add to your herb sachet to keep skin soft and supple. You can also add some Epsom or sea salt to the bath, especially if your kids have achy muscles or are sick.
You can reuse your bath tea for a two to three days in a row before removing the contents and composting them. If you leave the herbs in any longer, mold may start to form. Launder your bag after you’ve emptied the contents before using it again.