10 Surprising Benefits of Epsom Salt Bath

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

If you’ve ever experienced the soothing depths of an Epsom salt bath, you know how beneficial it can be for aching muscles, inflammation, and arthritis pain. The most amazing part of an Epsom salt bath is that it is quite easy to take this bath, as it just involves adding a small amount of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soaking for approximately 15-20 minutes.

Epsom salt is quite different from regular table salt and is named after the area in England where it is found. A popular home remedy, Epsom salt baths have always been a trusted tradition, and are now gaining popularity for relaxing your muscles. This substance is known as a “salt” due to its particular chemical makeup, but when it dissolves in water, it separates into two powerful compounds – sulfate and magnesium.

Many people believe that these minerals soak into the skin during an Epsom bath, delivering a number of impressive health benefits. While there is a limited amount of proven research as to the direct link between these baths and improved health conditions, the anecdotal evidence shows the effectiveness of this salt in treating sore muscles and joints. [1]

How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath

As you may imagine, taking an Epsom salt bath is quite an easy process, this is another reason for its popularity as an at-home treatment. You can purchase Epsom salt from many different stores, from grocery stores to natural health stores and herbalists. You only need 1-2 cups of Epsom salt per bath, depending upon the amount of water it requires to fill the tub.

Remember that it is best to keep the water warm, not hot, as it can actually damage the skin. Too hot water removes more natural oils and can prevent the Epsom salt from working effectively. Allow the Epsom salt to dissolve in the water before you enter the tub, which should take roughly 4-5 minutes. [2]

Remain in the tub for about 15 minutes, trying to keep your body as relaxed as possible. When you leave the tub, there may be some white residue on your skin, but this can easily be rinsed off. Most people who use Epsom salt baths for both acute or chronic ailments take them 2-3 times per week.

Benefits of Epsom Salt Bath

Not only are Epsom salt baths simple and wonderfully relaxing, but they also provide a range of health benefits, including soothing muscle pain, relieving inflamed skin and reducing the pain of arthritis, among others.

Reduces Inflammatory Conditions

If you suffer from inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema, acne or rosacea, the healing properties of Epsom salt baths may be precisely what you need. It can stimulate circulation in these areas to improve the rate of healing, while also improving the health of the skin and helping to strip away dead skin cells. [3]

A bowl and a bottle of epsom salt with towels and leaves

A warm bath drawn with epsom salts and a blend of good essential oils can help lower your stress levels. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Acts as a Pain Reliever

If you are looking for pain relief for anything from a stubbed toe to a sprained wrist, the analgesic properties of Epsom salt baths are well regarded. Even a single Epsom salt bath can help relieve pain for hours, partially due to the soothing nature of a warm bath, but this can allow you to fall asleep and give your body a chance to heal.

Slows the Progression of Arthritis

Many people with arthritis swear by the benefits of Epsom salt baths. The salts and the warmth of the water will not only help to relieve muscle tension and inflammation in the joints of your hands, hips, and feet, but will also reduce pain in those areas. [4]

Relieves Stress

If you are feeling overly anxious or stressed, anecdotal evidence points to Epsom salt baths as a quick remedy. By helping to balance electrolyte levels and promote proper nerve function, it can also affect hormone levels and neurotransmitter movements that are critical to your mood and overall attitude. [5]

Improves Sleep Quality

For those who suffer from insomnia or regularly interrupted sleep, an Epsom salt bath an hour before you go to bed may be a quick and simple solution. The soothing nature of magnesium, a mineral that is present in our body’s cells, also plays an important part in neurotransmitter production. When you have excess magnesium, your body is able to convert more serotonin from tryptophan, which may aid in sleep and the regulation of your Circadian rhythms. [6]

Detoxifies the Body

Some folk medicine reports that Epsom salt baths can speed up the body’s detoxifying ability, primarily because of the impact these baths can have on electrolyte levels. When your body can more efficiently process fluids, it will store fewer toxins and eliminate them faster, which can reduce inflammation and aid the immune system. The toxins are also pulled directly out from the skin as a result of reverse osmosis during an Epsom salt bath, according to numerous reports. [7]

Healthy Nervous System

Considering how Epsom salt baths are able to aid in electrolyte regulation, that also means that nerve function is improved within the body. The nervous system relies on the electrically balanced fluid in the body to pass messages and signals effectively, which can aid in muscle function and even cognitive activity. [8]

Treats Sunburn

The soothing and anti-inflammatory effects of an Epsom salt bath can be extremely effective for someone suffering from a bad sunburn. This is another time when a lukewarm to a warm bath is recommended, as a hot bath may give a burning sensation to the skin. This bath will drive the circulation of the blood to the site of the burn and speed the healing process, while also reduce the pain you may be suffering from. [9]

Reduces Swelling

Having swollen feet is an uncomfortable and potentially painful condition for many people, particularly pregnant women and people who tend to work on their feet all day. You can take a full Epsom salt bath or simply soak your feet in a smaller container, and the salts will help reduce swelling and ease the pain. If you suffer from a constantly swollen foot, consider trying different shoes.

Heals Bug Bites

If you have suffered a bee sting, a mosquito bite, spider bite, ticks or bite from any other insects, an Epsom salt bath can be the next step to relieving the pain and stimulating the healing process (after you disinfect the wound and remove any stingers) It can lower your urge to itch the wounds, and can reduce the swelling of a bad bite. [10]

Side Effects of Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom salt baths are excellent options for many people, but there are a few potential side effects, such as diarrhea or dehydration. However, if you avoid taking excessively long or frequent baths, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Diarrhea: Extended exposure to magnesium sulfate can have a laxative effect on the body, and depending on how much is absorbed by the body, it can cause diarrhea. Again, limiting your baths to no more than 20 minutes should help you avoid this unpleasant side effect.

Dehydration: When you have water with high salt content in it, it will soak some of the moisture out of your skin, which can have a dehydrating effect on the body. Taking long baths or daily Epsom salt baths can cause mild dehydration, so it is best to limit your baths to two to three times per week.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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