Epsom Salt Bath: Modern Necessity for Health?

by Sarah DetoxificationComments: 42

epsom salt bath container

If you haven’t yet discovered the significant improvements that an epsom salt bath once or twice a week can confer to your health, my hope is that this article on its benefits will convince you to start the practice of detoxification bathing right away!

The simplicity of bathing in epsom salts and warm water is a cleansing ritual that has the potential to both improve your body’s elimination pathways and help resolve two very serious nutritional deficiencies at the same time. For this reason alone, if you are going to choose a single holistic bathing therapy to incorporate into your weekly routine, a relaxing soak or two in an epsom salt bath is definitely IT!

The active ingredient in epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, a compound comprised of two minerals critical to human health: magnesium and sulfur.

Despite the important role these minerals play in human physiology, the vast majority of people are deficient in both sulfur and magnesium, many seriously so. What’s more, they are readily absorbed via the skin with numerous health authorities suggesting the process is more efficient transdermally – via the skin – than orally. As a result, an epsom salt bath can be considered a superior way to nourish the body particularly when consuming food based sources or supplements containing these nutrients doesn’t seem to be doing the trick due to digestive imbalances.

How an Epsom Salt Bath Detoxifies

The human body requires sufficient magnesium for every single biological function to be performed effectively. This is true also for proper detoxification to occur. According to Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, author of the best selling GAPS Diet book, a minimum of twenty-eight molecules of magnesium is necessary to metabolize a single molecule of glucose. In addition, phosphate ingested via phosphoric acid and similar substances deliberately added to soda, hot dogs, and other processed foods to sharpen flavor, render bio-available magnesium difficult to metabolize as the phosphorus binds it up into the compound magnesium phosphate.

Thus, those consuming a modern high sugar, high processed foods diet are particularly prone to the devastating effects of magnesium deficiency which most typically manifests as symptoms of sleeplessness, tics, muscle spasms, cramping, seizures, anxiety, and/or irregular heart rhythms.

According to Katherine Czapp, author of Magnificent Magnesium:

Magnesium is utilized by the body for all sorts of detoxification pathways and is necessary for the neutralization of toxins, overly acidic conditions that arise in the body, and for protection from heavy metals. It plays a vital role in protecting us from the onslaught of man-made chemicals all around us. Glutathione, an antioxidant normally produced by the body and a detoxifier of mercury, lead and arsenic among others, requires magnesium for its synthesis.

Mark Sircus, author of Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, warns that a deficiency of magnesium will increase free radical generation in the body. This biological state triggers loss of glutathione, the mother of all antioxidants, which is produced by the liver. This is a devastating effect because glutathione is essential to protect the body from the damaging exposures present all around us in modern life including the cocktail of toxins found in processed foods, personal care products, carpeting, mattresses, furniture and the like. Even playing a single round of golf on a recently sprayed course is a seriously toxic experience.

Like magnesium, the mineral sulfur, also present in epsom salts, assists the body’s detoxification pathways. According to Lawrence Wilson MD,  organic sulfur is necessary for the liver’s detoxification mechanisms to function properly to bind and excrete toxic metals, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic. In addition, sulfur improves the pliability of cell membranes which improves overall oxygen transport in and out of the cell. This in turn makes for more efficient transport of waste products out of the cell, hence improving overall detoxification.

Epsom Salt Bath for Sulfur Nourishment

Sulfur is critical to many of the body’s biological processes most especially metabolism. Many people are surprised to learn that sulfur is the 8th most common element in the human body by mass, exceeding even sodium!

Without adequate sulfur, glucose metabolism becomes defective and muscle and fat cells are damaged as the result of becoming glucose intolerant. Consequently, sulfur deficiency can easily lead to a variety of painful, inflammatory conditions of the connective tissues.

Impaired glucose metabolism from insufficient sulfur is an implicating factor in obesity and the dangerous condition known as Metabolic Syndrome. This is because one way the body compensates for defective glucose metabolism is by gaining weight.

