Since its discovery, people have turned to Epsom salt as a folk remedy to heal all sorts of ailments. Named for the location in England where it was discovered, Epsom salt is estimated to have been in use for at least 400 years.
The effectiveness of Epsom salt baths for health benefits is open for debate. Many believe that when you bath in water with dissolved Epsom salt, the active ingredients (magnesium and sulfate) are rapidly absorbed through your skin.
Those who practice folk remedies believe these ingredients produce many health benefits, including weight loss.
A 2016 review of magnesium in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Services reported that there’s no scientific proof that magnesium can be absorbed well via your skin.
Researchers noted that the only study that has conclusively shown the skin’s ability to absorb magnesium was small, not peer-reviewed, and has not been replicated.
Similarly, in 2009 a small but credible study also found that magnesium sulfate did not absorb through your skin.
However, in a 2017 pilot study, researchers found that individuals who used a cream containing magnesium had increased levels of magnesium in their urine compared to a group that used a cream that did not contain the mineral.
Despite conflicting evidence, if you’re interested in trying Epsom salt baths for weight loss and other potential health benefits, it’s low risk and might be worth a try.
The main benefits of Epsom salt come from its active ingredients. Though Epsom salt looks like and shares a name with table salt, they’re actually different chemical compounds.
Table salt is sodium rather than magnesium and sulfate. However, the ingredients in Epsom salt are vital minerals for the body and hard to come by through diet alone. This is why many people try to absorb them through their skin during a bath.
Taking Epsom salt baths will not cause drastic lose weight, but it can support your healthy lifestyle. Combined with other weight-loss strategies, Epsom salt baths might help you reach your weight-loss goals.
Epsom salt baths might aid weight loss by:
- improving nutrient intake
- lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome
- supporting the body’s detox systems
- easing constipation
- replacing emotional eating with a warm bath to relax and de-stress
A 2009 review reported that magnesium levels in food are declining. This means you may have a good reason to try getting this mineral in other ways.
The following body systems and functions rely on healthy levels of magnesium to work properly:
- cardiac and circulation
- insulin use
- nervous system
- electrolytes and calcium
- serotonin use and mood-stabilizing
- detoxing and flushing heavy metals
Epsom salt is also full of sulfate. Sulfates are important for:
- brain tissue formation
- adequate muscle protein
- healthy joints
- digestive tract function
- detoxification within the pancreas
Putting these lists together, you can see how Epsom salt baths may be beneficial for your overall health and could support weight-loss goals.
However, more research is needed to determine how well people can actually absorb magnesium and sulfate from bath water.
Other potential benefits of Epsom salt include:
- easing swelling and sore muscles
- improving circulation
- promoting better sleep
- healing skin
How to take an Epsom salt bath:
- Fill the tub with warm water (a healthy heat range is between 92°F to 100°F (33°C to 37°C).
- Add approximately two cups of Epsom salt.
- Add a few drops of essential oils to the water if you want. Be sure not to use too much oil, and only use oils that you know you’re not sensitive to.
- Soak in the bath for at least 12 minutes. (Some doctors recommend up to 40 minutes, but you should start with lower intervals of time and see how it feels.)
- Keep a plastic glass of water in the bathroom with you to drink during and after an Epsom salt bath to prevent dehydration and help your body detox.
When buying Epsom salt, choose a salt that is labeled “USP” (which means United States Pharmacopeia), and one that has a drug facts box on the label. Both indicate the product is regulated and safe for human use.
You can take an Epsom salt bath regularly but probably not every day. You don’t want to risk overexposure. Remember that your body has its own natural process for detoxing.
Healthy habits can support and maintain these natural processes but they aren’t always necessary, and more is not always better.
When you sit in an Epsom salt bath, your body responds to the heightened magnesium and sulfate in the environment and this may cause a detox reaction.
Your body works hard to maintain a balance of nutrients and minerals, and overexposure could stress your body or cause toxicity. That’s why people with diabetes and anyone who has kidney disease should avoid Epsom salt baths.
Ask your doctor if you’d like to make Epsom salt baths a regular part of your lifestyle. Only a doctor who knows your health history can tell you whether or not it’s safe for you.
Although Epsom salt contains very important magnesium and sulfates, your body only needs the right amount of these nutrients, not too much of them.
Though overdosing on magnesium is rare, especially from Epsom salt baths, too much magnesium may cause:
- muscle weakness
- respiratory depression
- cardiac arrhythmia
Because magnesium is processed by the kidneys, anyone who has kidney problems should avoid Epsom salt and consult with a doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
Epsom salt baths may also be bad for you if you have diabetes because soaking in a tub may increase your risk of damage to the skin on your feet.
It’s unclear whether or not Epsom salt baths can truly aid weight loss, and results are mostly anecdotal. But the risks are low for people without health complications. And in the end, no one ever really regrets taking a soothing, warm bath.
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