For this blog post we are going to be discussing a product that we frequently hear about in our clinic, Epsom salts. From sore muscles to constipation we have heard many of our patients say favorable things about a soaking bath in Epsom salts. This practice of bathing in mineral rich waters for healing purposes dates back to ancient times when people would congregate in the Dead Sea seeking relief from common ailments. More modernly, Epsom salt derives its name from the English town of Epsom, where spring waters dense in magnesium salts were sought for their healing properties. Currently Epsom salts are sold over the counter and readily available. So at the request of some of our favorite patients, we are going to take a brief look at the science, proper usage, and brands we prefer when it comes to Epsom salt.
Epsom salts are categorized as salts made up of compounds containing magnesium. Specifically, magnesium sulfate has been shown to reduce muscle cramps during pregnancy, relieve muscular soreness, and even function as a laxative. Typically magnesium gets absorbed through the small intestine, which is why your doctor may prescribe a magnesium salt to be taken orally. When we take a bath in Epsom salt we are surrounding our skin a solution that can allow for the magnesium to be absorbed and moved in the lymph. This can be helpful for treating the conditions I mentioned above, but also adds the benefits of improved skin health and in some cases wound treatment.
When we look at how to properly use Epsom salt baths there are some mistakes that people tend to make. What we see a lot is that people aren’t using enough to get to an appropriate concentration. Since our skin is a naturally waterproof structure, the absorption can only happen at sweat glands and hair follicles, some scientific studies found minimal absorption rate when lower concentrations were used. When Epsom salt soaks were applied in nature, like at the Dead Sea, there is a very high concentration of magnesium sulfate allowing for greater absorption. It is very important to follow the instructions on the label. Another mistake, that can be potentially dangerous, is using too much Epsom salt, or even ingesting an inappropriate amount. Excessive magnesium in the body can cause serious problems with the heart. When used appropriately, Epsom salts are safe, but with all over the counter materials make sure to adhere to the instructions.
Now many of our patients seek our help for muscular related aches and pains, and want to use Epsom salts at home to supplement their care, but wonder which brand they should choose. My go-to recommendation is Dr. Teal’s. This one is readily available in most stores, and is made with magnesium sulfate. Aside from also having a variety of scents and other variations, the packaging has clear to follow instructions on the back. One drawback to Dr. Teal’s is that with name brand recognition it tends to be a little bit more expensive, and remember it requires a fairly strong concentration to reach the desired effect. So a better option for the budget could be Epsoak. We found a little bit larger bags of this on Amazon and it seems to be a viable contender.