How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath?


Last Updated October 11th, 2019

Why do you need Epsom salt?

Epsom salt has been used in the treatment of several illnesses in the past. When used in the right measure and only as frequently as recommended, it is quite beneficial. It is primarily used to treat stress and muscle soreness. However, its benefits do not stop there. Being cheap and easily affordable, its popularity has only increased in the recent past. Being beneficial for both mind as well as body, it is very often recommended by those who practice integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is a branch of medicine that seeks to treat the mind and body at the same time.

What is Epsom salt?

Chemically, it is magnesium sulfate. Epsom salt was first discovered in a bitter and saline spring located at Epsom in Surrey, England, and hence the name. Though resembling table salt in appearance, it’s chemical composition is very different. It is also not recommended to use it instead of table salt, as it is unpalatable. Though it is consumed by some by dissolving in water, you certainly do not want to add this to any food. Because it is usually dissolved in baths, it is also referred to as a bath salt.

Magnesium sulfate has been of use in treating conditions of insomnia, constipation, and fibromyalgia in the past. However, sufficient research is not yet available in these areas to justify its use. Magnesium is what makes Epsom salt so beneficial. It is an accepted fact that most people are deficient in magnesium.

How does Epsom salt work?

When Epsom salt dissolves in water, it releases both magnesium and sulfate ions. It is believed that these particles are easily absorbed through the skin, providing magnesium and sulfate ions to the body— which are essential to the body. Epsom salt is commonly used as an additive in hot water baths.

It is also present as an active ingredient in many skin creams and laxatives. How is Epsom salt beneficial to the body? The therapeutic effectiveness of Epsom salt baths is based on anecdote and not actual research. However, research shows that when taken orally it is beneficial to the body.

It is a source of magnesium

Magnesium, one of the most essential minerals in the body, is necessary for many of its functions. It is very important for the proper functioning of your heart and the nervous system. Most people have at least a small deficiency of magnesium because their diet does not contain enough food sources that contain this valuable mineral. Dietary phytates affect the rate of magnesium absorption in the body. This can also lead to magnesium deficiency.

In such cases, magnesium sulfate is available for intake as a supplement. However, some claim that magnesium sulfate is better absorbed through a salt bath. But this claim has not been supported by any evidence. The people who believe in this claim use a study that was conducted in 19 individuals as reference. The magnesium levels were higher in the blood of 16 of the 19 who participated in the study. Since the study did not make use of proper statistical methods, its results are still worthy of speculation.

Reduces stress and promotes sleep

Magnesium helps in the production of neurotransmitters that are necessary for stress management and sleep. It may also help in the production of a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin induces sleep. When your magnesium levels are low, there may be issues with stress management and sleep.

Some people believe that a salt bath helps relieve these problems because of the skin absorbing the magnesium in the Epsom salt. However, there is a greater probability that the perceived benefits of a salt bath are due to relaxation benefits offered by hot baths.

Treats constipation

Magnesium is proven to be effective in treating constipation. It improves your bowel movements by drawing more water into the colon. For relief, magnesium is often taken orally as magnesium citrate and magnesium hydroxide.

Though not well studied, taking Epsom salt orally could be equally effective. Maybe this is the reason why the FDA recognizes its laxative effect. When taking Epsom salts orally, please follow the instructions. When used in excess, its side effects are liquid stools and bloating. So try to use it sparingly and only in the short term.

Increases benefits of exercise

It is believed that one can reduce cramps and relieve muscle soreness by taking an Epsom salt bath. This not only helps those who exercise regularly but also those who are recovering from injury.

This is because Magnesium assists the body in making better use of both lactic acid and glucose. Again, lying in water baths containing Epsom salts may not help with its absorption. The benefits, therefore, are not related to soaking in a bath containing Epsom salt. It might be just the hot water bath itself soothing their aching muscles.

The only scientific way to reduce a magnesium deficiency is by taking magnesium supplements orally. Athletes are often advised to take magnesium tablets orally, as they can more easily get a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplements are proven to help those who exercise. However, bath salts can still not be reliably used for this due to a lack of evidence.

Helps to reduce pain and swelling

Some people also believe that Epsom salts reduce both pains and swelling in certain medical conditions. For this reason, it may be used in the treatment of arthritis as well as fibromyalgia. It was observed that those who have the above medical conditions also have lower levels of magnesium. It was therefore theorized that the conditions might be improved by increasing the magnesium blood levels in the participants.

