A Hay Bath, also known as Heubad, Alpine Bath, or Alpine Hay Bath, is the practice of “bathing in hay,” which involves immersing oneself for a certain period of time in fermenting hay. Officially — in therapeutic terms — the activity is called Phytothermotherapy.
The hay (traditionally cut from Alpine mountain grass) releases heat from biodegradation (fermentation), which is thought to open up the bather’s pores, detoxify the body, soothe aches and pains, improve circulation, enhance the skin, stimulate metabolism, and promote general wellbeing. In fact, one could say that having a hay bath is a kind of Sweat Therapy.
Apart from the health benefits mentioned above, some claim that hay bathing can also alleviate sciatica, rheumatism, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sleep disorders, and burnout i.e. physical and emotional exhaustion. Moreover, depending on the plants, grasses, flowers, and blossoms the Alpine grass mixture contains, a hay bath can also be a type of Herbal Bath or even Aromatherapy.
For what it is, the heubad practice is said to have originated in Austria where a tired field worker supposedly rested in hay and afterwards felt extraordinary refreshed and rejuvenated. True or not, in the Alpine region taking hay baths has apparently been done for centuries (at least two to three hundred years), although it recently also became a trendy spa and wellness treatment.
In the past, hay baths were carried out in a rather straightforward manner. For instance, one would go to a farm and rest or sleep for a while on or immersed in a bunch of fermenting hay, or alternatively one would immerse oneself in a hole full with hot hay to take advantage of the beneficial effects.
However, today in spa and wellness centers typically four to five kilograms of hay is preheated in water. The “bather” then lays down naked on a recliner or bed and gets fully covered in hay. After that, the body gets wrapped in foil or in a blanket. Mind that a spa-style hay bath only takes about twenty to thirty minutes.
As is the case with all types of sweat therapies, participants should re-hydrate their bodies afterwards by drinking plenty of water.