Epsom Salts– Great Old Treatment or Just Old?

Epsom salts bathQuestion:  My  Dad  worked in construction and after an especially hard day he would dump some epsom salts in a hot tub nd soak until dinner.  He claimed it took the “kinks” out of his  joints.  My mom used  an epsom salt soak  to help remove splinters and relieve  sore feet after a day in heels.  Do epsom salts really work  or is this another  old wives tale?

Answer:  Epsom salts have been a home remedy for centuries.  Chemically it is a mix magnesium and sulfates and named after Epsom in  England where it was first made by boiling  down mineral water. My family were also big fans of epsom salts for sore feet and splinter  removal.  But  despite centuries of use,  finding published studies on the benefits of epsom  salts proved incredibly difficult.  There is practically no evidence that soaking in epsom salted water has  a beneficial effect on the body.   However  centuries of aches and pains have led to three theories on why it works:

Theory #1: Epsom  salts makes the water  “feel” nicer.  Epsom salt ehanced water feels softer, smoother and gives a slight buoyancy. By reducing the pull of gravity there is less stress on sore muscles and joints.  Some researchers have speculated that the comfortable hot water encourages people to relax and stay  in the  bath longer.  Heat alone can help heal sore muscles but people often rush through bath treatment. Epsom salts make the bath more enjoyable and  people stay in for the full recommended treatment time.

Theory #2: As the name implies, epsom salts  is a salt and as such  can affect  water levels in the body.  The higher sodium levels in the bath water encourage the body to equalize by drawing water out the tissues.  Since achy  muscles are usually swollen with water, drawing out water reduces pain from swelling.  This might  also be why epsom salts releases splinters. It pulls moisture from the skin  around the splinter  providing better access for removal.

Theory #3: There is alot of buzz about absorbing magnesium from  an Epsom salt bath. Magnesium is an essential mineral and important for management of  a wide range of body functions including  heat regulation, energy and the formation of bones and teeth.   There are  experts who believe this to be true and there are even a few studies that support this theory  of absorption.  But keep in mind that magnesium sulfate is infamous as a powerful laxative that is used in the dreaded colonoscopy prep.  If we did absorb  it from a bath, it could cause world class  diarrhea.

To bottom line it, there is anecdotal evidence  that epsom salts are helpful for aches and pains.  If it works for you its good to know its safe to use.  If your joints  and muscles are still aching after  the bath, think about an anti- inflammatory   diet, vitamin B12 supplements  or heated salt packs.


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