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Can a Foot Bath Give You Health Benefits?

Discover how including a foot bath in your regular routine can change your day-to-day living and promote good health.

A woman soaking her feet in a bowl of warm water set on a white towel surrounded by candles.

Treating yourself to a pedicure is one way to relax, but pampering yourself with a foot bath brings health benefits. A staple at the nail salon, this warm soak can be just as calming—and more cost-efficient—when enjoyed at home. 

A regular foot bath helps ease fatigue, relax your mind, and encourage good sleep. The ingredients you infuse into each soak can further boost its benefits. From reducing stress to easing clinical symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, the positive effects of foot baths are diverse.

The Health Benefits of a Foot Bath 

Steeped in specific herbs, a TCM food bath can do a world of good for your skin, mood, and beyond. Even people who have previously suffered from strokes can enjoy its healing properties.

Here are the health benefits you can reap from a great foot bath. 

It may improve dry skin on your feet

A woman soaking her feet in a Chinese medicine foot bath
Add Chinese herbs to your next foot bath for a more holistic experience.

Cold weather, daily exercise, and even open-heeled footwear can dry up the skin on your feet. This can lead to coarseness, itching, and cracking. While moisturising your feet can help, it may be insufficient, especially if you’re inconsistent with it. 

According to the National Eczema Association, soaking your feet in lukewarm water helps your skin absorb moisture and reduces dryness. This is particularly helpful for eczema, a condition that leads to rough, itchy inflammation in the skin. 

Here’s how to treat eczema with a foot bath, which is referred to as the “Soak and Seal” method: 

  • Soak your feet in lukewarm water for 10 minutes. 
  • Wash your feet with a mild cleanser. Avoid scrubbing. 
  • Once clean, pat your feet carefully with a towel, leaving them slightly damp. 
  • Within three minutes, apply a gentle moisturiser to your feet using liberal amounts. 
  • When the moisturiser is fully absorbed, slip on a pair of socks to seal the product in place. 

It boosts your mood and reduces stress  

If you’re a foot bath aficionado, you’ll already know how good it feels to soak your feet before you sleep. This practice has a soporific effect—inducing tranquillity, easing your frame of mind, and laying the groundwork for better slumber. 

Research on stroke patients who used essential oil foot baths showed a beneficial effect on psychophysiological response. Their stress levels, body temperature, mood, and sleeping patterns changed for the better. As a result, foot baths are now suggested as an alternative form of physical therapy in stroke treatment. 

Additionally, foot baths can be pacifying if you experience feelings of helplessness, frustration, anxiety, depression, anger, or fear.

It induces sleep 

Sleep supports growth and development in children and is vital for restoring the body and brain as you age. With stress and sleep so strongly linked, it may be challenging to get enough shut-eye, which directly affects your quality of life. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, why not try a foot bath? 

A study published by Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that a daily 30-minute foot bath effectively improved sleep quality for older adults. This was specifically helpful for those with poor sleep quality.

Research in Nursing & Health confirmed that a foot bath is a simple, safe, and non-pharmacological method for improving the quality of life in postmenopausal women. Particularly, it can prevent issues caused by inadequate sleep quality. 

It treats infectious diabetic wounds

Frankincense oil in a bottle with frankincense resin surrounding it on a wooden table.
The aromatic resin frankincense can be added to a foot bath to help with diabetic wounds.

Another health benefit of a TCM foot bath is its ability to treat foot infections. This helps reduce the risk of amputation if these infections were left unchecked. 

Severe foot wounds are symptomatic of serious complications from type 2 diabetes but can be treated with foot baths and the right herbs. 

A 2022 study found that herbal foot baths can improve circulation and regulate skin permeability. Another research published in Medicine linked foot baths to improved sensory nerve conduction velocity and neuropathy syndrome scores in subjects with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. What this means is a foot bath can stop bacteria from spreading in diabetic foot ulcers. 

The herbs used in foot bath treatments are chosen for their anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce white blood cells and lower blood glucose.

Here are some herbs and ingredients to add to your foot bath if you’re suffering from diabetic wounds:  

  • Myrrh 
  • Borneol  

It stimulates blood circulation 

Circulation is essential for good health because it delivers blood and oxygen to every part of your body. This is necessary for all your vital organs, including your brain, kidneys, and heart. 

