Ahhhh…as you gradually lower yourself into a bath, you can feel the soothing power of the hot water engulfing and relaxing those aching muscles, and it seems to nurture your entire being. Whether you realize it or not, you’re taking part in an age-old tradition. Water therapy, also known as hydrotherapy, has been used for centuries by cultures around the world as a form of natural healing.
Modern hydrotherapy—which usually consists of showers, steam baths, saunas, soaks, compresses or wraps—can produce a wide variety of therapeutic effects. Naturopathic doctors are well-trained in using hydrotherapy for decreasing or increasing blood flow, decreasing inflammation, detoxifying, moving lymph through the body, elevating overall immunity, reducing fevers and otherwise alleviating pain.
Different effects and benefits can be achieved depending on whether hot or cold water is applied to the body. When cold water is used, the results can include constricted blood flow, decreased metabolism and reduced pain in local tissues, as well as a reduction in the number of immune-fighting cells in the affected area. With the use of hot water, the results can include increased blood flow, increased muscle relaxation and pain relief in the local area, and an increase in the number of immune-fighting cells in the affected area.
Applying hot and cold water to the body alternately, a practice known as “contrast hydrotherapy,” can have even greater therapeutic value, especially when done by a naturopathic physician specializing in this form of natural treatment. It can produce both short-term results (including stimulating effects), and long-term benefits (such as relaxation and immunity-boosting).
How to enjoy water therapy at home
A simple bath can have big benefits, and adding aromatherapy to the mix will help enhance the benefits. Aromatherapy, a natural health practice that involves using essential oils to promote well-being, can help lift your spirits, calm your mind and produce rejuvenating effects.
Aromatherapy has synergistic effects because of its direct influence on your limbic system – the “emotional center” of your brain. Scents have the unique ability to evoke a deep sense of relaxation, stimulate your senses, refresh your body and mind or create feelings of inner peace and balance. In addition, aromatherapy oils can be soothing and comforting to your skin.
To start enjoying aromatherapy, simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to your bath water, or using bath products that contain them. Some essential oil products also contain healing salts that can help draw impurities out of your skin.My favorite products include: Aura Cacia Meditation Aromatherapy Mineral Bath, which contains a combination of essential oils to help revitalize your mind and spirit; Zum Tub bath salts, which contains frankincense and myrrh (as well as shea butter for a skin-softening and rejuvenating bath); and EO Essential Oil Products bath salts, which contain eucalyptus and arnica to help relieve aching, sore muscles.