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Image: Chris Potako (flickr/chrispotako), CC BY 2.0

The past couple of weeks haven’t quite been a vacation. I suspect most of us are anxious to get back to work. As we “non-essentials” alternate between quasi-homesteading and daily constitutionals, many of us may be filling the time gaps with DIY projects; or at least, looking for something to do.

Here’s a project: foot bath.

A foot bath doesn’t sound like your typical DIY activity. However, for a western culture not generally accustomed to herbal self-care, this can very well turn into a big task.

China loves foot baths. At least, compared to anyone I know. In China—and in Chinese medicine therapies around the world—herbs are often added to foot baths, depending on the therapeutic goal.

The following foot bath is a recent recommendation in China for home care and prevention of COVID-19. The recipe includes several herbs commonly used in Chinese medicine for infectious or inflammatory diseases.

Not all herbs are required. But the more you include, the broader the therapeutic spectrum. While a few of the herbs are common, most will likely be unfamiliar to you. This is where the DIY-sense starts to seep in—as you learn about and collect these herbs.

The herb collecting may be challenging. But you might be fortunate to have a local Chinese herbal pharmacy—that remains open. If so, I’ve included the Chinese (pinyin) names to aid your herb run.

Foot Bath Recipe

15 grams each:

  • Nepeta (jing jie)
  • Wormwood (qing hao)
  • Mint (bo he)
  • Houttuynia (yu xing cao)
  • Woad leaf (da qing ye)
  • Eupatorium fortune (pei lan)
  • Acorus tatarinowii (shi chang pu)
  • Polygonum flaccidum (la liao; la ma liao; or liao zi cao)
  • Turmeric root (yu jin)
  • Clove (ding xiang)

Plus, 3 grams of borneol [Important for aiding absorption of herbal compounds through the skin.]

Source: World Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies (WFAS), Beijing, China.

The herbs are prepared by decoction; by combining all ingredients, adding water, and bringing to a boil before simmering for about 20 minutes. Then strain the herbs.

The decoction is generally cooled to 100-110 °F to allow foot soaking for 30 minutes. Pour the decoction into a foot basin and top it off with warm water until feet are submerged.

You can increase the dosages proportionately to make a larger batch to be stored in the fridge. Just reheat or add warm water to the foot basin for each soak. Do not re-use a decoction that has already been soaked in. Scientifically, because that’s gross.


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