If you have come to see me at the clinic, then there is a good chance that I’ve advised you to take a nice, hot foot bath in the evenings. Regularly soaking the feet in hot water for 20 minutes is a relaxing way to improve one’s health in subtle yet powerful ways. I often suggest this practice for issues surrounding poor sleep, anxiety, muscle tremors, suspended menstruation, and digestive complaints. Long used as a longevity exercise in China, hot foot baths can help us maintain excellent health and decompress after a busy day.
The key to understanding the deep benefits of foot baths is to look at the meridians, one of the central concepts in traditional Chinese medicine. Meridians are thought of as channels of energy that course through the body in a predictable fashion. One of the best techniques to create change at one end of any particular meridian is to stimulate its opposite end. Three of the twelve meridians begin around the eyes and travel to the toes. Soaking the feet in hot water relaxes and warms those meridians and can help gently draw energy and tension away from the eyes and head. This is important because as modern Americans, we tend to overuse our eyes. We drive, read, and use electronic screens for both work and pleasure. Hot foot baths, taken at the end of the day, help relax our overworked eyes and brains and prepare us for deep, restful sleep.
As the surplus energy is drawn down into our feet, it meets the next set of meridians, ones that begin at the toes. These meridians move the excess energy back up to the internal organs. Once there, it is reprocessed, then it helps organs such as the liver and kidneys rejuvenate and get ready to cleanse our blood while we sleep. The gentle heat from the foot bath adds to this energizing effect while relaxing tense and tired muscles. This soothing transfer of energy is why I recommend foot baths to so many patients. A simple foot bath can be very beneficial! The key is to make this a regular practice. For deeper relaxation, you can add your favorite essential oils or Epsom salts; however, it is not absolutely necessary. The hot water alone is enough.
Caution: There are a few conditions where I would not recommend hot foot baths. Heat-based conditions, such as high fever or strong hot flashes, may be exacerbated by soaking your feet in hot water. Similarly, any condition where there is a loss of sensation in the feet can lead to burns. Never heat the water above 110° F. Newly pregnant women or women with unstable pregnancies should also not take hot foot baths due to the light downward draining effect. Enjoy foot baths when appropriate, but always err on the side of caution.
[written by Charles]