When sulfur deficiency occurs within the context of a lowfat diet (the typical scenario for Western nations), the problem becomes more serious. Sources of glucose present in a lowfat diet in the form of refined carboydrates are directly converted to fat. Worse, the fat is then released into the bloodstream as triglycerides as an attempt by the body to fuel the damaged and inflamed muscle cells.

Poor sulfur status affects the brain as well. Analysis of the minerals present in the cells of the typical Alzheimer’s patient reveals that sulfur is almost nonexistent compared with a normal profile. Some research has indicated that reversing a sulfur deficiency state can prevent or halt the progression of dementia and possibly even reverse it provided the patient is still in the early stages where little brain damage has occurred.

Consequently, sufficient sulfur intake is absolutely critical to avoid problems with chronic pain, metabolism, excess weight, and possibly preventing and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The best food based sources of sulfur are eggs, garlic, cabbage, and onions. Unfortunately, unless these foods are produced in an environment that contains sulfur rich soil, the amounts of this nutrient are likely not adequate. It is perhaps not so coincidental that Iceland’s remarkably low rates of depression, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease may be attributed to the line of volcanoes that formed the island nation and whose eruptions periodically blanket the soil with sulfur containing volcanic rock.

The rapid and devastating depletion of our soils since The Green Revolution following World War II with the advent of monocropping, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers has caused a corresponding decline in sulfur in the modern diet. Hence, the need for a regular soak in sulfur rich waters as practiced by cultures for centuries. Barring expensive spa adventures to natural sulfur springs, a regular soak in epsom salts is today less of a luxury than a necessity for long term health.

How an Epsom Salt Bath Improves Magnesium and Sulfur Status

The Epsom Salt Council provides perhaps the best research to date on how a simple soak in epsom salt can increase the levels of both magnesium and sulfate in the body (1).

Nineteen (19) volunteers were recruited for the study by the University of Birmingham’s School of Biosciences in the UK. All were in good health and not currently taking any medication.

Both blood and urine were analyzed for increases in magnesium and sulfur levels following epsom salt bathing. The blood samples were taken before the volunteers’ first bath, again at 2 hours after the first bath and finally at 2 hours after the 7th consecutive bath. Baths were taken daily at the same time for one full week. Urine samples were collected before the first bath and then 2 hours after the first bath and after all subsequent baths. Urine samples were also taken 24 hours after the last bath.

The research was very conclusive as all study participants experienced a significant rise in blood plasma magnesium and sulfate at a bath solution of 1% epsom salts. This equates to 600g Epsom salts/60 litres for the standard size UK tub, or 2.5 cups epsom salts for a 15 gallon standard tub made in the USA.

Wait … Aren’t Magnesium Flakes Better than Epsom Salts?

Magnesium chloride is the form of magnesium naturally found in sea water. It is a magnesium mineral salt with extremely high solubility properties. Some sources claim that flakes of magnesium chloride, aka magnesium bath flakes, used for bathing purposes are superior to epsom salts with regard to the bio-availability of the magnesium. However, the research I found suggests that while highly effective as a form of transdermal magnesium, magnesium chloride is no more effective than the magnesium sulfate present in epsom salts (2).

As a result, for bathing purposes, epsom salt is the winner according to my research, as an epsom salt bath is significantly less expensive than soaking with magnesium flakes. According to my calculations, it costs approximately $1-$1.50/bath using epsom salt which requires 2.5 cups per bath. This compares with $3-$9 for a soak using magnesium flakes which requires 1-3 cups per bath.

In addition, epsom salts bathing offers the detoxifying and nourishing effects of sulfur as a bonus.

Therefore, if you are in need an effective transdermal magnesium source, it would be a good idea to use a magnesium spray or lotion instead (I like this one) and reserve the epsom salts for bathing purposes.

How Often to Take an Epsom Salt Bath?

While you could conceivably take an epsom salt bath every single day, this is probably not realistic or practical. If you make bath bombs using epsom salts, it certainly makes the experience more fun!