In a study involving 15 women, magnesium chloride when applied to their skin showed promise in reducing the symptoms associated with these medical conditions. The results are still inconclusive though as the study did not have a control group and used questionnaires.

Treatment of ingrown toenails

Epsom salts can also help in the treatment of ingrown toenails. There is a home remedy with Epsom salt that can provide relief from ingrown toenails. This involves soaking your feet in lukewarm water (with white vinegar and Epsom salt added to it).  In order to prevent ingrown toenails from happening, however, you must always wear well-fitting and comfortable footwear. Make sure that your toes are not exposed to repetitive stress or trauma.

Treatment of foot corns

The thickening of the skin in the areas such as the toe or the soles of the feet leads to the formation of foot corns. They are formed because of repeated pressure/friction in the same spot. Foot corns are actually caused by the repeated accumulation of keratin. This is called hyperkeratosis. Though foot corns do not pose a major health risk, these can cause severe pain.  The skin on your feet could be moistened by Epsom feet soak. The hard skin can be removed by pumice stone and a moisturizing lotion could be applied.

Safety and side effects

Since most scientists believe that Epsom salts cannot be absorbed by the skin, the side effects result from taking magnesium sulfate orally. Since magnesium sulfate acts as a mild laxative, it can lead to bloating, diarrhea, and an upset stomach. To avoid these side effects, you need to drink a good quantity of water. Also, read the labels for dosage and if you are still unsure, consult a doctor.

When too much of Epsom salt is taken orally, it could lead to lightheadedness, headache, nausea, and flushed skin. Magnesium overdose, in very severe cases, can even lead to coma, paralysis, or death. This will certainly not happen provided you take the recommended dosage only. Also, if you notice any allergic reactions, even with smaller doses of Epsom salt, do let your doctor know about it before you take any more. If you have a wound or a severe burn, do not use Epsom salt without consulting a dermatologist.

How to use Epsom salts

In baths

The most common use of Epsom salt is in salt baths. Generally, two cups of Epsom salt in the water contained in a bathtub of standard size will ensure that you reap its benefits. For a therapeutic effect, it is recommended that you soak in the tub for 15 minutes. In order to dissolve the salt more quickly, you can use running water.

To enhance one’s beauty

Epsom salt is useful for improving skin tone and refreshing the face. It may also be useful as an exfoliant. To do so, place some of it in a dampened palm, spread it out evenly, and massage it slowly on the skin. The fact that it helps cleanse pores makes it a useful addition to face wash.

Just a 1.5-teaspoon measure of Epsom salt will produce the desired effect. It can also be combined with some cleansing cream before it is massaged onto the skin. Epsom salts help also add volume to the hair. Mix conditioner and Epsom salt in equal measures. Apply it on the hair and let it work its magic. This should take about 20 minutes. Remember that these uses are anecdotal. They may or may not work for you.

Laxative

When taken orally, Epsom salt acts as a laxative. Adults must not use more than six teaspoons of Epsom salt in a glass of water. For children, it is as low as 1-2 teaspoons of salt for every glass of water.

You must consult a doctor before you increase the dosage of magnesium sulfate. Taking too much of magnesium sulfate can be harmful. When you want to start taking Epsom salts orally, make sure that you start with only 1-2 teaspoonfuls dissolved in water. If you are okay with the taste, then you can try ingesting more.

Since each person would need a different amount of magnesium, depending on his/her physical condition and activity, his/her body may need less or more of it. However, a doctor is the best judge of that.

Try to use high-grade Epsom salts and magnesium supplements. They can be obtained from popular medical stores.

Epsom salts: More useful than studies represent

Magnesium supplements help to relieve the deficiency of this essential mineral. It also works as a laxative. Epsom salts in the bath also help to refresh your skin and relieve foot corns. The benefits of Epsom salts are not supported by evidence, as most of the reports are anecdotal. Further research will help establish its usefulness to man.

For now, there is no harm in adding it to your bath. Because it works differently for different people, you can never be too sure if it will actually benefit you. Use the steps described in this article and give yourself an Epsom salt bath. You are sure to find it refreshing.


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