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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Eki Wari and Physician Tjai Kang Jie on August 17, 2022

How Can A Foot Bath Improve Your Health?

Don't neglect your feet! These foot bath benefits will have you sleeping better at night and feeling less stressed after a long day.

Foot bath min scaled

Soaking your feet in a foot bath before bed is a common practice in many parts of the world. It helps promote relaxation and circulation for sleep better.

Depending on what ingredients you add, a foot bath can also reduce clinical symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. It can be done right in your home at very little cost to you.

Read on to learn more about the health benefits of a foot bath and what ingredients you should be adding to yours.

What Is A Foot Bath?

Soaking your feet in hot water helps promote relaxation and reduces stress.

A foot bath refers to soaking your feet in warm water. You may add various ingredients to your water to help cleanse, detox, and improve circulation within the body.

Many people add Epsom salt or essential oils to their foot bath. Epsom salt is said to help draw toxins out of the body while essential oils help cleanse and provide aromatherapy.

Perhaps the most effective way to utilize a foot bath is by adding Chinese herbs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a foot bath is used to help improve one’s blood circulation, expel Wind and dispel Cold, and stimulate the meridians and acupoints on the feet to better treat certain diseases.

Health Benefits Of A Foot Bath

A TCM foot bath has numerous benefits, especially if you suffer from dry skin on your feet, have had a stroke, or have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Treats infectious diabetic foot wounds

Diabetic foot wounds are one of the most serious complications of type 2 diabetes. It can lead to infections in the foot that may require amputation.

Research shows that a TCM foot bath significantly improves motor nerve conduction, sensory nerve conduction velocity, and neuropathy syndrome scores in subjects with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

It works by inhibiting bacteria on diabetic foot ulcers. TCM foot baths also have anti-inflammatory properties that help lower blood glucose and reduce white blood cells and markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.

Herbs that may be useful include:

  • Cayenne/chili pepper (Capsicum annuum Linn.)
  • Red Sichuan peppercorns (Zanthoxylum bungeanum Maxim.)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
  • Honeysuckle vine (Caulis lonicerae)
  • Borneol (derived from the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

Improves circulation

A TCM foot bath helps improve microcirculation to ensure proper amounts of nutrients and oxygen are being distributed throughout the feet.

According to one study, foot baths provide beneficial thermal therapy for post-stroke subjects with spasticity. Spasticity occurs when there is abnormal stiffness of the muscles due to damaged nerve pathways in the brain or spinal cord. When left untreated, it may affect muscle movement.

Researchers found that foot baths provide anti-spastic effects, increase body temperature, and may play an important role in stroke rehabilitation.

Reduces stress and boosts mood

There is a good reason why many people soak their feet before bedtime. It helps promote relaxation, boost mood, and improve sleep quality.

According to one study, a foot bath combined with aromatherapy can be used as alternative physical therapy to reduce stress, improve mood state, and increase sleep satisfaction in stroke patients.

Specifically, patients who utilized this therapy reported better depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, fear, and helplessness scores.

Promotes a good night’s rest

If you want better sleep in the winter, try a TCM foot bath before bed.

One study found that a hot foot bath before sleeping facilitates earlier sleep onset. Researchers noted that it is especially beneficial for people who are handicapped, elderly, disabled, or unable to enjoy regular baths easily.

May improve dry skin on your feet

Do you get dry, itchy, or cracked skin on your feet in the winter? According to the National Eczema Association, soaking in lukewarm water helps skin absorb moisture.

They recommend the “Soak and Seal” approach to treating eczema. Here’s how to do it:

  • Prepare a foot bath with lukewarm water and soak your feet for 10 minutes
  • Use a gentle cleanser to clean your feet
  • After cleansing your feet, pat them gently with a towel and leave them slightly damp
  • Within three minutes, apply a gentle moisturizer to your feet and wait until it is fully absorbed before putting on socks

How To Prepare A TCM Foot Bath At Home

Fresh ginger can be used in a TCM herbal bath to soothe skin and promote circulation.

According to TCM Physician Tjai Kang Jie, “Foot baths are typically done in a wooden or ceramic pot, but there are machine equivalents sold as well. The water should be suitably warm but not scalding, at about 95-113 degrees Fahrenheit. The duration should be 15-30 minutes and should not exceed that. The best time to use one is 1-2 hours after a heavy meal, ideally at 7-9 pm. They should be performed at most 3 times a week, with no more than 2 times a day.

Physician Tjai recommends the following TCM ingredients:

  • Fresh ginger: Relieves Cold, promotes blood circulation, and supports sleep
  • Argy Wormwood Leaf (Mugwort): Improves blood circulation and dispels Cold
  • Pricklylash Peel: Promotes blood circulation and may improve rheumatism
  • Chinese Angelica: Eases pain in cold limbs and helps improve blood circulation
  • Sanchi: Improves blood circulation and helps reduce swelling

“These can be used individually or in combination with each other. They are used to dispel Cold, eliminate Dampness, and clear Blood Stasis,” stated Physician Tjai. 

Anyone who is reasonably healthy and looking to improve their body constitution can use a foot bath. However, Physician Tjai recommends that you consult your doctor first if you are elderly, pregnant, or have a bleeding disorder. Foot baths may not be suitable for some diabetic patients. If not done properly with the right herbs, their foot wounds or condition may be worse.

References

  1. Medicine. 2020. Clinical study for external washing by traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of multiple infectious wounds of diabetic foot.
  2. International Journal of Biometeorol. 2010. Beneficial effects of footbaths in controlling spasticity after stroke.
  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Spasticity.
  4. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2017. The effects of aroma massage and foot bath on psychophysiological response in stroke patients.
  5. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science. 2000. Effects of bathing and hot footbath on sleep in winter.
  6. National Eczema Association. Eczema and Bathing.

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