8 remarkable benefits of a bath, according to science
Counter depression & stress, burn calories, boost moods, the brain & immune system, sleep better, soothe inflammation & aches + more!
by Tea Master DANIELA CUBELIC
A bath may be the cure for almost anything that ails you, as well as a preventative practice that supports overall health. If that sounds too good to be true, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by emerging research on the plentiful benefits of a bath.
Feeling down or stressed? Baths may counteract depression & stress, & also boost moods. Trouble with sleep? Baths stimulate production of a key sleep hormone. Want to burn calories & lower blood sugar? A bath may offer similar benefits to exercise. Looking for natural ways to reduce inflammation, tension or aches & pains? Look to your bathtub to soothe those woes. Did you eat or drink too much? For hangovers & to support healthier blood sugar levels & counteract calories, take a bath. Need help with breakouts, dry, oily or irritated skin, or want to transform a lackluster complexion? It turns out a bath may help these issues as well.
How can one simple thing do so much? Researchers are still examining this & I’ll explain more about the studies & the science below. I’ll also provide tips & best practices for maximizing the benefits of the bath.
I’ve been a bath devotee for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to grow up under the influence of a mom & grandmother who were raised in Europe, where baths are thought of as a health practice & are used to alleviate & improve many health ailments. So I was encouraged to take regular baths throughout my childhood & even more so as a teen as soon as I began encountering skin breakouts, PMS & menstrual cramps. I was also taught to add therapeutic combinations of pure salts & botanicals to the bath, based on recipes passed down by my great-grandmother, who was a talented herbalist. A passion for the power of natural ingredients also encouraged me to study aromatherapy in France, a leader in the field. This combined knowledge, as well the benefits I personally experienced, is the inspiration behind the BATHSALTS we make at Silk Road.
I have always felt better after a bath (& I still do, so I’ve kept up my bath habit), long before the research came along to suggest that baths come with significant benefits. After a hard day, when my energy is low, or in challenging times, a bath (always with a cup of tea) is one of the easiest & most pleasurable ways for me to release tension & recharge. Eventually, my spouse & I got a bathtub big enough for two, which I was a very excited about & still am, even though that was about a decade ago! Taking a bath together by candlelight on a worknight can feel almost as rejuvenating & relaxing as a weekend getaway.
Ancient civilizations around the world have prized baths & hot springs as a method for healing chronic conditions & improving general health. Even today, many cultures continue to value baths & hot springs for the same reason.
Hot springs contain minerals, which can intensify the benefits of a bath, but it’s easy to do this at home by adding therapeutic, mineral-rich BATHSALTS to your tub.
Baths feel like a luxurious treat rather than a medicine, which is one of the many reasons I love a bath. It’s remarkably good for you, & yet it feels like an indulgence. We all need TLC & a little spoiling in our lives, but the trouble is that the treats we choose often aren’t very healthy. Baths are a habit that will help, rather than hurt, your waistline & it won’t harm your pocketbook either. Baths are affordable, even if you add some good quality BATHSALTS. If you don’t have a tub, then you need to discover the SURPRISING BENEFITS OF A FOOT SOAK! The benefits are similar to a bath & all you need are a basic, low cost bucket that can be purchased at a hardware store.
Mae West apparently once said, “If in doubt, take a bath.” I couldn’t agree more & I think you’ll agree once you’ve had a chance to check out all of these amazing benefits! You’ll also find the proof in the experience. Start taking baths regularly using the tips & information I’ve provided here & you’ll see for yourself how potent a simple bath can be.
- uplift your mood + counteract depression
Take a hot bath two times a week & within just two weeks you may start to see the positive impact!
baths were found to be more beneficial than exercise for depression
The effectiveness of baths for alleviating depression was compared to that of exercise in a German study. Baths had a stronger impact overall on lifting moods & the benefits were felt more rapidly than exercise in this study.
baths may reduce other symptoms of depression including aches & pains
Previous research has shown that exercise is helpful in combating mild to moderate depression, but when you’re feeling down, exercise can seem out of reach. Low energy, physical discomfort & inflammation, which are common symptoms of depression, are also barriers to exercise.
On the other hand, filling a tub with water is pleasurable & manageable even when any effort seems overwhelming. As you’ll discover more about below, baths can soothe aches & pains too. A few weeks of regular baths may lift your energy & reduce physical discomfort enough to give you the oomph you need to start exercising.
Enhance your enjoyment of a bath by adding herbs, sea salt or mineral salts - these ingredients may also contain added benefits.
Our popular TONIC BATHSALTS feel like you're stepping into a purifying, revitalizing, oasis of renewal. Refreshing mint mingles with light foresty notes of fir needle & juniper berry, which help deepen & open breathing. It also contains grounding, centering cedarwood, soothing lavender & uplifting bergamot. These potent herb extracts are blended into a base of alkaline, naturally anti-inflammatory sea & mineral salts.
