The benefits of Epsom salt are fairly well understood nowadays. But this wasn’t always the case.
Epsom salts were first discovered in 1618 in the English town of Epsom. A local cattle rancher noticed that his animals’ wounds were healed more quickly when they drank from the bitter, bubbling waters of a nearby underwater spring. Due to the reputation of Epsom salt, the town became a spa destination for travelers from all over England.1,2
What You Should Know About Magnesium Sulfate: What Is Epsom Salt? Is It Actually “Salt?”
What Is Epsom Salt?
Magnesium sulfate is a saline laxative used for occasional relief of constipation, among many other benefits. It is more commonly known as Epsom salt.3 Chemically, all Epsom salts contain two minerals: magnesium and sulfate.4
Okay, But Is It Salt?
Epsom salt is called a salt because of its chemical structure. In chemistry, a salt is a substance produced when an acid and a base react. When placed into a liquid solution, salts separate into ions and are able to conduct electricity. Like sodium chloride (common table salt), magnesium sulfate has these ionic characteristics, however, it is an entirely different compound than table salt.5
Epsom Salt Contains Magnesium. Why Is This Mineral So Important To The Body?
Epsom salt is made from magnesium. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body.
Magnesium is essential for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the human body.6 It’s involved in DNA and RNA synthesis, reproduction, and protein synthesis. It also acts to regulate muscle contractions, blood pressure, and nerve transmission in the body, among other factors. On the flip side, a lack of magnesium may result in certain health issues.7
There are a whole slew of ways to benefit from the magnesium present in Epsom salt.
How Might Epsom Salt Be Beneficial For The Body?
Epsom salts have a number of potential skin, beauty, fitness, and health benefits. Epsom salts should only be used externally and with the approval of your doctor.
There is anecdotal evidence that soaking in Epsom salts may help calm irritated skin. This might be because the magnesium in Epsom salts could reduce irritation and dry up the skin. The result is less oil and less moisture for germs to thrive. The salt also acts as an exfoliator to remove dead skin cells and soften rough, dry skin.8
On the flip side, too much Epsom salt may result in dry skin.9 As such, use it sparingly – especially at first, until you know how your own skin will react. Never use Epsom salt if you have any open wound, severe burn, or rash on the skin. If you’re not sure how your skin might react, talk to your doctor or dermatologist first.
Stress And Sore Muscles
Soaking in a tub of water saturated with Epsom salt may help ease muscle tension and aches and encourage relaxation.10
Epsom salts were originally used for their laxative effects and continue to be used for digestive support.11 Soaking in an Epsom salt bath enables magnesium to be absorbed into your muscles, relaxing the abdomen and therefore potentially aiding with digestion.12
Toxins In The Body
Most of the potential benefits from Epsom salt are related to its magnesium content. In some cases, though, it is the sulfate ions in the salts that provide a beneficial effect. These ions may help draw out toxins and heavy metals from cells and harmful bacteria from the intestines.13
Can Epsom Salts Be Harmful If Used Too Much?
By now, you know some of the potential benefits of Epsom salts.14 But too much Epsom salt may result in a host of side effects such as dry skin, diarrhea, upset stomach, or more serious issues.15,16 Always discuss with your doctor before using Epsom salts.
Also, when purchasing Epsom salt, verify that the package is labeled “USP” and has a “drug facts” box. That means it has been tested for human use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).17
External/Topical Epsom Salt: Soaking In An Epsom Salt Bath
To make an Epsom salt soak, dissolve 2 cups under warm water (approximately 92-100°F) in a standard-sized bathtub. Running water will help the salt to dissolve. When all the salt is dissolved, soak for 20 minutes or longer. After the bath, rest for at least an hour afterward as magnesium is known to induce sleep and promote melatonin production.18
You can also add a few drops of therapeutic essential oils for an even more relaxing bath detox. These include lavender, vanilla, and eucalyptus oil. Before adding these oils to the bath, dilute them with a carrier oil such as almond oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.19
Bath Time Recipes: Mix Your Epsom Salt Soaks With Dead Sea Salts And Essential Oils For A Spa Experience At Home
The waters of the Dead Sea, located in Israel, have long been thought to have potentially therapeutic properties, including supporting joint and skin health.20,21 The concentration of magnesium in these waters is very high – nearly 4 times that of the ocean.22,23 You can purchase salts that are actually from the Dead Sea.
Taking an Epsom salt bath mixed with Dead Sea salts might be a great way to integrate their combined benefits.
An Epsom Salt Soak with Dead Sea salts can be made with the following ingredients:
- ½ cup Epsom salts
- ¼ cup Dead Sea salt
- 6-8 drops essential oil (lavender, vanilla, and eucalyptus oil are excellent options)
- Combine Epsom salts and Dead Sea salt into a bowl and stir well to mix them.
- Add essential oils to the salt mixture and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a bath and dissolve under warm running water.24
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