After a long hike or an intense day full of cultural immersion, how about relazing in a hot herbal bath? The Red Dao people are famed for their ancient herbal bath said to cure almost anything, and can be experienced at Quyen homestay.
The leaves of the herbal bath are all foraged in the nearby forest by local women. Finding the right herbs requires them to go off-track and climb through thick jungle and across difficult terrain. If you want a real hiking challenge, this is the trip to join!
Fresh or dried medicinal plants are chopped, put in a large pot and then boiled with firewood continuously for 30-45 minutes, until the water changes color and has the same quality as wine. The medicated water is then poured into a round wooden barrel, with lukewarm water added to the bath. The quality of the bathtub is very important – the bathtub must be made of pomu wood, a very durablewood with a characteristic aroma of essential oils and beautiful wood grain. The small bathroom is closed, and the steam from the bath water rises in harmony with the aroma of the wood forming a characteristic smell.
A long history
In Vietnam, there is a funny saying which goes like: “The Thai King Dao Thai Mong people” – in just one sentence four ethnic groups are mentioned, the Kinh, Dao, Thai and Meo. The Red Dao people are known for their traditional herb bath that can cure many illnesses.
The story goes that from a long time ago, the Red Dao people were ethnic minority people scattered in the mountainside and close to the nature of plants. Thus, whenever they are sick, or injured, they would find medicine leaves to treat themselves. Over time, they found a remedy that could cure many diseases and has since used it for a long time. This remedy was kept and passed down from generation to generation for women in the home. It is now a treatment used in every season in the Dao community.
No one in the Red Dao community knows exactly how long the Red Dao herbal bath has been used, but since using this remedy, sick and ill people has been cured.
Universal health benefits
The herbs in the Red Dao herbal bath have medicinal qualities, and many of them are skin-friendly, including Kim Ngan, star fruit, cumin, drip leaf, camphor, and good for osteoarthritis, including apple, green earth, millennia, forest peach, esophagus, tam son, refuge, guise leaves. Many of them also have an effect on the digestive tract, including lemongrass, anise, cinnamon etc. Using this bath regularly will reveal its potency and efficacy on the body.
Due to the specific terrain, medical procedures are often conducted by the people themselves. The use of herbal water for bathing and sterilization is thus inevitable and indispensable. Women who have just given birth would bathe in herbal water to improve their blood circulation and restore their health very quickly, so that Dao women can quickly return to the field to farm, sometimes even carrying a newborn baby with them. Men with colds, stress, fatigue can also use herbal bath water, to eliminate fatigue, enhance vitality, and detoxify the body.
For the elderly, herbal bath treatment can help to alleviate rheumatism, bone pain, limb numbness, sweating hands and smelly feet. Children who bathe regularly in herbal baths can also avoid pimples and skin diseases.
The herbal bath is said to cure nearly all diseases, including severe wounds, broken bones, sprains, skin diseases, incurable diseases, stomach diseases and respiratory diseases like inflammation, tuberculosis, and asthma.
The herbal bath of the Red Dao people is not merely a method of health care of ethnic people, but also a constituent element of Dao’s cultural identity.