Using Essential Oils in the Bath is possibly one of the most enjoyable ways to capture the benefits of aromatherapy.
Aromatherapy bathing is not new – people have been enjoying aromatics in the bath for centuries. Indeed Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is reputed to have said that the way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day!
Many of us have busy lives and taking the time out for a soak in the tub now and then is a great way to switch off and indulge in a little self-care – even if we cannot manage that every day!
How you use essential oils in the bath, though, is important to ensure that you stay safe and get the most from them. If you look at older aromatherapy books and other resources, you may see recommendations to put essential oils directly in the water and just swish them around to mix them. Even I used to recommend that based on what I had originally been taught.
However in more recent times, concerns have been raised by many of my aromatherapy colleagues about this practice due to the cases of adverse reactions that has been seen. After all, oil and water don’t mix, so the essential oil will want to settle on the surface of the water. As a result, your skin will come into contact with neat essential oil, raising the risks of reactions to the concentrated essential oil.
For this reason I now recommended that you always use a dispersant with essential oils in the bath to ensure that the essential oil is mixed into the water properly. Effective dispersants (sometimes referred to as solubilisers) include Essential Oil Dispersant, Liquid Castile Soap or another unscented liquid soap, shampoo or body wash. You can also use a carrier oil, although bear in mind that while this dilutes the essential oil, making it safer, it will not emulsify the essential oil in the water, as the combined (diluted) oil mixture will still want to float on the surface of the water. The addition of carrier oils can also make the bath slippery, so you need to take care. Carrier oils are, however, great for dryer skin, leaving a film of oil on the skin and protecting it from any drying effects from the water.
When adding your essential oils to the water, always ensure that you mix the essential oil into the dispersant (whichever one you are using) first before adding it to the water in the bath. The dispersant will not work if you put the dispersant and essential oils into the bath separately.
How much dispersant should you use?
I usually recommend using about half to one tablespoon of dispersant (10 - 20ml) in a bath. I tend to use the larger amount for liquid soaps or similar, and the lower for Essential Oil Dispersant as you tend to need less of the latter.
How much Essential Oil Should go in a bath?
Like other methods of use, the amount of essential oil you should use in a bath will depend on a number of factors including – the particular essential oils you use, the age and state of health of the individual, as well as any sensitivities, allergies etc. Generally, I would work on about 6-8 drops in total for a normal healthy adult. For children over the age of 2 years, 2-3 drops are plenty.
(For under 2years I would avoid essential oils in the bath unless recommended by an aromatherapist. Try some hydrosol added to the bath as a gentle alternative. Being water-based, no dispersant is necessary when using hydrosols in the bath.) Those who should also use a lower dose include pregnant women, those with allergies or sensitivities (especially sensitive skin) and the elderly. If you think this applies to you, use about half of the normal adult dose – 3-4 drops only in the same amount of dispersant described above.
Which Essential Oils are best to use in the bath?
You can use a variety of essential oils depending on the effect that you want to have. Aromatherapy baths can be relaxing, invigorating, soothing for sore or tired muscles, comforting when sick with a cold or many other purposes. You are only limited by your creativity and aroma-preferences! However I do recommend that you take care and avoid the use of the more potentially irritant essential oils, such as basil, peppermint, cinnamon leaf/bark etc (Refer to the essential oil listings at www.essenceofwellbeing.com.au for more details on individual essential oil cautions.)
Simple Steps to Enjoy an Aromatherapy Bath
To make the most of your bath, make sure that it is warm but not too hot. Having the water too hot will increase the possibility of irritating the skin as well as causing the essential oils to evaporate too quickly, reducing their efficacy. Make sure to allow some time to soak in the bath. Soak for at least 10 minutes, but longer if you can manage it! Breathe deeply when in the bath so you get the most out of the aromatic properties of the essential oils.
Aromatherapy Bath Time Recipes
(All recipes are for a normal healthy adult. Ensure that you adjust quantities appropriately if preparing a bath for anyone else)
Bed time Bath
Zesty Morning Bath
Soothe and Clear Bath