The Medicinal Bath in China
The Chinese practice of medicinal bathing reaches back thousands of years, with various herbs added to the water to boost health. Over time, such methods were refined for specific purposes, such as gynaecology and dermatology. Even without expert input, people would add certain ingredients to their baths according to whatever symptoms they were experiencing; they would also harness the aesthetic benefits of bathing, with ingredients aimed at improving skin and hair quality. Emotional and mental wellbeing were also maintained by the practice of bathing and the addition of certain plants, herbs and flowers.
Today, in the remote reaches of South West China, the Yao people use a fiercely-guarded recipe, which has been passed down through generations, of a variety of herbs to dispel toxins and promote hygiene. Listed as a piece of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the medicated bath is made by adding the herbs in a certain order, and boiling for a specific amount of time. The concoction is then transferred to a barrel, and more water added, before people bathe in it. A sequence also applies to the order of bathing: older people take precedence over younger ones; males before females, and guests before hosts. To complete the ritual, faces are washed with clean water after the bath has been taken.