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Difference Between Herbal Bath and Onsen

Updated: Apr 30

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, the focus on both physical and mental well-being has become an increasingly pursued goal. In this process, herbal bath and Onsen, two ancient wellness practices with profound cultural roots, are regaining widespread attention.

Herbal bath, carrying the wisdom of millennia, have played a significant role in Chinese culture with their unique herbal formulas and therapeutic effects. In comparison, Onsen offer a natural way of relaxation through their inherent warmth and distinctive mineral components.

This blog will delve into the distinct wellness practices of traditional Chinese herbal baths and Onsen, exploring their differences in origin, components, benefits, cultural nuances, and suitability for various individuals. By comparing these two approaches in terms of physical health and mental soothing, we aim to assist you in making a more informed choice for a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. Join us on this journey of body and mind, experiencing the fascinating blend of tradition and modernity in the path to wellness.


Herbal Bath and Hot Springs: Components and Benefits

Herbal Bath:


The core of traditional Chinese herbal bath lies in the herbal components derived from plants. Different herbal combinations create various unique infusion solutions, which may include ingredients like ginseng, angelica sinensis (dang gui), Ligusticum wallichii (chuan xiong), among others. These herbal elements contain rich essential oils, alkaloids, and trace elements, releasing beneficial active compounds through water decoction or infusion.


  • Meridian Unblockage: The herbal components in the bath aid in unblocking meridians, promoting the circulation of qi and blood, and helping alleviate bodily fatigue.

  • Blood Activation and Stasis Resolution: The herbal ingredients facilitate blood circulation, assisting in the removal of accumulated substances within the body and improving microcirculation.

  • Regulation of Qi and Blood: The herbal components in the bath play a role in adjusting the balance of qi and blood, contributing to the overall balance of the body's yin and yang.



Onsen is derived from underground sources that rise to the surface and are heated. Its unique composition primarily includes sulfates, bicarbonates, chlorides, radon gas, among other minerals. These minerals have various positive effects on the skin and the body.


  • Skin Care: The minerals in Onsen nourish and moisturize the skin, slowing down the aging process.

  • Muscle Relaxation: The warmth of hot spring water helps relax muscles, alleviating joint pain and making it suitable for relieving muscle soreness after physical activity.

  • Calming the Nervous System: The minerals in hot spring water contribute to calming the nervous system, reducing tension and anxiety.

Comparison and Integration:

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbal bath and Onsen have distinctive features in terms of their components and effects. The former emphasizes the natural active ingredients of plants, focusing on the regulation of qi and blood. In contrast, the latter utilizes minerals in underground water to provide comprehensive care for both the skin and the body. The choice between the two should depend on individual needs, whether leaning towards overall meridian regulation or seeking a combined effect for skin care. In the next section, we will delve into the differences in therapeutic effects and the suitable populations for these two health-promoting methods.


Therapeutic Effects of TCM Herbal Bath:

  1. Menstrual Irregularities: Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal bath are believed to be effective in addressing menstrual irregularities due to their warming properties and the regulatory effects of herbal components. Specific herbal ingredients can help balance the female physiological cycle.

  2. Rheumatic Pain: For rheumatic pain, the warmth of herbal bath aids in soothing joints and muscles. Additionally, the blood-activating and stasis-resolving properties of herbal components can alleviate pain.

  3. Sleep Disorders: Some herbal components have calming and sleep-promoting characteristics. Therefore, herbal baths are utilized by some individuals to alleviate mild sleep issues.

Therapeutic Effects of Onsen:

  1. Skin Conditions Treatment: Minerals in hot spring water are considered beneficial for certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, offering relief and treatment effects.

  2. Arthritis: The warmth and minerals in hot springs can alleviate pain and swelling associated with arthritis, improving joint mobility.

  3. Stress and Anxiety: The relaxing effects of hot springs contribute to easing bodily tension and reducing mental stress, offering positive effects for symptoms of anxiety.

Case Studies or Research:

  • Research Case: Some studies suggest that components like Angelica sinensis (danggui) and Ligusticum chuanxiong (chuanxiong) in herbal baths have a positive impact on improving the menstrual cycle in women, especially when combined with traditional treatment methods.

  • Real-life Case: Certain hot spring resorts have reported numerous real-life cases where patients with arthritis experienced reduced pain and improved joint mobility after soaking in hot springs.

Comparison and Integration:

Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal baths and hot springs share some commonalities in therapeutic effects, such as pain relief and promotion of blood circulation. However, they also have their unique strengths. When choosing a treatment method, it is essential to consider the specific disease or discomfort symptoms comprehensively. In the next step, we will delve into their differences in terms of experience, environment, and the populations they are suitable for.

Herbal Bath



Rooted in ancient Chinese culture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the human body as a harmonious entity. According to TCM principles, maintaining the balance of Qi, blood, and meridians is crucial for overall health and well-being. Herbal baths, considered a vital method, are believed to harmonize the Qi and blood circulation, providing a means to soothe both the body and mind, aligning with the fundamental philosophy of balancing Yin and Yang.

In Japan, hot springs are revered as an experience deeply influenced by tradition and culture. Japanese individuals often consider soaking in hot springs as a ritual for cleansing the body and mind. Hot spring resorts have also become places for relaxation and contemplation, offering individuals a space to unwind and reflect.


In the cultural context of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) bathing, there is a strong emphasis on nature, and a meticulous consideration of adapting to the seasonal changes in accordance with the natural rhythms. Various herbal plants are selected to align with the climatic variations of each season. This cultural philosophy prioritizes the harmony between individual constitution and the environment.

In Europe, hot springs are regarded as a symbol of luxury and a wellness retreat. Europeans often perceive hot spring therapy as an elegant activity for relaxation and fatigue alleviation. Simultaneously, it serves as a social occasion for communal interaction.

Health concept

Traditional Chinese Medicine Bathing Emphasizes the Balance of Body, Mind, and Spirit, Integrating Wellness into All Aspects of Life.

Hot springs may emphasize material enjoyment and relaxation in a natural environment.


Traditional Chinese medicine herbal baths focus more on overall health and regulation, suitable for individuals seeking physical and mental balance, as well as harmony in Qi and blood.

On the other hand, hot springs are more suitable for individuals concerned with skin and joint health due to their mineral composition.

Herbal Bath and Onsen, each with its unique characteristics, are ancient and effective wellness methods. The choice depends on individual needs; Herbal Bath focuses on overall regulation, suitable for those emphasizing mind-body balance. In contrast, Onsen, characterized by natural minerals, are suitable for those seeking localized treatment and skin health. Ultimately, based on personal preferences and health conditions, choosing the appropriate method can achieve a more comprehensive and personalized wellness outcome.


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