The physiotherapist that has helped my family work through injuries in the past recommends to his clients to take two epsom salt baths per week and sit for about 15 minutes minimum. He recommends this not just for injured athletes or weekend warriors (an epsom salt soak reduces inflammation and bruising), but also for people who are completely healthy with no physical issues of note. It is best to use a warm water temperature that you can enjoy and sit in for the full quarter hour without any discomfort. The suggested temperature range is 101-103 °F/ 38-39 °C, as this optimally opens the pores for maximum transdermal absorption of the organic magnesium and sulfur.

When you are finished with your epsom salt bath, simply get out of the tub and dry off. Do not rinse yourself and most especially do not suds up afterward as this will prevent any additional absorption of the magnesium and sulfur that can occur as the epsom salt bathwater dries and remains on the skin.

Possibly the best news of all besides the fact that you can relax and get healthier at the same time with an epsom salt bath is that this holistic therapy is dirt cheap! I purchase bags of epsom salt at the supermarket or drug store for $2.99 for a 4 pound bag. My family gets a full 3 baths out of each bag, which roughly equates to only $1 per bath! I personally haven’t found a natural remedy that both detoxifies and nourishes that is less expensive or more relaxing. And, because an epsom salt bath is so enjoyable, this is a simple health routine that you can adopt without any concern that you won’t continue it because it is too expensive or because you cringe every time you think about doing it. Instead, you will likely think to yourself, “Yay! It’s time for my epsom salt soak!”  Now that is a holistic therapy that will stick for life.

Epsom Salt Soak for Sprains and Bruises

Most of this article has discussed the use of epsom salt bath for detoxifying and nourishing the body. It is important to note that it can also be used to speed healing of the body after injury.

For example, when my children suffered from a sprained ankle in the past, dissolving 2 cups of epsom salts into a gallon of warm water in a foot bath is very helpful for quick healing and reduction of swelling and bruising. Soak the affected area for 30 minutes up to 3 times a day. The epsom salts solution can also be applied to the injury using bandages or towels if soaking isn’t feasible for whatever reason.

People suffering from plantar fascitis, gout and other painful ailments of the foot can benefit similarly with a simple soak in epsom salts. Even soreness from exercise is relieved by a full body soak in an epsom salt bath.

Other Helpful Uses for Epsom Salts

Magnesium sulfate is not only beneficial for healthful bathing, it can also be used as plant food believe it or not! A small amount of epsom salts can nourish the plants around your home environment too. Here’s how much to use:

  • Lawns: Apply 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet of lawn and then irrigate. This is a much healthier option than the chemical fertilizers at the nursery!
  • Tomatoes and Roses: Sprinkle one teaspoon of epsom salts per foot of plant height every two weeks and water in thoroughly.
  • Trees: Apply 2 tablespoons for every nine square feet of root zone every four months. Water thoroughly after applying.
  • Gardens: Sprinkle about 1 cup per 100 square feet (10X10 garden) and mix into the soil before planting.
  • Houseplants: Mix one teaspoon per gallon of water and feed to plants every 1-4 weeks.

Epsom Salts Orally for Constipation

Lest you finish this article thinking that epsom salts are helpful for bathing and other external uses only, let me mention that magnesium sulfate is also therapeutic for relief from occasional constipation. Some people find using epsom salts for this purpose instead of a harsh fiber supplement from the pharmacy to be preferable.

To use epsom salts for relief from irregularity, dissolve 2-6 level teaspoons in an 8 ounce glass of water and drink. This dose is for adults and children over 12 years old and may be taken as a single dose or divided up throughout the day. For children ages 6-12, the daily amount is 1-2 level teaspoons in an 8 ounce glass of water. Again, this dosage can be taken at one time or divided throughout the day. Oral use of epsom salts is not recommended for children under 6 unless under the supervision of a physician. This article discusses other constipation relief options for young children and babies.

