External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

Oak Bark Footbath

Kind of substance

Quercus (oak bark)

Guiding principle for the application

Oak trees convey stability and firm anchoring in the ground. They can also grow clinging to rocky terrain.
Oak beams have long been used to build houses, ships and other structures that will last for centuries (Venice, for example, was built on oak trunks).
No other tree has such intensive bark formation. In the Middle Ages, court rulings took place under trees.
Abysmal cardinal crimes were tried under oaks, in contrast to tilia trees (lime trees), where finer matters were discussed.

The healing secret of oak trees: under their bark, which is a dead substance, there is an extremely vital layer that enlivens and renews.
We use this characteristic for patients who have gotten into a state of exhaustion over a long period of time and become ill as a result – to build up their strength and firm standing.

The maturing processes of this tree help the human organism to be able to set boundaries for itself, so that its forces no longer flow away but are led back into the organism. Patients learn to distinguish again: what do I have to cope with to survive on this earth? And where can I or must I say ‘No’ because it would use up my strength?


Exhaustion (see example cases)
Foot mycosis (athlete’s foot)
Chronically cold feet
Convalescence (see example cases)


Oak bark is used both as an essence and as a brew from the bark (dried & cut).
If you cook the brew yourself, it is a good idea to make it more concentrated. This concentrate (stored in the refrigerator) can be used for 5 baths diluted with water.


  • 1 tablespoon oak bark (or 5 tablespoons for a concentrate); or 3 tablespoons essence
  • Pot with 1 liter water
  • Tub in which both feet have space next to each other and can stand up to the ankles in water
  • Warm water for the footbath
  • A piece of fabric (terrycloth towel, small woolen blanket, garment or similar) to cover the knees
  • Hand towel (to dry the feet. Note: the towel gets stains that cannot be removed!)
  • Wool socks

Prepare the brew:
  • Cover 1 tablespoon of oak bark pieces (or 5 tbsp. for the concentrate) in 1 liter of cold water and allow to stand for at least 8 hours
  • Bring to a boil, leave standing on the switched off hotplate for at least 15 minutes

  • Fill the footbath tub with warm water, 38°C (100.4°F)
  • Put the whole brew (or about 100 ml of the concentrate, or 3 tbsp. essence) into the footbath tub
  • Check the temperature! It should be pleasantly warm (approximately at body temperature)
  • Have the patient sit down and place his feet next to each other in the water. The water should cover the ankles
  • Cover the knees with the hand towel
  • Duration: 7 minutes
  • Take the patient's feet out of the water, dry off, put on wool socks
  • 30 minutes of post-treatment rest (lying down)

  • Clean up

Has worked well for many patients
1 x daily, preferable in the evenings
Onset of effect
Immediate, increasing over the period of treatment

Instructions to download

Case example

Example case 1
A 78-year-old female patient, still mobile and active in a variety of ways, has become so exhausted that inpatient treatment becomes necessary (in the clinic Belegklinik für Homöotherapie Heidenheim). Her complex treatment according to Anthroposophic Medicine includes the prescription of evening oak bark footbaths. Dominant feelings connected with her exhaustion are unaccustomed weakness, a feeling of general helplessness, hopelessness and ice-cold feet. During the Quercus footbaths she starts to regularly experience a reliable mild warming of her feet and at the same time a sense of clear peace that starts from below and rises up into her whole body. Thanks to this experience, the footbaths became a good basis for physical and mental strengthening.

Example case 2
A 28-year-old female patient reports on her condition of severe exhaustion and feeling “thin-skinned”, as well as getting too cold after an influenza infection; in addition, she has persistently ice-cold hands and feet; she can only fall asleep with difficulty and gets up with difficulty in the morning. The patient experienced clear strengthening and being warmed through from this treatment and was then quickly able to work again.
She described the effect of the Quercus footbath: “It brought me down and relieved me” – clearly an effect different from lavender or ginger footbaths, which were also tried. The patient described the difference to the ginger footbath: “It was a completely different experience of warmth. I experienced Quercus as being much softer and warmer and was able to keep it longer. Ginger, on the other hand, was “hotter” and the heat remained more in the legs.”

Example case 3
A 75-year-old female patient with a protracted ascending urinary tract infection with fever attacks and pain in the kidney region complained of severe exhaustion after the symptoms subsided. She had to be admitted to a hospital because of increased inflammation and kidney parameters. The Quercus footbath gave her an experience of ascending warmth, as if “someone is pushing a heating sole into my shoes”. After the footbath she felt a strong tiredness and could sleep very well.




  • Rispens JA. Die Eiche – Baum des Überflusses; Der Merkurstab 3/2011
  • Meyer U. Die Gerbstoff-Therapie des Bronchial Asthma; Der Merkurstab 2/2007
  • Kröz M et al., Zum Krankheitsverständnis und zur Behandlung des Restless-legs-Syndroms; Der Merkurstab 4/2007