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DIY Mustard Bath For Muscle Relaxation and Better Sleep

OLYMPIC SWIMMER NATALIE COUGHLIN SWEARS BY THEM

. . . but once jokingly added that she hasn’t “tried to bathe in ketchup or soy sauce or anything.”  What on earth is she talking about? Why, mustard baths, of course!

If the thought of putting mustard in your tub instead of on, say, your grain-free burger has your brain doing flip-flops, here’s what you need to know: Mustard baths have long been used in England as a comfort measure for colds and flus, achy muscles, and stressful days. Even before that, this spice was used therapeutically in ayurvedic and Egyptian traditions for similar complaints.

SO HOW DOES IT WORK?

If you’ve ever bitten into a jalapeno and felt beads of sweat form on your forehead, you’ve already experienced one of the primary benefits associated with mustard. It contains several compounds that are thought to stimulate circulation, warm the body and soothe muscles.

The recipe below is an adaptation of a common traditional one, which usually includes mustard, essential oils and benzoin resin in a base of sodium carbonate or baking soda. In addition to mustard, here’s what we’ll be using:

Magnesium Because it is well-absorbed through skin, bathing in magnesium-rich water is one of the best ways to raise our magnesium levels. Magnesium is vital for over 300 metabolic reactions within the body, including ones that help with detoxification and relaxation. We use either epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) or magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride). This is my favorite brand.

Essential Oils This recipe includes essential oils of eucalyptus, thyme and rosemary, which are all types of monoterpenes. These oils have long been considered helpful for opening nasal passages and supporting healthy respiratory function, and they smell amazing when blended with wintergreen, which is considered helpful for relaxing muscles. However, none of these oils are generally considered appropriate for children, so I’ve included alternate suggestions below if you’re planning to add this to your little ones’ baths.

Ascorbic Acid or Sodium Ascorbate (Optional) – If your bath water contains chlorine, you can add ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate to neutralize it. Though chlorination levels vary in different municipalities, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 1 gram is enough to neutralize roughly 100 gallons of water. That’s about 1/4 teaspoon per 100 gallons.

TIMING YOUR MUSTARD BATH FOR DEEPER, MORE RESTFUL SLEEP

As I mentioned in my post on getting better sleep, you may be able to time your bath to improve overall sleep quality. While our bodies are designed to sleep best in a relatively cool environment (usually 65-72F), one study found that a hot bath 1.5 hours before bed decreased sleep fragmentation (aka sleep disruptions) in older adults suffering from insomnia.

Whenever you decide to take it, I hope you love this aromatic bath as much as I do.

MUSTARD BATH RECIPE

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup mustard powder (if you like to buy in bulk you can find organic mustard powder here)
  • 1 cup magnesium in the form of epsom salts or magnesium chloride (this is my favorite brand)
  • 3 drops wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens) essential oil (where to buy wintergreen essential oil) *
  • 3 drops eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil (where to buy eucalyptus essential oil)
  • 3 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oil (where to buy rosemary essential oil)
  • 3 drops red thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate, optional (This container of non-gmo ascorbic acid would last a looooong time, as would this one of sodium ascorbate.)

* Essential oils are wonderful, but they must be used safely. Because wintergreen contains naturally occurring salicylates, which is the blood-thinning compound found in aspirin, it is not recommended for children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, individuals taking anticoagulant medications, individuals who have major surgery planned, or individuals who have hemophilia or other bleeding disorders. The dilution in this recipe is so small that a certified aromatherapist I consult with said it is not likely to cause an adverse effect, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

KID-FRIENDLY MUSTARD BATH RECIPE

This recipe is appropriate for children and pregnant/breastfeeding women:

  • ¼ cup mustard powder (if you like to buy in bulk you can find organic mustard powder here)
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup magnesium in the form of epsom salts or magnesium chloride (this is my favorite brand)
  • 3 drops spruce (Tsuga Canadensis) essential oil
  • 3 drops fir needle (Abies siberica) essential oil
  • 3 drops lavender (Lavandula officinalis) essential oil (where to buy lavender essential oil)
  • 3 drops juniper berry (Juniperus communis) essential oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate, optional (This container of non-gmo ascorbic acid would last a looooong time, as would this one of sodium ascorbate.)

TO MAKE

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in an airtight jar, preferably in a dark cabinet to keep the essential oils from oxidizing.

TO USE

Dissolve 1/4 cup in bath water and soak for 15-30 minutes.

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