Epsom salt baths: uses and side effects


Epsom salts are natural chemical compounds scientifically known as magnesium sulfate. They are called "salts" because of their crystalline chemical structure. In fact, they are very similar to the very coarse salt found in cooking, but they are not intended for cooking.

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Epsom salt soak has long been touted as a natural remedy for muscle pain, minor sprains , swollen legs, irritated or flaky skin, minor bruising, and general muscle pain or mental stress .

What is Epsom salt?

Epsom salt is a naturally occurring chemical named after a salt water spring in Surrey, England. The scientific name for Epsom salts is magnesium sulfate.


Epsom salts can be added to water for soaking, taken by mouth to treat constipation, or used for cosmetic purposes.


When applied topically, Epsom salts are usually added to warm bath water to soak completely, or to a foot bath or small bath to treat a specific part of the body .

Epsom salt baths are often used to:

  • Relieves itching from poison ivy and mosquito bites.
  • Soften the skin affected by psoriasis
  • Cleanses and soothes genital herpes lesions and relieves itching .
  • Relieve arthritis pain and swelling
  • Bruises and sprains
  • Treat and clean tears or stitches in the perineum after delivery.
  • Relieve pain and musculoskeletal tenderness caused by fibromyalgia
  • Treat ingrown toenails
  • Promote sleep in people with insomnia
  • Relieves painful diarrhea during chemotherapy
  • Relieves redness and pain from sunburn.

Epsom salt treatment has been touted as a way to reverse magnesium deficiency, but there is no evidence that it can be absorbed through the skin. It is more effective to add magnesium-rich foods to your diet or to take magnesium supplements by mouth under the supervision of a doctor.


Epsom salt is FDA approved for use as an osmotic laxative to relieve recurrent constipation . Pure Epsom salt (without fragrance or other additives) can be ingested orally by adults and children 12 years of age and older.

A typical dose of Epsom salts for constipation is 2 to 4 teaspoons dissolved in 8 ounces of water, no more than two doses per day. This should result in a bowel movement in half an hour to six hours. Otherwise, it is recommended to consult a doctor.


Epsom salt hair and body treatments include:

  • Hair Volumizer: Apply equal parts warm hair conditioner and Epsom salt to hair and leave for 20 minutes.
  • Face wash : Mix 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salts with a deep cleansing cream to clean your pores. Massage into skin, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.
  • Scrub : Sprinkle Epsom salts onto palm of hand, moisten and gently massage into skin. You can also try this on damp skin after showering .

Side effects

Epsom salt should be used with caution. When applied topically, they can dry out the skin, which can be especially problematic in cold weather and for people with naturally dry skin .

Start with a small amount of salt (1/4 cup) in the bath and gradually increase as tolerated. Monitor your skin closely to see if it is dry and be sure to moisturize your skin after soaking .

When taken orally, Epsom salts can cause diarrhea, malaise, and dehydration. Talk to your doctor before using Epsom salt as a laxative if you have kidney disease, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, or if you have had drastic changes in bowel habits that have lasted for more than two weeks. Epsom salt should not be used by people on a magnesium restricted diet.

Get the word of drug information

Natural remedies are popular for many reasons, and Epsom salts are no exception. Despite the paucity of research supporting the benefits of soaking in Epsom salt, there are many uses for Epsom salts that are considered safe and effective. If you are considering using Epsom salt in any way other than to relieve muscle pain or to help you relax, check with your healthcare professional first.

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