Even if you do work out regularly, this study provides some encouraging evidence to add baths to your routine.
try “bath therapy” for two to three weeks & see what happens
- If it helps, keep going! Continue with regular baths to maintain the benefits.
- If it feels good, do it often! Have baths more than twice a week. Have a bath every second day, three times a week or even daily if you’re enjoying it. While the study demonstrated the power of what two baths a week could do, there could be additional benefits by increasing frequency. The benefits of frequent baths haven’t been studied yet, but it’s worth a try, & unlike partaking in excess food or alcohol, this is a healthy habit you can indulge in guilt-free.
hot afternoon baths may be best for depression + to aid sleep
In the above German study, researchers chose afternoon baths to rebalance circadian rhythms, which can be disrupted in people experiencing depression. Circadian rhythms are a natural cycle of shifts that take place in the brain, organs & hormones over a 24-hour period. Researchers suspected that the heat from a long hot bath (30 minutes at 40°C) timed in the afternoon helped reset the circadian rhythm, which also led to a better night’s sleep for people in the study.
To maximize the circadian reset, they increased exposure to heat among participants by having them lay down with a hot water bottle for 20 minutes right after the bath. It increased body temperature by about 2°C.
Another way to increase internal heat is to drink hot tea immediately following a bath. My favourite tea for uplifting the spirits is HAPPY TEA: a cheery blend of sunny, zesty bergamot, lemon balm, lime, citrus, green & white tea. Some of these ingredients have also been linked to anti-depressant qualities. It’s very low in caffeine, so you can enjoy it in the afternoon without it being overstimulating. A similar, caffeine-free blend is PHILOSOPHER’S BREW TEA, a mellow yet gently uplifting mixture of lemongrass, citrus, rosehips & lavender.
- combat stress + physical tension
Body & mind are intertwined. There’s a downside to this, because stress & physical tension are linked. But there’s also a significant upside that you can take advantage of!
When you’re under stress, tense muscles, headaches & other types of physical discomfort can arise. It can become a vicious cycle, because when the body is uncomfortable, it can leave you feeling irritable, restless, distressed & emotional.
The secret to breaking the cycle is this: when you relax the body, the mind will follow.
One of the easiest, loveliest & most affordable methods for doing that is a bath. Bathing in plain hot water is an effective way to release physical tension, but you can amplify the benefits even further by adding sea & mineral salts to the tub.
Stress can impact us in different ways, so I choose my bathsalts with intention. I keep a selection of bathsalts at home. Part of the pleasure of a bath can be in deciding on which blend you’d like to use.
To escape from the cares of the world, I reach for HEAVEN BATHSALTS, which are made with lavender, clary sage, marjoram & myrrh. All of these ingredients are traditionally used for physical discomfort but they also have a deeply soothing effect on the mind.
To float even further away from the worries of the day, I treat myself to a cup of ANGELWATER TEA. The name says it all, but until you’ve tasted this gentle, calming blend of spearmint, lavender, rose, elderflowers & red clover, you won’t know how magical it really is. If you’re having a hot bath accompanied by tea, it’s generally best to serve the tea lukewarm. Lingering with a cup of tea after a bath is a wonderful way to anchor & deepen relaxation.
For balance in times of emotional upheaval as well as for PMS, perimenopause & menopause, BLISS BATHSALTS are a favourite among clients & staff. A blend of rose, orange flower blossoms (neroli), clary sage & geranium, the seductive scent transports you to an idyllic oasis. These ingredients also happen to be traditional aphrodisiacs, so this blend is also perfect for a romantic bath. Luxuriate in the bath with sips of balancing, stress-relieving BEAU-TEA-FUL TEA, intoxicating JASMINE OASIS TEA or hydrating QUENCH TEA, or enjoy these after the bath. As I mentioned earlier, serving the tea warm rather than hot is best if you’re taking a hot bath.
Stress can cause tempers to flare. When you need to “cool off” mentally or physically, (or if you’re experiencing hot flashes), our deeply minty & slightly woodsy TONIC BATHSALTS is a soothing balm. When you’re feeling overheated in body or mind, it’s best to us a slightly cooler water temperature. Use comfortably warm, rather than hot water. Accompany it with a cup of richly minty & eucalyptus-infused ALLERGY & HAY FEVER DEFENSE TEA, WESTCOAST PEPPERMINT TEA, ANGELWATER TEA or HAPPY TEA.
- fall asleep faster + enjoy deeper, more restful sleep
A bath about 90 minutes before bed can aid sleep by encouraging the production of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone, which can help you fall asleep faster & improve the quality of your sleep.
