The ‘banho de cheiro’ (a typical herbal scented bath) from the North and Northeast of Brazil was made famous in a pulsating frevo song from singer Elba Ramalho that left the whole country thirsty for a bath. A natural and relaxing therapy, with healing properties that combines indigenous, African and even Catholic traditions, the banho de cheiro was also mixed with the music to become even more popular.
Now, the scented bath has made its return in the carimbó song Banzeiro, of the renowned composer from Pará, Dona Onete, and sung by Daniela Mercury. Elected the music of carnival 2018 in Salvador, Banzeiro brings an irreverent invitation for “a rainshower, a “banho de cheiro” and then to play in the banzeiro” – slang Paraense word for a hectic river.
But what is a banho de cheiro?
For years the scented baths with local aromatic herbs have accompanied the daily life of people who are connected with nature in the North and Northeast of the country. In Pará, they have gained even more special traditions with Amazonian herbs and the “erveiras”, women specialists that sell their herbs, in natura or in bottles, in the iconic Ver-o-Peso market, in Belém.
“It is a cultural activity passed down from generation to generation. The “banho de cheiro” can bring good fluids, positive energies and discourage negative thoughts and energies”, says Roselea Oliveira de Almeida, a founding partner of the Belém Islands Women’s Movement (MMIB), who uses herbs grown in her own yard to prepare scented baths at the association’s events.
Come on a trip through Pará
More recently, the banhos de cheiro became a tradition also during the feasts of São João, in the month of June, promising health, prosperity, money and even marriage. At this time, the “erveiras” from Ver-o-Peso market are sought after by several clients for consultations and many come back every year, ensuring that the bath has worked accordingly. The mixture for the bath can carry herbs like basil, priprioca, pataqueira, alevante, esturaque, rue, plow, patchoulí, lavender, rosemary and many others. You can even take a banho de cheiro in the shower, but the real scented bath is the river bath!
The scented bath is one of the delicious experiences of our itinerary “Secrets and Spices of the Amazon“, where the tourist can relax and experience an authentic regional tradition. On the Island of Cotijuba, one of the 42 islands of the Belém archipelago, the sensation of going back in time and recovering energies has a taste of river diving and the aroma of Amazonian herbs.