Traditional Red Dao Medicinal Baths


My nomadic bare feet have carried me home after a crazy couple of months abroad.

I found myself enchanted by a little town nestled in the North Vietnamese mountains, the sun kissing the Chinese border as it parted the mist that envelopes Sa Pa each day.

Each day I would bathe in a wooden tub filled with scorching hot natural spring water prepared by the incredibly beautiful women of the Red Dao village tribe. In the tub with me floated bark and leaves and shrubbery full of medicinal magic used traditionally by the m’uong people to heal aches, pains and more serious diseases. The deep vermillion water smelled of raw earth and left an ochre tinge on my skin as it soaked into my body.

Back Down Under I have been playing around with some recipes for Aussie medicinal baths. Eucalyptus leaves and bark, pressed tea tree oil, coconut milk, sea salt, Himalayan salt, ginger and fresh rose petals are all good options.

Last night I found myself in so much pain that I couldn’t lift myself out of bed without hubs’ help. Don’t ask me what I’ve done but my spine got into some kind of mischief and was shooting sharp arrows up through my shoulder and neck like a pro archer. It was bad on Thursday night, okay on Friday night, kinda unpleasant on Saturday night. Excruciating throughout Sunday.

I ran a medicinal bath with whatever I could get my hands on and settled into the water to meditate – focusing on the pain in my spine and visualising a renewal process as the muscles relaxed so the vertebrae could heal.

Floating in the water was a lemon chopped into chunks, a few inches of fresh ginger, a shake of ginger powder, a handful of mint leaves, two cups of Epsom magnesium salts, a generous dash of apple cider vinegar, a spoonful of baking soda, and two teabags.

My thought process was: the teabags will take care of the pain. The magnesium salts will reduce the tension in the muscles around my spine and reduce the pressure around the injury. The rest of the natural medicine ingredients are highly anti-inflammatory and they’d relieve any kind of congestion around the injury. No nasty gut-damaging painkillers needed.

I don’t know what it was. Coincidence? The meditation? The natural medicine bath? A combination? A placebo effect?

I don’t really care. This morning I woke up with zero pain. Zilch. Like not even a niggle in my back. I had to cancel my doc appointment and x-rays. I wasn’t mad about that. Usually an injury that painful would pitter patter away over the days, getting less and less painful as time and good nutrition patched it up.

But this was like magic.

Big love x

Ps. This is simply my experience with medicinal baths. It should never be used to replace medical advice from a professional. Image from

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