If you suffer from chronic pain and inflammation, you’ve probably been told to try Epsom salt baths or foot soaks. It’s an age-old remedy that’s supposed to help you feel more relaxed and ease swelling. But how does Epsom salt work? Why does it work? Let’s explore this popular natural remedy and its inner workings.
How Does Epsom Salt Work?
Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. It got its name from its origins. Mineral waters were boiled down in Epsom, England, leaving a salt-like product behind. But make no mistake – this is not a salt. It’s a mineral compound.
If you take a look at the scientific name for this substance, you’ll find one important word: magnesium. This is the active ingredient in Epsom salt and what helps produce its beneficial effects.
There are several ways to use Epsom salt, but one of the most popular ways is bathing.
Why Epsom Salt Baths?
When you dissolve Epsom salt in hot water, it breaks down into sulfate and magnesium. It’s believed that when you soak in a bath with these important minerals, they will be absorbed through your skin.
A study from the University of Queensland found that magnesium can actually be absorbed by the skin, so there’s at least some evidence that Epsom salt baths can be helpful.
It’s best to use warm water for Epsom salt baths, as it won’t easily dissolve in cold or cool water.
How Does Epsom Salt Work on the Body?
One reason people recommend Epsom salt is because of its muscle-relaxing effects. Researchers theorize that magnesium sulfate can act as a muscle relaxant because it can:
- Block calcium-mediated contractions
- Reduce the release of acetylcholine from neuromuscular junctions
The relaxant effect of Epsom salt is also why it is commonly used as a laxative.
How Does Epsom Salt Affect the Digestive System?
While magnesium sulfate is most commonly used in bathing to relax sore and aching muscles, it can also be used to improve digestive function. For example, it’s often used to treat constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
Why? Because Epsom salt attracts fluid to the bowels, helping move things along more easily.
Using magnesium sulfate in this way can be tricky and potentially dangerous in some cases. It’s best to work with your doctor if you want to use Epsom salt as a laxative.
What are the Benefits of Using Epsom Salt?
Now that you understand a little more about how Epsom salt works and its effects on the body, you may be wondering how it can help you.
Some of the many potential benefits of magnesium sulfate include:
Magnesium deficiency can contribute to higher stress levels. Taking Epsom salt baths may help alleviate stress by increasing magnesium levels in the body. The relaxing effects of this mineral and the hot water can also help you feel more at ease.
Nerve and Muscle Function
Epsom salt may help with the regulation of electrolytes in the body to help ensure proper muscle and nerve function.
Magnesium also helps the body use calcium.
Many believe that Epsom salt can help promote heart health by improving blood circulation, protecting the arteries, and preventing blood clots.
These are just a few of the many benefits of Epsom salt. The simple fact that it can help you relax and de-stress alone makes it a worthwhile remedy to try.
The Bottom Line
Epsom salt can have many effects on the body. It can be used to relax muscles, improve digestion and ease stress. How it works on the body will depend on how you use it. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath may offer pain relief. Consuming it may help with constipation, but only when used as directed by a doctor.
The great thing about Epsom salt is that it’s easy to find and try for yourself. You can find it in health food stores and online. Some products also incorporate soothing essential oils like lavender to amplify its relaxing effects. Try taking a warm bath with Epsom salts or soaking your feet after a long day to experience its therapeutic effects for yourself.
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