Wellness Encyclopedia: Epsom Salt

Read on to learn how this naturally-occurring chemical compound can help reduce stress, improve sleep, relieve inflammation and encourage healing…

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the awkward position of having to slow down and take care of myself. I know. I know how ridiculous that sounds. But as someone with a tendency to burn the candle at both ends, really truly slowing down and taking time out of my day to focus on myself is a rarity. An activity reserved for the occasional rainy day or whenever all the projects are done and the emails have been answered and the deadlines have been met (i.e. when hell freezes over or I eventually get sick). Sure, I take my vitamins, I make good, nourishing meals to heal and satisfy my body, and I get my exercise. But I couldn’t tell you what a nap feels like, or you know, just sitting around and watching a movie in the middle of the day. So when an issue with my leg arose and the recommended treatment was soaking it… in an Epsom salt bath… for twenty minutes a night for a week… my initial reaction was one of disbelief and a quick calculation of how, exactly, I was going to make that happen. But there was no getting around it, my health was at stake. I dove in, so to speak. And it wasn’t easy. Every night I’d set an alarm to allow myself enough time for this new ritual, draw the bath and pour in a heaping scoop of Epsom salts, the key second ingredient in my healing. And then I’d sit and watch the clock, for at least the first few days. I wish I could say it got easier over time, but I realized that carving out time for yourself might never be easy. An alarm may have to always be set. Projects will have to always be set aside, but healing ourselves will — or should — always take precedence. Every night for a week, I mixed hot water with magnesium sulfate — Epsom salts. Such a common, easy-to-find combination (a 5 lb bag of Epsom salt will typically set you back $3), that brings with it so many benefits. Ease of tension, stress relief, detoxification, reduced pain, and so much more. In our fast-paced, hustle culture, our ambitious minds are often at odds with what our bodies really, truly need. The body might crave relaxation, while the mind quickly shuts it down and moves on to the next item on the to-do list. It’s worth it to slow down and listen — what does your body need? How can you help it relax? It may be as simple as adding Epsom salt to hot water. The benefits are seemingly endless, but don’t take my word for it. Read on to learn how this naturally-occurring chemical compound can help reduce stress, improve sleep, relieve inflammation and encourage healing.

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What is Epsom salt? Also known as magnesium sulfate, Epsom salt (named for Epsom in Surrey, England where the chemical is found in natural mineral springs) isn’t the same thing as the seasoning found on your kitchen table. Epsom salt is an inorganic salt containing sulfur, oxygen and magnesium, the second most abundant element in human cells. You’ve likely seen a carton or two floating around your grandparents’ medicine cabinet, and for good reason. These healing salts have long been praised for their use in everything from easing arthritis pain (a condition reserved not just for octogenarians, mind you), to speeding recovery time post-workout. When added to warm water, the magnesium and sulfur dissolve and become more readily available for our bodies to absorb and put to use.

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What are the benefits? Battling insomnia? Sore muscles? Inflammation? Bad circulation? Epsom salts can help with all that. And more. While it’s believed that the salt-like structure of this chemical compound is just a convenient vehicle for magnesium and sulfate to enter the body through absorption after being dissolved in hot water, these two elements boast enough benefits to convince even the most committed shower-devotee to slow down and take a bath once and awhile (that’s me). The modern focus on increasing calcium intake often means the average human body is deficient in magnesium (which calcium naturally depletes), but the catch 22 is that calcium can’t be properly absorbed without magnesium. It’s a push/pull and a sound argument for exposing yourself to more magnesium, but — get ready for it — magnesium isn’t so easily absorbed when taken in pill form. The answer? Soaking it in! And before you write off sulfate as a bystander to amazing, stress-relieving magnesium (it’s been shown to assist the body in binding proper amounts of serotonin, the mood-boosting chemical in our brains), we need sulfates too! Sulfates stimulate the pancreas, build brain tissue and build the proteins that line our digestive tracts and help our bodies detox.

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How to use epsom salt: Epsom salt has a wide variety of uses, from internal to topical, but the simplest way to harness its powers at home is to use it as a soak to soothe sore muscles, arthritis pain, inflammation, improve circulation, flush toxins from cells and relieve stress. It’s as simple as pouring two cups of Epsom salt into a hot bath and soaking for a while, or you can get more creative and add relaxing essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile, and skin-soothing oils, such as sweet almond and sesame, for a truly stress-relieving experience. Follow the recipe below to make your own anti-inflammatory Epsom salt bath.

Epsom Salt Bath Soak

{Makes enough for one use – increase amounts for greater yield}

Ingredients:

2 cups plain epsom salts

1 tbsp sesame oil

5-10 drops chamomile essential oil

1-2 tbsp dried lavender

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Combine all ingredients in a bowl or jar and mix to combine. Use immediately or store in a sealed jar to give as a gift or save for later.

To use: Pour epsom salts into your tub as it fills with water (hot, but not too hot). Circulate the salts by running your hands through the water to ensure they dissolve before getting in. Soak for as long as you want, then pat skin dry to allow the sesame oil to soak in.

There are times when the rug may be pulled from beneath our feet, when we may find ourselves at odds with our mental or physical health (or both) and it’s in those times that we’re often forced to come to terms with how we care for ourselves. Try making Epsom salt a part of your self-care routine and see what happens — you may find 20 minutes a night for a week isn’t that difficult after all.

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Comments

  1. There’s a new epson salts rub in a tube it’s fabulous when you really don’t have time for a bath. Have only found it at Wal-Mart by the bags of Epson salts.

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