When epsom salts are used internally for constipation, a bowel movement will typically occur within 1/2 hour or at most 6 hours. If you prefer not to take epsom salts orally, be aware that even a simple soak in this wonder salt effectively opens elimination channels for many with a visit to the porcelain throne in short order.

Epsom Salts Saved Us a Costly Trip to the Doctor

As if all of the above isn’t enough, epsom salts can also be used to draw out splinters even if they are deep! Soaking the affected area in epsom salts helps, but the most rapid improvement and resolution of the problem occurs from bandaging a small amount of epsom salt granules or an epsom salt paste directly to the skin. This article details the simple process which my husband used a couple of years ago as recommended by a veterinarian friend. It worked like a charm to draw out a deep thorn in his finger that was going to cost $500 to have a doctor remove surgically at a walk-in clinic.

Have you experienced the beneficial effects of a simple epsom salt bath or any of the many other uses for yourself yet? If not, I do hope you try it right away!

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

More Information on Healthy Detox Bathing

Hydrogen Peroxide Bath for Healing Skin Infections

Detox Baths: Which Ones to Use for What Ailments

7 Ways to Avoid Detox Symptoms on a Cleanse

Using a Fever Bath to Hasten Healing

Comments (42)

  • Willow

    Great article! I’m going to go take an epsom salt bath right away because of it:) Sarah, I must say that I love your new picture that appears beside your comments, looking happy and healthy!

    February 12th, 2016 11:04 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Thank you :)

      February 14th, 2016 12:22 pm Reply
  • cyndiann

    I have used epsom salts to stop a gall bladder attack many times. It tastes really bad but saved me from going to the emergency room more than once. Just be aware that it tastes really bad.

    January 30th, 2016 4:03 pm Reply
  • Deborah

    I dont have a bath.
    Can you also do this in a footh bath? Or is it less effective?

    January 30th, 2016 11:35 am Reply
  • Rebecca

    Hi Sarah!
    Great article, thank you for the information! Definitely eager to incorporate this into our family wellness plan. Quick question, would this be safe for a 2-yr. old? If not, at what age would it be appropriate?
    Thanks! :-)

    January 5th, 2016 12:10 am Reply
    • Sarah

      I started with my own children (occasional epsom salts baths for boo boos and such) around school age. Check with your practitioner to see if there are any reasons for doing so at such a young age.

      January 5th, 2016 5:47 am Reply
  • Maria

    Thank you so much for this post, Sarah! Sometimes it’s so nice to be reminded of the simple things :) I’ve been using a magnesium spray to help me get to sleep at night because I often have trouble with that, but I have found the Epsom salt bath to be much more effective in relaxing me and helping me get to sleep! I look forward to it too!

    I am wondering if the chlorine in the water is a concern though. I’m in the city and can’t afford any elaborate filtering system. Does the Epsom salt counteract the chlorine in any way? Or does the benefit outweigh the cost? Curious as to your thoughts on that.

    December 21st, 2015 9:36 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Chlorine is definitely a concern … use one of those bath filters if you don’t have a whole house filter. They are not that expensive, just over $25. http://amzn.to/1S7OrCq

      December 22nd, 2015 7:44 am Reply
  • E. Gooding

    I’ve always soaked in a hot bath with two cups of Epsom Salts after a hard day working in the yard. I stay in for as long as the water is hot and that is often an hour or even longer. This week I heard it was harmful to stay longer then 20 minutes (detoxed materials would reabsorb into the body if one stayed longer) and I would appreciate your opinion and thoughts about this. Thanks.

    December 16th, 2015 7:58 pm Reply
  • JenniferB

    Thank you for this informative article. Just to add support. I have been taking Magnesium citrate supplements for year now and the results have been marvellous. Two Epsom salt foot baths a week have also been worthwhile, especially as you can use the same bath a couple of times, and I love the fact that I can use the spent bath on my garden mixed with urine and a big pinch of wood ashes. I use Magnesium Chloride (50:50) for daily transdermal applications and also internally (30g/litre) on a daily basis: good for boosting my stomach acid too. Have also just finished the liver flush process that involves taking Epsom salts, so it’s been an intimate relationship with Magnesium over the past year! I envy you all over the pond with the price of the stuff. Here in France it is a precious commodity that no-one’s heard of and 4 lbs would cost $43 from my local health food shop (one supplier seems to have cornered the market for liver flush treatment chemicals). Then there are the discreet packets of a few grams available from pharmacies. So count your blessings!

