This is how to bring the spa to your space

If the stress of this year is beginning to catch up with you, why not add an in-home spa day to your quarantine staycation? Light some candles, cue up a playlist, and enjoy a relaxing herbal bath, along with some hot tea.

For me, part of enjoying some downtime means not having to do a lot of clean up afterwards. So, while it makes for a lovely picture to float handfuls of herbs in a bathtub, I tend to go for a less messy method. There are two great options here—you can add your herbs to a reusable muslin bag and hang it from the faucet, so that the water pours through the herbs as you fill the tub. Or you can brew those same herbs up in a French press as a strong, concentrated tea that you can into your hot bath. Both methods are very effective, requiring minimal work after you’ve enjoyed your bath.

Here are two herbal bath soak recipes for you to try. You can mix up a batch of one or both to keep on hand. For each bath, use 1 cup of herbal mixture. Each recipe makes enough for three baths.

Photo by Elly Johnson on Unsplash

For a calming, soothing bath:

1½ C. dry oats

½ C. chamomile

½ C. calendula

¼ C. rose petals

¼ C. lavender buds

For a cleansing, clarifying bath:

1½ C. Epsom salts

½ C. peppermint

½ C. lemon balm

¼ C. dried ginger root

¼ C. rosemary

For those who don’t have a bathtub in their home, never fear! You can use this herbal blend as a foot soak instead, as long as you have a large basin that you can comfortably fit your feet into. Watch your favorite show and enjoy a mug of tea, while you pamper your feet a little bit.

If you’d like some tea to go with your bath, or to enjoy afterwards, here’s my current favorite tea blend. It’s so simple to put together and only has four ingredients. You’ll mix together 3 parts nettles, 3 parts elderflowers, 2 parts rose hips, and 1 part rosemary. You can keep a container of this blend on hand and then portion some out as needed. To make: steep two teaspoons of the herb blend per cup of water. Leave covered for 10-15 minutes to help retain the volatile oils of the herbs. Sweeten if desired, and enjoy!

If you want to go beyond herbal baths and add some luxury to your day-to-day, why not create your own facial cleanser? This is called Queen of Hungary’s Water; its exact origin is unknown and variations of the recipe abound. Here’s my version that I love to use after a bath or shower. You can customize it to your own preferences very easily.

Photo by Nia Ramirez on Unsplash

In a small mason jar, combine equal parts of these herbs:

  • lemon balm - rose petals
  • chamomile - calendula
  • comfrey leaves - rosemary

Pour apple cider vinegar into the jar, until the liquid is several inches above the herbs. Cap the jar, putting wax paper under the lid if the lid is metal. Keep out of direct sunlight and shake daily.

After 3 weeks, strain out the herbs and save the liquid. The herbs can be composted. However much liquid you have, add an equal amount of witch hazel and mix well. This will keep for quite a long time and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. For ease of use, transfer to a squirt bottle. Apply using a cotton pad or a reusable cloth pad.

Or maybe you feel like getting outside to enjoy some of this fall weather? Grab your phone, get a plant identification app such as iNaturalist or PlantNet, and head out to one of our area’s many amazing parks. Challenge yourself to identify at least ten new-to-you plants or trees. You’ll get some fresh air and a chance to enjoy the changing leaves while you’re at it!

You might spot some hawthorn berries or rosehips on your walk, but this is an especially great time of year to focus on learning about the diversity of trees that Tennessee has to offer.

Here’s a little tree-focused scavenger hunt for you:

  • See if you can identify both a red oak and a white oak. Compare the tips of the leaves. How can you tell them apart?
  • Can you find a willow tree? Look up some of the traditional herbal uses of willow bark. Willow is also a common material for weaving baskets.
  • Can you find a maple tree? What other types of trees that grow in Tennessee can be tapped to make syrup?
  • Acorns are beginning to fall to the ground… Try to find at least two different types of nuts and identify what they are and what type of tree they came from.
  • What evergreens can you find around you? What do you notice about their leaf structures compared to the other trees you’ve looked at so far?
  • Virginia CreeperVirginia Creeper is a vine that loves to wrap itself around trees here. Its leaves are already turning bright red. Can you find any on the trees you’re looking at?
  • Do you see any mimosa trees? (Sorry, they don’t have any yummy brunch drinks growing on them!) In the spring, these trees have bright pink flower tufts, but at this time of year you’ll probably see long, dried seed pods on the branches.
  • One of my favorite trees is the tulip poplar. Their uniquely shaped leaves are yellow this time of year. Can you find one? If you do, make sure to visit again in the spring to enjoy this tree’s gorgeous flowers!

Were you able to complete all 8 items on the scavenger hunt? If so, treat yourself to a nice herbal foot soak from one of the recipes above—your feet will thank you after your walk or hike.

Please note that most parks have specific rules about harvesting any plants. We are simply encouraging you to take photographs!

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