Epsom salt has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for many common complaints. Composed of essential minerals magnesium and sulfur, Epsom salt supports a range of bodily functions, and offers a number of lesser-known practical applications as well.
What makes this salt a game-changer is that it is extremely affordable and easy to find.
A cowherd and a bitter spring
Epsom salt is said to have been discovered accidentally. As the story goes, a cowherd was passing through the English town of Epsom in the early 17th century. One particularly hot day, he took his thirsty herd to drink from an underground spring, but the cows refused to drink. Puzzled, the man took a sip and discovered that the water was bitter.
He also noticed that where the water had evaporated under the scorching sun, it left behind a crust of salt crystals. Later, he discovered that the cows which had soaked their legs in the water healed more quickly than the others.
News of the medicinal properties of Epsom’s salt spring spread quickly, and it became a destination for healing and relaxation. In addition, use of the crystalline deposits proved to have remarkable laxative effects.
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As more and more people began to visit the site in pursuit of the purgative and curative effects of the water, the wells in Epsom soon dried up. Today, the product – which is recognized by the scientific community as magnesium sulfate – is usually obtained from dry lake beds or other natural sources; although it can be reproduced in a lab through the chemical reaction between magnesium carbonate and sulfuric acid.
If you have some Epsom salt stored away, it’s time to pull it out and put it to use. If you don’t, there are dozens of reasons why you may want to keep it handy.
Relaxation and stress reduction
Stress, and not taking the time to eat properly (which often go hand in hand) both deplete our magnesium levels, leaving us feeling tired and unmotivated. This is because magnesium plays a role in the conversion of tryptophan – an amino acid – to the neurotransmitter serotonin; and insufficient serotonin can lead to various mental and physical problems such as irritability, feelings of sadness, chronic fatigue and sleep disorders.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to restore our magnesium levels. In addition to improving our diet by including magnesium-rich foods, such as greens, nuts, soybeans and seafood; soaking in Epsom salt is thought to supplement magnesium deficiencies.
After taking Epsom salt baths, many people report feeling relaxed, in a better mood and able to sleep more soundly. Add two cups of epsom salt to your bathwater and soak for at least 15 minutes to experience its restorative effects.
Alleviates aches and pain
Epsom salt has powerful analgesic properties, mainly due to magnesium’s anti-inflammatory properties. Its effectiveness in soothing sore muscles, loosening stiff joints and reducing swelling make it a natural alternative for athletes recovering from their strenuous workouts. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath can help relieve the aches and tension from anyone’s challenging day.
As an anti-inflammatory, Epsom salt is also helpful in soothing skin affected by sunburn, poison ivy, and bug bites. It even facilitates splinter removal, drawing the splinter to the surface by osmotic pressure. For these topical applications, dissolve two tablespoons of Epsom salt in a cup of warm water to soak or wash the area.
Beauty and personal hygiene
Epsom salt is said to be antibacterial and antifungal, making it an ally in the elimination of foot odor, toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. For best results, soak your feet regularly in a solution of warm water and half a cup of Epsom salt for at least 15 minutes.
Epsom salt is also an extraordinary exfoliator. Its coarse texture is ideal for getting rid of impurities, removing dead skin cells and loosening blackheads. Mix Epsom salt and oil (olive, almond or coconut) to make a paste. This deep-cleansing, antibacterial scrub can help alleviate irritation and prevent infection on any area of the body – including the scalp. If used on acne prone skin, be sure to scrub gently.
Added to conditioner, Epsom salt can help remove hair product buildup and, according to the Epsom Salt Council, increase hair volume! Apply equal parts salt and conditioner, and rinse after five minutes or longer (up to 20 minutes).
With its dehydrating properties and soft abrasive quality, Epsom salt is able to both lift and scrub away stubborn stains. Mix equal parts Epsom salt and detergent for an effective tile and grout cleaner. Apply this mixture to mildew stains in the bathroom or kitchen, and let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
To remove built-up residue in your washing machine, add one cup of epsom salt and half a cup of vinegar directly to the drum. Run the washing machine on its hottest cycle with the highest water level, pausing at the beginning to let the mixture dissolve. This will break down dirt and grime, and get rid of unwanted odors.
To remove hard water stains from the toilet, add one cup Epsom salt, three cups vinegar, and two tablespoon dish soap to the bowl. Mix thoroughly to dissolve the salt, and let it work a half hour or more before scrubbing and flushing.
While hundreds of years of testimonials don’t add up to scientific evidence, countless individuals continue to rely on Epsom salts for health, home and beauty. Are you willing to spend a few dollars and check out the potential benefits for yourself? Worst case scenario, you’ll end up taking a relaxing, hot bath!