    December 16th, 2015 4:05 am Reply
    • Helen

      I also live in France. Epsom salts are much cheaper in England so perhaps you could order online or bring back if you visit.

      January 30th, 2016 3:09 pm Reply
  • Kelli

    Perfect timing on this article as I just had a grand mal seizure over Thanksgiving. Had read about the link between low magnesium and seizures (as you also stated in this article) and since I didn’t have anything really turn up on the MRI or EEG, I thought I would try increasing the amount of magnesium I’m getting. (Might I just add too that the anti-convulsant meds that they gave me in the hospital left me a mess.) I have been spraying down with magnesium oil all over after I get out of my daily Epsom salt bath, which I had been initially just using one scoop per bath which equaled only 1/2 cup. After reading your article on Thursday, I bumped it up to 5 scoops and feel nothing short of amazing this morning. I also micro dose with trace minerals. Hopefully this will help someone else dealing with seizures and thank you Sarah for the time and research you put into this article. One of many that have blessed me. :)

    December 14th, 2015 11:47 am Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      I am so glad you found the information helpful Kelli!

      December 16th, 2015 2:19 pm Reply
  • Esther

    I have a 50 pound bag ready to open but not sure if I should send it back. Here is the label information:
    From India, Magnesium 9.8% min., sulfur, 12.9 5 min. Iron 20 mg/kg LEAD 10 mg/kg max

    I didn’t notice that you mentioned any concerns about lead or if one should buy pharmaceutical grade but that might be quite costly. For Canadians do you have a bulk brand you would recommend. Wondering what people are finding at cosco and if it has a heavy metal analysis. REALLY really appreciate your help on this as I am anxious to start Epsom salt therapy

    December 13th, 2015 8:58 am Reply
    • Sarah

      I would buy from your drugstore where the epsom salts only contains magnesium and sulfur.

      December 13th, 2015 1:26 pm Reply
    • Rod McColl

      Try your farm supply store. In New Zealand you can buy a 40kg bag for $20. I then do what Sarah mentioned and top-dress the lawns, gardens and trees 4 times a year.

      January 30th, 2016 12:42 pm Reply
  • Sarai

    I have an old porcelain tub which I suspect has lead. I don’t give my kids a lot of baths because of this. Is there anything that would neutralize the lead in the water?

    December 11th, 2015 2:15 pm Reply
  • karen mounlton

    Can you reuse the water. ie one kid is done stick the next in the tub??

    December 11th, 2015 11:21 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes but I would recommend a quick shower for each kid before the soak so that the tubwater doesn’t get dirty.

      December 11th, 2015 11:40 am Reply
  • Loretta

    I have sulfur in my well water here in Florida. I have always wondered if it is good for me, either to drink or bathe in?
    One reason I wonder if it is good or bad is the Chinese drywall health hazard that was in the news awhile back that released sulfur into the air.Sarah, do you know anything about this?

    December 10th, 2015 10:45 pm Reply
  • Lisa

    Is this safe while pregnant, because it sounds wonderful!

    December 10th, 2015 6:40 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      I was told when I was pregnant that yes, they are fine. Just be sure the water isn’t too hot! Best to double check with your practitioner though.

      December 10th, 2015 8:23 pm Reply
      • Natalie

        What about postpartum? I’m concerned about aggravating sensitive areas after childbirth, but am very swollen. How long would you recommend waiting?

        December 11th, 2015 12:55 am Reply
        • Sarah

          Check with your practitioner, but I took epsom salt baths postpartum and found them very relaxing and helpful to recovery.

          December 11th, 2015 7:47 am Reply
    • Alexia

      Thanks Lisa! I had the same question!!!

