Soaking your aching muscles in a bath with Epsom salt is a well known homeopathic therapy method.  However, what exactly does Epsom salt do and what other uses does it offer?  Some of the answers might surprise you.  Epsom salt very much differs from the salt sitting on your table.  Not only in taste, but nutritional value as well.  Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. It's a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen.  It gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was originally discovered.  Unlike table salt, Epsom salt is bitter and not quite as appetizing.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, the first being calcium.  It is involved in more than 325 biochemical reactions that benefit your heart and nervous system.

Many people do not consume enough magnesium.  While magnesium sulfate has value as a magnesium supplement, some people claim that magnesium may be better absorbed via Epsom salt baths than when taken by mouth.

Epsom salt is rich in magnesium sulfate and bathing with Epsom salts not only makes magnesium readily available to the body, but also draws out toxins, and as magnesium is a natural stress reliever, the bath lifts the mood and aids in relaxation. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the majority of people living in America today are deficient in magnesium. This is related to our fast food diets, as well as modern farming methods.

The Academy believes that this is why there is such a high incidence of stress-related illnesses, digestive problems, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, heart disease, and strokes.

There is quite a bit of evidence that magnesium may help headaches and even migraines when used regularly. Some sources even think that magnesium deficiency may increase the chance of headaches.

Research indicates that raising magnesium levels can promote a healthy heart by improving circulation and lowering blood pressure. It also improves the body’s capacity to use insulin. Magnesium is necessary to sustain calcium levels in the blood. They stimulate the pancreas to make digestive enzymes and assist in detoxifying the body. Epsom salt flushes out toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body eliminate harmful substances.  While not always easy to obtain magnesium sulfates in food, there are alternate methods to achieve a healthy level.  


Epsom salts are able to be ingested, but as stated above, do not lend themselves to be a welcome seasoning on your food.  The most direct method is to dissolve Epsom salts in water and drink the solution.  There are also magnesium supplements.  One of the on-label uses for Epsom salts is use as a digestive aide.  Due to it’s high magnesium content, it is well known for its ability to relieve constipation.  While if you are in need of some relief this may be useful, if not, drinking epsom salts or taking supplements may result in some unwanted and possibly rushed trips to the restroom. Luckily there is another option.

While limited, there is research that shows that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin.  This allows the body to take on the needed sulfate without the unwanted side effects and with little to no risk of overdosing.  Transdermal absorption of magnesium is how we are able to utilize Epsom salts in a safe and much more pleasant manner.   This is where soaking in a bath with Epsom salts allows us to enjoy a relaxing, stress relieving environment with added benefits, but the uses do not end there.  Here are some off label uses or methods to utilize epsom salts in your daily routine:

Face Scrub/Foot Scrub
Epsom salts act as a natural exfoliant and acts as a magnesium-rich alternative to regular salt in salt-scrub recipes. Salt scrubs are traditionally a mixture of salt and an oil like olive oil or almond oil. Epsom salt can easily be used in place of the salt in these recipes for an extra magnesium boost.  To use it as an exfoliant, just place some in your hand, dampen it and massage it into your skin.  To help clean your pores and remove dead skin from your face, giving you a younger looking glow just add a 1/2 teaspoon to your daily face wash and massage onto the skin. 

Splinter removal

To dislodge a stubborn splinter, simply soak the affected body part in warm water and Epsom salts for a few minutes. The magnesium sulfate will reduce the inflammation around the wound and soften up the splinter, making it much easier to remove and much less painful. Other uses include using an Epsom salt soak to help aid in sunburn and itch relief.

Hair treatment

In addition to the skin, epsom salt may be used as a beauty product for hair. It can be added to conditioner and may help add volume to your hair. For this effect, combine equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt. Work the mixture through your hair and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse.  Some people report using it as a sea salt spray to add volume and texture when styling their hair.  Remember that it works differently for everyone so try it out before taking it out for a night on the town.

Garden/plant Supplement

Magnesium sulfate may be used to fertilize your plants, green up your lawn, remove unwanted insect pests, and prevent slugs among other things.  While I personally have never had much success in gardening or having beautiful flower beds, my sister swears by adding Epsom salts to her tomatoes and plants to help them flourish.  She buys Epsom salt in bulk and her yard looks like something out of a magazine.

Salt of any kind, including the epsom variety, is great for deterring slugs. If you’re already using salt in the garden to help improve the soil, this should help deter slugs as well. If not, consider sprinkling some salt around to keep the slugs away.  

Grout cleaner

We already discussed how Epsom salts are good for exfoliating our skin, but what about for those bigger jobs.  Try mixing equal parts Epsom salts and liquid dish detergent to create a super effective tile and grout cleaner. Apply this mixture to dirty or stained surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen, or even outside and allow it to soak in for a minute or two. Then scrub away the loosened grime and rinse clean.

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Epsom salt can be found at most drug stores and the risk associated with it’s use is very low. While my favorite salt is on the rim of a margarita glass, the health benefits with Epsom salt may be just enough for me to enjoy that margarita while soaking in the tub with some Epsom salts.

- Rachel