In the uphill quest for winter warmth, even the most ardent shower-loyalists will consider getting into a bath. It’s the siren song of full-body immersion; the phrase “deep soak” registers the opposite of “bone-chilling.” You tell yourself, If I just stay submerged till my fingers turn pruney, I probably won’t have to be cold again.
But it never quite works out that way, does it? Your shoulders find a draft, or your bathwater somehow has errant bits of grass floating around in it. After a few minutes you inevitably feel kind of grimy and bored. The shower starts look pretty good again.
Now, I can’t help with those bits of grass, except to say you probably should give that tub a regular wipe-down. But I can help with the boredom, and even a little with those chilly shoulders. Or rather, mustard bath can help.
Yes, mustard—in your bath. Not with anything out of your fridge though. This calls for mustard powder, mixed with some other cool (and by cool, I mean warming) stuff, delivers a mid-winter thaw that finally makes bathing worthwhile.
The remedy has been around for centuries, with evidence of its use in ancient Greece and Rome, and as part of traditional Ayurvedic and old English medicines. Made from ground mustard seeds, it was added to bathwater to soothe muscle aches and provide relief for those suffering from colds and fevers.
Lasting Touch Professional Therapy Mustard Bath, the first brand I tried after stumbling upon it at a health food store, smells medicinal and mentholated, and tingles on impact, making that numb-extremities feeling one gets after a walk in the snow extend at least 10 minutes beyond its usual shelf life. Of the options here, we’ll call it the “spiciest;” it’s also the most pigmented, lending a questionable golden tinge to the water (don’t worry, it’s non-staining).
Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath, with its distinctive blue and yellow packaging, is probably the most widely known, and widely available—sold in a variety of sizes in stores and online. The formula, beloved by Olympic athletes, was the creation of naturopathic Dr. Shyam Singha, whose company places focus on the pore-opening, detoxifying aspects of its mustard-based product line. Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath provides gentle warmth and has a slight sweeter, more wintergreen-infused scent than Lasting Touch.
Finally, I’ll recommend Fig+Yarrow's Mustard Soak, created by apothecary artisan Brandy Monique. Recently, I was able to speak with her about the therapeutic aspects of mustard, especially in combination with other botanicals. I took this opportunity to ask about best practices for modern-day mustard-bathing. “I’d recommend its use post-workout or post-indulgence,” she said. “The soak has a natural ‘icy hot’ quality to it, in combining the heat of the mustard with the coolness of oils like eucalyptus and rosemary.” Epsom salts are a part of the Fig+Yarrow formula, making this soak pretty effervescent. It’s also the most mild (and pleasantly) scented and colored of the lot.
The internet, that great open source cookbook, has a variety of recipes for DIY mustard baths, should you want to try your hand at a homemade version. But for tried, true, and expertly prepared products, the above are great choices for those looking to add a little spice to their steam.
Photographed by Benjamin Jurgensen. Read more about bathing here.