      December 11th, 2015 3:40 am Reply
  • James

    Costco has great prices on epsom salt.

    December 10th, 2015 2:54 pm Reply
  • S

    Is there any way to incorporate this into your life if you don’t have a bathtub, just a shower stall? (and a small one at that)

    December 10th, 2015 2:04 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      You can definitely do the epsom salts foot soak described in the post. Get a nice big footbath and soak while reading a book or watching a movie :)

      December 10th, 2015 4:15 pm Reply
    • Rhonda

      Do you have space for a big plastic/rubber container; big enough for you to soak in? If you have somewhere to store it, they are great to use in a pinch and make great ‘tubs’.

      December 11th, 2015 11:46 am Reply
      • Sarah

        I have a huge rubber tub in the garage which holds wet laundry but I can use it for my kids to soak ankles, feet, nearly all the way up to their knees if they have an injury. I keep it in the garage.

        December 11th, 2015 11:53 am Reply
    • Mel Ting

      I mix 4 oz of boiling water, 4 oz of epsom salts. Dissolve completely, cool and put into a spray bottle. Rub this directly on your body anytime you please. Any part of the body. It is wonderful. The feel isn’t so pleasant but wipe it off 20 minutes later if you want or shower at that time. Wonderful healing therapy and get your minerals as well.

      December 11th, 2015 7:15 pm Reply
  • Annette

    Love this article! So practical and doable! I had always heard to scrub the toxins that have been drawn out of the skin! I didn’t realize I was scrubbing of the magnesium benefits. How much do you use in a tub full of water? Sorry if I missed that in the article. Thank you

    December 10th, 2015 12:18 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      For a standard 15 gallon tub, 2 1/2 cups of epsom salts is perfect.

      December 10th, 2015 4:16 pm Reply
  • Evelyn

    Love this info! A few years ago, when I became aware of how nutritionally depleted most of us are, I started Epsom salt baths with a little baking soda. I was hoping to defray a little of the bad chemicals in the water. I bought a Berkey shower filter, but that doesn’t get everything, so I added to Epsom salt and soda. Didn’t know it was helping me detox too, even tho, I hoped that I was increasing my Magnesium intake. Thanks! Happy Holidays!

    December 10th, 2015 12:15 pm Reply
  • Paula Mills

    Folks like me who are +/+ CBS gene defect (liver methylation) need to stay away from sulfer. We are a small percentage of the population but it can cause a lot of health issues if you overdo sulfer when you have the CBS gene defect.

    December 10th, 2015 12:06 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      In that case, definitely use the magnesium flakes described and linked to in the article instead.

      December 10th, 2015 4:17 pm Reply
  • christie

    Thank you for this wonderful article. I am going to share with my family. I think this would be great to incorporate into our lives. I have one quick question. What are your thoughts on taking MSM for sulfur? Also I have seen many MSM shampoos, will this help with hair growth and such? Thanks Sarah.

    December 10th, 2015 11:56 am Reply
    • Sarah

      I really have not researched this at all. I’ve had such great results with epsom salts baths which I’ve used for years and they are so cheap and cost effective compared with buying more expensive products or supplements that I’ve just stuck with that old fashioned approach.

      December 10th, 2015 4:18 pm Reply
  • Clarissa Harison

    Thank you for this great article! While I knew the benefits of epsom salts for soothing sore muscles and clearing your energetic field, I had no idea of the myriad of other benefits. So glad to hear all this!

    December 10th, 2015 11:52 am Reply
  • sandybt

    I don’t usually take baths; instead I keep a solution of 1/4 cup Epsom salt in 1 cup water and rub some all over my skin first thing in the morning while standing in the tub (or right after drying off after a shower). Let it air dry to absorb for several minutes before getting dressed (I just wear a loose robe while it dries).

    December 10th, 2015 11:35 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes, this would work great too although I love the quiet and peaceful solitude of the bathtub approach.

      December 10th, 2015 4:19 pm Reply

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