When your heart rate increases, so does your blood circulation. Similar to when you exercise, your heart rate will elevate as you soak your feet. If you sit at a desk for most of the day or are generally immobile, even when standing, your heart rate may be lower than desired. Thus, it’s a great idea to cap off your night with a foot bath. 

According to Cancer Nursing, patients undergoing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) in Korea were given foot baths to analyse their effects. Foot bathing led to a significant increase in foot skin temperature and quality of life. This shows how soaking your feet is an effective way to increase blood circulation, bringing back sensation and movement.

Other health benefits of foot baths include reducing systolic blood pressure for hypertensive patients, preventing athlete’s foot, and easing gout discomfort.

Preparing a TCM Foot Bath at Home 

Ground and fresh ginger displayed in wooden vessels on a wooden table
Soaking your feet in warm ginger water can relieve a cold and help you sleep better.

Before prepping your foot bath, you’ll need to know which TCM ingredients are suitable for your symptoms.

  • Fresh ginger: Promotes blood circulation, relieves Cold, and supports sleep 
  • Mugwort: Dispels Cold and helps with blood circulation 
  • Pricklylash Peel: Improves rheumatism and promotes blood circulation 
  • Chinese Angelica: Eases pain in cold limbs and improves blood circulation 
  • Sanchi: Helps with blood circulation and reduces swelling 

The listed TCM ingredients can be used individually or in combination to eliminate Dampness, dispel Cold, and clear Blood Stasis.

“The water in your foot bath should be warm and not scalding, at about 35 to 45 degrees Celcius. Soak your feet for 15-30 minutes and not more. The best time to use [a foot bath] is one to two hours after a heavy meal, ideally at 7 to 9pm. Do this up to three times a week, and no more than twice daily.” 

TCM Physician Tjai Kang Jie

Anyone can benefit from using a foot bath. However, it’s important to remember to consult your doctor first if you are pregnant, elderly, or have a bleeding disorder.

Do take note that foot baths may not be suitable for some diabetic patients. Choosing the right herbs for your specific needs is paramount, otherwise, your foot wounds or condition may worsen.

Ready to dip your toes in and see some results? Look to lukewarm water and Chinese herbs to improve your overall health. 

Have alternative foot bath tips to share? Let us know below. 

This is an adaptation of the article “How Can A Foot Bath Improve Your Health?”, which first appeared on the All Things Health US website.

References

  1. Cancer Nursing An International Journal for Cancer Care Research. 2015. Comparison of Foot Bathing and Foot Massage in Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy. [online] Available at: <https://journals.lww.com/cancernursingonline/Abstract/2015/05000/Comparison_of_Foot_Bathing_and_Foot_Massage_in.13.aspx> [Accessed on 13 February 2023]
  2. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2016. The effects of footbath on sleep among the older adults in nursing home: A quasi-experimental study. [online] Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0965229916300152> [Accessed on 13 February 2023]
  3. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017. The effects of aroma massage and foot bath on psychophysiological response in stroke patients. [online] Available at: <https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/29/8/29_jpts-2017-101/_article/-char/ja/> [Accessed on 12 February 2023]
  4. Medicine. 2020. Clinical study for external washing by traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of multiple infectious wounds of diabetic foot. [online] Available at: <https://journals.lww.com/md-journal/fulltext/2020/04240/clinical_study_for_external_washing_by_traditional.45.aspx> [Accessed by 13 February 2023]
  5. National Eczema Association. Eczema and Bathing. [online] Available at: <https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/treatment/bathing/#:~:text=A%20mild%20bleach%20and%20water,to%20three%20times%20per%20week.> [Accessed on 12 February 2023]
  6. National Library of Medicine. 2022. Advances in traditional Chinese medicine as adjuvant therapy for diabetic foot. [online] Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9606791/> [Accessed on 13 February 2023]
  7. Research in Nursing & Health. 2020. Footbath as a safe, simple, and non-pharmacological method to improve sleep quality of menopausal women. [online] Available at: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/nur.22082> [Accessed on 13 February 2023]

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