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How-to do an Herbal Foot Bath

Soaking your feet in a basin of soothing herbal infusion is more than relaxing, it’s potent medicine. There are lots of capillaries ending on the feet that can serve as little highways of health to the rest of the body. All it takes is a few simple tools and a comfy chair in which to enjoy the treatment.

Most people think of foot baths as a superficial treatment, but this technique is actually very powerful medicine.  Serious conditions like edema, trench foot, and high blood pressure respond rapidly to a good herbal foot bath. The key is to treat the condition properly with the correct herb.

For chronic conditions, keep to a schedule. One treatment won’t fix the problem. Regular foot baths in conjunction with a routine that includes supplementary herbs, diet amendments, and exercise work best. Use this routine with the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner if you have a medical concern.

comfrey blossoms

Comfrey Flower

This is a basic procedure, not a recipe. I haven’t included specific measurements but have instead described the process and what to look for as you’re working. You can use either fresh or dry herbs. The trick is to know your herbs and know your condition. For specific recipes using this technique, see The Practical Herbalist Recipes.

Equipment you’ll need for an herbal foot bath:

  • A kettle or other container for boiling water
  • A container big enough to hold 3 quarts of water
  • A 1 gallon sized cooking pot with a lid
  • A finely meshed strainer large enough to catch a cup or so of material
  • A basin big enough for your feet to fit comfortably
  • A towel

Ingredients for an herbal foot bath:

  • 1 cup of herbs
  • 1 gallon of water
  • essential oil (optional)
  • Epson salts (optional)
  • Vinegar (optional)

Procedure for an herbal foot bath:

  1. Prepare your water. Set the kettle to boil or do whatever you need to do to heat your water to a good rapid boil. Water that’s heated to a rolling boil will crack the cell walls of your herbs quickly and efficiently, which means a better, stronger infusion.
  2. Prepare your herbs. Measure a quantity of dried or fresh herbs into your heat-proof measuring cup. Be sure to leave plenty of room for the water. Separate the decoction herbs (bark, twigs, lichen, mushrooms and/or roots) from the infusion (flowers and leafy) herbs.
    Herba Foot Soak Ingredients
    Prepare your herbs.
  3. When the water has boiled, add the decoction herbs and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat source and add the infusion herbs. Cover the pot. Let it stand for ten minutes. More time will make the infusion stronger; less time will make it weaker. Ten minutes produces a good, strong infusion for most purposes.
  5. Strain the herbs through your strainer into a 1 quart container. Sometimes, I squeeze the herbs to get every last drop of goodness out of them. Squeezing the herbs during the straining process will result in a cloudier infusion. Discard or compost your used herbs.
  6. Rinse your cooking pot and bring 3 quarts of water up to bathwater temperature. (About 104°F/40°C)
  7. Pour the herbal liquid and the warm water into a foot basin.
  8. Test the water to be certain the temperature is tolerable, a little on the hot side is okay if you can tolerate it. The heat will help your pores open and draw blood to the area. Plus, the water will cool as you soak and you’ll want the warmth to last as long as possible.
  9. Add a few drops of essential oil or a scoop of Epsom salts if desired.
  10. Soak your feet (or foot) in the basin as long as you please.
    Herbal Foot Soak
    Soothe your feet with an herbal footbath.
  11. Dry your feet thoroughly afterwards.
  12. Discard foot bath water appropriately.

Sue Sierralupe

Sue Sierralupé is a Certified Master Herbalist, Master Gardener and Sustainable Landscape Specialist. She is the clinic manager and lead herbalist at Occupy Medical clinic. Sue is author of The Pocket Herbal: Medicinal Plants that Changed the World and co-author of The Practical Herbalist Herbal Folios series. Follow her blog at Herbalism Manifesto for commentary on herbs, parenting, nutrition and a whole lot more.

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