Last summer I went on A Seaweed Adventure with Emma from Nevermind the Burdocks, who gave me an introduction to edible seaweed in the UK. I loved spending time with her looking in rock pools and walking along the shore line, so I wanted to learn more about seaweed for its therapeutic properties by making my own seaweed bath.
The meaning of the word Thalassotherapy, that you may have seen on a spa menu comes from the Greek word thalassa, meaning sea, refers to the use of seawater as a form of therapy. Seaweed has been traditionally used in bathhouses in places like Brittany and Ireland for centuries, for its therapeutic properties since it was observed by the French physiologist, René Quinton (1866–1925) that sea water has very similar properties to human blood plasma. Yet seaweed bathing in this country is not as common, yet the idea of a natural, simple remedy for relaxation and recovery really appeals to me.
The greatest benefit to seaweed bathing is that seaweed is rich in minerals and nutrients such as iodine and magnesium which aren’t so readily found in our diet, yet they improve circulation and promote relaxation and healing. Surprisingly seaweed also releases a gel rather like Aloe Vera which softens water and moisturises the skin naturally and can even improve conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
When made my own seaweed bath, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Something that had previously sounded rather exotic. I love the bath as a means to relax, but to begin with I did wonder if it was a bit odd to be chucking a bunch of seaweed I’d just picked up at the local beach in the bath and I was a little nervous that it would be slimy or even smell! But it wasn’t at all, instead it was fascinating to see the seaweed turn from a dark olive green to a bright and vibrant colour as if it had somehow been disguising itself. The water turned ever so slightly milky like frosted glass, but noticeably softer. To begin with I could dab my bunch of seaweed and feel its gel, but it quickly mixed with the water and rather than slimey the seaweed felt ever so clean. The experience overall was extremely satisfying as I hadn’t turned to any factory made bath potions, but had used something 100% natural.
While there are products on the market to make your own seaweed bath, making your own therapeutic seaweed bath at home is fun and easy. The seaweed traditionally used for seaweed baths is bladderwrack which is abundant along the British coast, recognisable by its bobbly air sacs at the tips of the plant, so you will be able to find some on your visit to the beach. Unlike the old fashioned bath houses, you don’t need to fill your whole bath with seaweed, just a handful will have an affect. You can also can combine your seaweed with your choice of essential oils and salts.
How to make your own seaweed bath:
- Remember to take a pair of scissors with you so that you can cut a bunch of seaweed from the rocks, leaving the ‘root’ attached. This means that the seaweed will be able to regrow and replenish itself quickly. Make sure that you are also aware of the tide times!
- Choose a clean place to collect your seaweed. Avoid harbour walls or places near water processing outlets, as seaweed is an excellent filter and will absorb the properties of its environment, which includes toxins as well as the good stuff.
- When you’ve collected your seaweed, you can store it in a chilled place such as the fridge. You can keep it here for a few days before use.
- If you have a piece of muslin, you may like to make a pouch for your seaweed which you can hang on the tap. The mermaid in me however is happy to share a bath with handsome bunch of seaweed so I plonk it straight in the tub.
- Run the hot tap first with your seaweed in the bath or on the tap, it will turn a vibrant green. Wait a few moments as the seaweed will also release its gel like substance which quickly disperses into the water. Then run the cold tap to bring your bath to a comfortable temperature.
- Sit back and relax for at least 20 minutes
- When you’ve finished, you can put your piece of seaweed on the garden or onto a compost heap to use as fertiliser.