Getting a good night’s rest is also related to how much you can release the cares of the day that linger in body & mind. When muscles are tight, they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep or sleep deeply. When the mind is busy, it can keep you awake even when you’re past the point of exhaustion. A bath can help with all of the above!
The ideal bath temperature for encouraging sleep is 40 to 43°C (104 to 109°F).
Scent can be a powerful tool for relaxation. It taps into the most ancient part of the brain that bypasses the thinking mind. Pleasing natural, plant-derived aromas can shift you into a more peaceful mode. For me, nothing beats our SWEET DREAMS BATHSALTS, a soft, serene blend of lavender, comforting ylang ylang, sweet, uplifting spearmint & grounding clary sage.
When you emerge from the tub, put on a cozy set of pajamas or a bathrobe, dim the lights, play relaxing music & slowly sip a cup of ANGELWATER TEA or LULLABY TEA.
You’ll discover newfound vitality when you get a good night's sleep on a regular basis—it helps you look, feel & perform better. Adequate rest is important to your entire system on every level—it boosts brainpower & memory, benefits mood regulation, benefits the immune system, counteracts the negative effects of stress, reduces food cravings, assists weight management, & prevents aging & disease.
- burn calories + lower blood sugar
A bath can stimulate the metabolism, just as exercise does… but without the effort!
Regular exercise is amazing for overall health & I’m not knocking it, but when you’re not up to a workout, or not getting as much exercise as you should, take a bath (instead of feeling guilty about not exercising, which only adds to your stress). There have been times in my life when, due to overwork, exhaustion or health issues, I haven’t been able to get regular exercise in—when that happens, I make sure to take baths more often.
A recent study found that soaking in a hot bath for an hour could burn as many calories as half an hour of walking. Listen to a guided meditation, a podcast, or relaxing music, or read a book or magazine to pass the time. Keep in mind that if you want to make a bath the equivalent of a half hour workout, you need to spend an hour in the tub, but a shorter hot bath will still provide a metabolic boost: a 20 to 30 minute bath is still going to give you some positive benefits.
Another study found that bathing in hot water reduced blood sugar levels for participants 10% more than exercise did. Recent research is indicating that blood sugar levels are key to overall health (even if you’re not diabetic) & that maintaining them in an optimal range may prevent a number of diseases including cancer & cardiovascular disease. Managing blood sugar is also linked to burning calories & weight management.
When I’ve had a rich meal, or indulged in too many carbs or sugar, I often take an invigorating bath with DETOX BATHSALTS & accompany it with either DETOX TEA or MULBERRY TEA, both of which contain ingredients associated with benefits for blood sugar levels.
- boost brain function
Reducing stress & combating physical tension is a shortcut to helping you feel mentally clearer & fresher, which a bath can offer, as you’ve already read about above.
Research also indicates a bath can stimulate the production of a protein (BDNF) that supports nerve cells & assists memory & learning.
When you’ve been studying, working hard & engaging in mentally taxing activities, or you could use help with creativity, try a bath for some mental refreshment!
For clearing mental cobwebs, I love the refreshing, minty effect of TONIC BATHSALTS. Green tea in particular is associated with boosting creative & mental function. Our CASABLANCA TEA (a blend of lively green tea & sweet spearmint) is a wonderful bath companion. You may also want to check out PHILOSOPHER’S BREW TEA, an irresistible caffeine-free citrusy herbal blend that enlivens & soothes.
- promote healthy, glowing, toned skin from head to toe
The skin is the body’s largest organ & one of its key functions is to eliminate waste. The heat from a bath opens pores to aid the skin’s natural purification efforts while also supporting the function of the lymphatic system (which is involved in immune support as well as detoxification). It also stimulates circulation, bringing added nutrients to the skin & giving it a healthy glow. All of these actions also support skin & muscle tone. In fact, in parts of Europe, therapeutic baths with mineral salts are considered a treatment for cellulite. There, cellulite is thought of as a sign your lymphatic & circulatory systems need added support, so it’s an indicator of health that baths are thought to improve.
Baths containing added salts & botanicals have long been associated with skincare benefits & have traditionally been used as an aid for many skin challenges. These ingredients may have added anti-inflammatory, antiseptic & soothing properties.
If you’re struggling with breakouts on your face, chest or back, try regular baths two to three times a week with DETOX BATHSALTS. You may notice an immediate improvement, or it may take four to six weeks as the skin’s cellular renewal processes take about that length of time.
DETOX BATHSALTS contain purifying botanicals that are also traditionally used in Europe to support the circulation & lymphatic system & counteract cellulite, including juniper, cypress, rosemary & bitter orange leaves. Enjoy DETOX TEA with your bath, or throughout the day.
