At Four Corners Chinese Medicine, we use rejuvenating and restorative foot soaks as another method to experience the physiological benefits of botanical medicine. While not yet common in the West, Herbal foot soaks have been used for centuries in mainland China, and are more common in the mountainous regions of Sichuan and Tibet, where workers will frequent soaking parlors to heal from demanding labor.
These environments are similar to Durango, CO, whose citizens are known to engage in demanding physical activities that may also result in repetitive strains, sprains, and high elevation bruises.
During my student internship in Chinese medical college, I learned to use herbs from a raw herb pharmacy. Typically, the prescribed formula of medicinal herbs would be boiled twice, and the two decoctions combined to produce the drinking tea for the day.
For particular formulas, one of my teachers Susan Luo Hua would recommend a third boil, and this liquid was used to soak the feet! This was my first exposure to this technique, and now I am making this available to all of you! Thanks to our friends at Botanical Biohacking, this therapy is available in teabags, allowing you to prepare your own foot soaks at home!
Taking Care of Your Feet
For most of us, our feet receive little care and attention, yet they carry us wherever we go. Our feet create the foundation that grounds us and moves us through the world. Not only that, each foot has 7,000+ nerve endings, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and 26 bones.
According to Jiang Zaifeng, director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Health Department at the Bao Zhi Di Culture and Arts Salon, “The feet are very important in health maintenance. The ancient Chinese often compared the human body to a tree, with the torso as the trunk, the arms the branches and the feet the roots. It is said that a dying tree withers first in its roots, and an aging person first feels their health recede from the feet.” How we care for our feet can influence how the rest of our body functions.
Foot soaks work transdermally, absorbing the herbal ingredients through the skin into the blood stream, where they are distributed throughout the rest of the body. Active ingredients, including essential oils, triterpenoid compounds, and alkaloids, improve blood microcirculation, increase macrophages, repair damaged tissue, prevent muscle atrophy, reduce biofilms, and protect and restore the nervous system.
The foundation of the Tibetan Foot Soaks is their ability to promote the circulation of blood. Blood flow is key to restoring and maintaining health in the human body. As the herbal compounds move through the circulatory system, warmth and tingling is often felt rising from the feet, up the legs, into the low back, abdomen, chest and can even be felt all the way up to the head. We feel vitalized as open blood vessels deliver healthy nutrients and gases into our nerves, muscles, and internal organs.
Foot soaks are a relaxing and restorative method of absorbing and distributing the therapeutic compounds within botanical medicines.
Our foot soak formula is appropriate for most conditions, including:
Pain & Injury – Diabetic & Peripheral Neuropathy – Headaches & Migraines - Low Back Pain & Sciatica – Osteo & Rheumatoid Arthritis – Hormonal Imbalances & PMS – Insomnia, Stress, & Anxiety - Swollen Joints – Numbness & Tingling – Fibromyalgia – Muscle Aches – Tension – Digestion issues
Check out this video highlighting the research and cultural context of this special medicinal formula.
Benefits of the Herbs
Du Yi Wei (Herba Lamiophlomis Rotata) decreases pain and inflammation while increasing antioxidants. This is because of the effects on cytokines, which are cellular communicators. Cytokines are a group of proteins that are secreted by immune system cells and act as chemical messengers. They are released from one cell to affect the actions of other cells. Du Yi Wei also promotes red blood cell production and has a positive effect on arterial stenosis, which may be one reason people notice positive effects on their blood pressure. When our vascular health is optimal so is our longevity.
Qiang Huo (Rhizoma Notopterygii) has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal effects and has been shown to improve blood circulation to coronary arteries.
Hong Jing Tian (Rhodiola Tibetica) is an excellent heb for altitude sickness. This can be attributed to its ability to increase oxygen in the body. It can help with fatigue and improved immune function.
Zang Chang Pu (Rhizoma Acori Calami) is an herb with antimicrobial properties. Its aromatic nature has beneficial effects on the digestive system. Chang pu has been shown to improve blood flow into the stomach and the intestines and has a positive effect on digestive health. When digestive issues are present absorption of herbs can be difficult. This is why foot soaks can be beneficial as they are transdermally absorbed.
Ku Shen (Radix Sophora Fiavescentis) - research has confirmed that Ku Shen has broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects (antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic). It has an inhibitory effect on bacterial biofilms, which is mucus that bacteria cover themselves with to protect themselves from the body’s immune system attack.
Ai Ye (Folium Artemisia Argyi) contains strong volatile oils that have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Ai Ye has the ability to inhibit blood clotting and increase the secretion of bile.