In Homer's Odyssey one of the most moving and fascinating moments is when the elderly nurse Euriclea recognizes Ulysses, despite being disguised as a beggar. And perhaps it is no coincidence that Homer chose to represent this significant moment during one of the gestures so dear to the Greeks, the foot bath, a symbol of hospitality, respect and benevolence. Foot bath, perhaps also performed with oils and essences, concerns the sphere of health and hygiene but also helps to relax, removes tiredness and anxieties. So much that several scientific studies have focused on the properties that a simple washing of the feet can bring. Let's close our eyes and enter the myth, in a time when gods and heroes were able to carry out deeds that have been handed down over the centuries in immortal works, and let's dedicate a moment to us by giving a cuddle also… to our feet! Let's see how to make a real relaxing foot bath, but first, let's explore the benefits of a foot bath.
Footbath, benefits and properties on sleep quality
A warm footbath, around 40° C, has been shown to improve sleep quality in the elderly (Valizadeh et al, Iran Red Crescent Med J., 2015). Not only that, a foot bath of this type has also reduced the sleep onset and lengthened the duration of sleep. This action is due to the effect of hot water on the feet. In fact, in this way, by increasing the temperature of the extremities, there is an increase in blood flow, which in turn can lead the body to lose heat more easily. The latter effect is associated with an improvement in sleep quality (Liao et al, Res Nurs Health, 2008). The benefits of foot baths on sleep quality have also been observed in people of all ages, including young or post-menopausal women (Aghamohammadi et al, Res Nurs Health, 2020).
Foot bath against stress
The foot bath has been shown to act even in cases of stress and nervousness, relaxing the body, calming the mind and improving mood. Not only that, the foot bath, thanks to the increase in blood circulation, helps also to reduce pain (Lee et al, J Phys Ther Sci., 2017).
How to prepare a beneficial foot bath
As reported by scientific studies, the greatest benefits are obtained with a warm foot bath, in which the water reaches 40° C.
Then fill a basin with hot water and soak your feet, for at least 20 minutes, an hour before going to sleep to improve the quality of sleep (Aghamohammadi et al, Res Nurs Health, 2020). You can also add essential oils to make the foot bath even more relaxing, but also soothing and bactericidal. For example, orange essential oil tones the nervous system, counteracts stress and relieves pain. Rosemary oil improves circulation and counteracts pain, lavender is ideal for anxiety and insomnia (Lee et al, J Phys Ther Sci., 2017 - Saeki et al, Complement Ther Med, 2000). Rose oil effectively fights anxiety (Kheirkhah et al, I ran Red Crescent Med J, 2014). And for an antifungal and bactericidal action you can resort to a few drops of essential oil of thyme, one of the best to counteract foot mycosis such as athlete's foot, immediately followed by cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves and finally mint, which it is also refreshing, ideal after a long walk (Inouye et al, Nihon Ishinkin Gakkai Zasshi, 2007). In a bowl pour a handful of coarse salt and add the essences that best suit you. For example, for a relaxing and beneficial foot bath for sleep you can pour 5 drops of orange essential oil and 5 drops of lavender. Add the salt with the essences to the foot bath and soak your feet. It has been observed that the salt added to the foot bath helps reduce fatigue, tiredness, but also pain in the case of foot and leg pain (Vakilinia et al, Complemet The Med, 2020)