9 Surprising Benefits of Epsom Salt

9 Surprising Benefits of Epsom Salt

At one time, people got a sufficient amount of magnesium and other trace elements from their food. Now, however, declining amounts of the mineral in our soil (and thus resulting crops) as well as habits that help deplete magnesium from the body, such as use of prescription drugs, high consumption of refined and processed foods (including soft drinks), and eating a high-fat diet (which reduces magnesium absorption) has lead us to look for ways to restore magnesium to the body. Epsom salt baths are a great way to help boost magnesium levels.

Epsom salts got its name because they were first distilled from a salty spring at Epsom, Surrey, England, back in the 17th century. The term "Epsom sal" is a misnomer, since they are not salts at all but a mixture of magnesium and sulfate, which is why it's technically known as magnesium sulfate. But what really matters to most folks are the health benefits of Epsom salt and especially Epsom salt baths.

Read about the healing benefits of salt baths

9 surprising benefits of Epsom salt baths

Imagine slipping into a warm bath at the end of a long day. Does it feel great already? Here are nine health benefits you can enjoy while relaxing in bath water infused with these salts.

1. Promotes relaxation. Perhaps the most popular reason people love an Epsom salt bath is that it is relaxing. But how does it work? The magnesium sulfate is easily absorbed through the skin, and once inside the body the magnesium ions get to work stimulating the production of the calming hormone, serotonin, while also reducing the impact of the excitable hormone, adrenaline. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to warm (not hot) bath water and soak for about 15 minutes.

2. Provides pain relief. If you are experiencing cramping, pain, muscle tension, sunburn, bruises, or inflammation, soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath will provide relief. (Note: Use cool water if you are treating sunburn.) Be sure to completely submerge any body part that is affected by pain.

3. Offers cardiovascular support. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath three to four times a week can help reduce inflammation, improve blood circulation, relieve stress, and lower blood pressure, all of which promote better cardiovascular health.

4. Supports nervous system function. One of magnesium's many health benefits is support of nervous system function, and soaking in Epsom salt is one way to reap this benefit. The absorbed magnesium facilitates calcium's transmission of chemical message throughout the nervous system, helps regulate cellular fluid retention, and supports enzyme functioning.

5. Improves magnesium levels. Insufficient or deficient magnesium levels are not uncommon, so soaking in Epsom salt can help boost magnesium levels in the body. However, it is still highly recommended that you include more magnesium-rich foods in your diet or consider a high-quality supplement [Editor's note: we recommend one from our partner Natural Calm] if you are low in this essential mineral. The fact that magnesium regulates more than 300 enzymes in the body indicates how critical it is to have sufficient levels of the mineral available at all times for optimal bodily functions.

Read about whether you need a magnesium supplement

6. Removes splinters. Many of us have had to deal with a stubborn splinter or two during our lives, so here's a gentle way to deal with it next time. Soak the affected body part in warm water and Epsom salt for several minutes. Although you don't need to soak your entire body to enjoy this benefit, why not lie back and relax while the magnesium sulfate reduces the inflammation around your splinter so you can remove it more easily.

7. Helps heal foot infections. If you are experiencing athlete's foot or toe nail fungus, then grab a foot bath and add one cup of Epsom salts to warm to hot water. Soak your feet for about 20 minutes to help your feet heal faster as well as relieve itching and burning.

8. Banishes toxins. Regular Epsom salt baths can help flush out heavy metals and other toxins from your body's cells and tissues. When you soak in a bathtub containing Epsom salt, a process called reverse osmosis occurs. This means salts and toxins are drawn out of your body. Add two cups of Epsom salt to your bathwater and stay submerged for about 40 minutes. Sip water before, during, and after the detox soak. You may need to add more warm water to the bathtub if the water becomes too cold.

9. Promotes better sleep. If you have difficulty falling asleep, try soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes before bedtime. Follow up your soak with a cup of chamomile tea and no environmental stimulation (e.g., no electronic devices, TV, bright lights).

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Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently, she lives in Tucson, Arizona.