Epsom Salt: Potential Benefits and How to Use It

Centuries-old wellness product continues to be popular
epsom salts foot bath

Integrative medicine is known for treating a person’s mind and body, considering how these are closely connected. Epsom salt is one tool that integrative medical specialists often recommend for its physical and mental health benefits.

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While no clinical trials have confirmed the benefits of Epsom salt, many healthcare providers promote it for its ease of use, reasonable price and minimally invasive delivery.

To learn more, we turn to integrative medicine specialist Naoki Umeda, MD.

What is Epsom salt?

For starters, it’s not something you’d shake on a plate of food.

Epsom salt is one of many naturally occurring mineral salts, a compound of magnesium and sulfate. It is completely different from table salt, with a bitter taste best summed up with one word: BLECH!

The name “Epsom salt” is a nod to the town of Epsom, located a stone’s throw from London in England. The salt was discovered in the town about 400 years ago.

What are the benefits of Epsom salt?

Tales about the healing power of Epsom salt have been circulating for centuries, says Dr. Umeda. Users typically dissolve Epsom salt in bath water to release magnesium and sulfate ions and reap the benefits.

It is said that Epsom salt can boost your mind and body. Let’s look at both claims.

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Epsom salt is good for the mind

Epsom salt is believed to help stabilize mood and relieve stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, some researchers claim that taking magnesium increases serotonin (happiness or relaxation hormone) production in the brain.

Epsom salt is good for the body

Epsom salt is used to relax muscles and relieve pain in the shoulders, neck, back and skull. For example, by relaxing the muscles surrounding the skull, the magnesium in Epsom salt may help release a headache or migraine.

Some researchers also think that magnesium is good for reducing inflammation in internal organs. This may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve digestion/bowel movement.

Has Epson salt been proven to work?

Centuries of user testimonials speak volumes about the benefits of Epsom salt. Scientific research, however, isn’t quite as vocal in its support.

There are no definitive studies showing that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin in sufficient amounts to address potential deficiencies of the mineral. Research that has been done offers skepticism.

Still, integrative medical experts commonly recommend Epsom salt to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and cold intolerance.

How to use Epsom salt

So you want to give Epsom salt a try to soothe stress, muscle soreness or general aches? Well, the process is pretty simple.

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Just put about 300 grams (1.25 cups) of Epsom salt into a bathtub as it fills with hot water. (Avoid using Epsom salt in a tub with jets, a hot tub or a whirlpool bath unless the manufacturer says it’s OK.)

Once the bath is drawn, ease into the tub and relax. A 15-minute soak should be enough.

When purchasing Epsom salt, look to buy a product that is 100% magnesium sulfate.

Are there risks to taking an Epsom salt bath?

Generally, no — but there are some instances where caution is advised, says Dr. Umeda. Epsom salt baths are not recommended for people with:

  • Severe skin inflammation.
  • Skin infections.
  • Open wounds.
  • Severe burns.

Do not drink Epsom salt

Drinking Epsom salt — as some online “detox” plans advise — can cause serious side effects such as severe diarrhea, cautions Dr. Umeda. Sudden and dramatic changes in bowel behavior can be very dangerous and cause dehydration and discomfort.

There are no studies to prove that taking Epsom salt orally is safe or beneficial.

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