Dry skin can benefit from a bath, but the water should be comfortably warm, not ultra-hot in that case. Also add 1-2 teaspoons of bath, body & massage oil in addition to the BATHSALTS. Together, the salts & the oil will benefit the skin. Our HEAVEN BATHSALTS & BLISS BATHSALTS contain an abundance of nourishing, skin-loving botanicals.
Accompany a skincare targeted bath with our skincare focused BEAU-TEA-FUL TEA or DETOX TEA.
- ease aches, pains & inflammation
Studies show that hot baths seem to provide some relief for almost any type of physical discomfort, whether it’s sore muscles after a workout; physical exhaustion or cramps from your workday or chores; stiff joints or pain related to arthritis; or aging. Pain can have a profound impact on your quality of life. Even if you’re in a small amount of discomfort, it can still affect your moods, energy level & ability to focus. If you take up bathing as a regular practise, you may be pleasantly surprised to experience improvements in other aspects of your life. Unlike pain medications, baths have positive side-effects & they are “addictive” in a non-harmful way.
Baths also appear to have an anti-inflammatory effect in general, which can improve all of the above concerns, but may also be an important preventative measure for general good health. In recent years, studies have begun to reveal more about inflammation & how it is a leading cause of many health issues & that it leads to aging. So, it appears that the more you can do to reduce inflammation, the better you’ll feel & the likelier you are to age at a slower rate—plus you are likely to look & feel more youthful if you keep inflammation levels lower as a general rule.
Research also indicates that sea salt baths may be particularly helpful for arthritis as well as aches & pains. Any of our BATHSALTS can be added to a bath, as they are all made with sea & mineral salts. DETOX, & HEAVEN also contain plant extracts linked to anti-inflammatory & pain-relieving properties.
GREEN TEA as well as the caffeine-free Ayurvedic herb TULSI have also been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. TULSI has also been found to contain a natural pain-reliever. You’ll find TULSI in our DETOX TEA, or you can get it on its own. GREEN RAMA TULSI in particular is considered the best of all varieties of tulsi for anti-inflammatory benefits.
- support immune & respiratory health
Raising the body’s core temperature, stimulating the circulation & lymphatic flow, enhancing sleep quality, reducing inflammation & improving your ability to manage stress are all things a bath can do for you. According to many studies in recent years, they also all happen to be things that can boost the immune system!
The heat, humidity & relaxing effect of the water can also deepen breathing & aid sinus & respiratory health as well. When you add ingredients to the bath that are targeted to the immune & respiratory systems, you can further enhance the benefits.
When I’m feeling run down, or if I’ve got lingering cold or flu symptoms that I can’t seem to shake, COLD & FLU NINJA BATHSALTS (with eucalyptus, tea tree, citrus & conifer trees) do the trick. I pair it with WINTER WARRIOR TEA, a fortifying blend of ginger, green tea & citrus.
Deeply minty TONIC BATHSALTS are also wonderful—the peppermint & forest notes are also very restorative. I accompany it with ALLERGY & HAY FEVER DEFENSE TEA for an ultimate combo of purifying freshness.
safety & contraindications for baths
While taking a bath is safe & healthy for most people, there are certain health conditions that may mean it is not the best choice for you. These include pregnancy, cardiovascular issues & serious skin conditions*. If you have any of these, or any other serious health problems, consult your doctor before starting to take baths. FOOT SOAKS (which offer similar benefits to a bath) may be a better choice.
*Studies indicate that psoriasis & eczema may improve in response to regular baths in sea & mineral salt-infused water, but the severity of the condition, your unique immune response and any medications you are on may impact whether it’s a good idea or not. Seek medical advice before starting baths. Baths can be very detoxifying & that can be too much of a good thing all at once if your skin is struggling, so they can lead to flare-ups or increase discomfort temporarily. In the meantime, you may respond better to FOOT SOAKS.
It’s important not to overheat in the bath. If you start to feel too hot, immediately add cool water to the tub. If you tend to overheat easily as a general rule, avoid hot baths. Take comfortably warm baths rather than hot baths & avoid drinking hot tea while in the bath. Stay hydrated while in the bath by drinking lukewarm or room temperature tea.
You may be overheating if you start to feel excessively hot, are sweating, or your skin is red. Serious signs of overheating include dizziness, nausea, feeling like you may fall down, or fainting. If you experience any of these symptoms, safely get out of the bath (or drain the water while you sit in the tub) & seek help.
Always be careful when stepping in or out of the tub. Remember that adding salts or oils to the bath may make your tub more slippery, so use extra caution in that case.
Follow these links for some key studies mentioned in this post:
Bathing to beat depression
Bathing to burn calories & reduce blood sugar levels
Bathing to support brain function
Bathing in salt water for arthritis & inflammation