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The Power Of The Humble Epsom Salt Bath

Benefits of Magnesium

Last week I had a doozie of a headache! It actually lasted 2 days and NOTHING I did would get rid of it. The only thing that came CLOSE was a blend of essential oils. But even that couldn’t conquer this monster migraine!

My son Erik came over to visit on the evening of day two of my headache dilemma and when he heard about my persistent pain he asked if I was taking any magnesium supplements. He said he’d recently read that taking magnesium may help prevent migraine headaches or at least shorten their duration. Apparently people who have migraines tend to have lower levels of magnesium.

Related: 9 Simple and Effective Home Remedies for Headaches

This got me thinking about a post I did last May about how important magnesium is to our overall health! It turns out that 80 percent of the U.S. population suffers from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues. Unfortunately, taking a magnesium supplement isn’t necessarily the answer because it is not easily absorbed through the digestive tract.

Which finally (sorry it took so long!) brings this blog post to the title of this post….the humble epsom salt bath!

Known scientifically as hydrated magnesium sulfate, epsom salt is rich in magnesium which just so happens to be easily absorbed through the skin.

Before I wrote about the remarkable benefits of magnesium, I believed the writing on the front of the bag of epsom salt that says it’s a LAXATIVE and a SOAKING AID. Prior to that post I’d only used epsom salt for soaking my tired, sore feet.

Lavender Coconut Oil Salt Scrub

Since that time I have used epsom salts for skin exfoliation (see my recipe for Lavender Coconut Oil Scrub HERE), as a garden fertilizer, and in the occasional bath, but it wasn’t until my monster headache of last week that I started realizing the preventive benefit of regular soaks in the salt.

Now every time I decide to take a nice, hot bath, without fail, I add a cup of epsom salt to get my boost of magnesium and hopefully avoid horrendous headaches in the future! So far, so good!

Here are a few OTHER benefits of The Humble Epsom Salt Bath:

Detox

An epsom salt soak increases sulfate levels in the body as well as magnesium. Sulfate is needed for proper liver detox, which is so important in our ever toxic world!

Muscle Pain and Body Aches

This is probably what epsom salt is BEST known for…but I found it interesting to know WHY. The magnesium that is absorbed into the skin from the “salt” interferes with receptors in the brain that register pain. So the next time you have body aches from the flu…try an epsom salt bath!

Sunburn

A cool bath with 2 cups of epsom salt reduces pain and has mild anti-inflammatory properties.

Autism Symptoms

Children with autism may have decreased levels of phenol sulfotransferase, or PST. Magnesium sulfate may help to increase sulfate in the bloodstream and to moderate PST levels. Soaking in epsom salts may provide relaxation and promote calmer behavior, and the magnesium sulfate from epsom salt is absorbed through the skin during a bath.

Mood Lifter

Taking epsom salt baths helps your body detoxify and absorb the magnesium, which is very helpful for depression and anxiety.

To make my epsom salt soaks even better, I like to kick them up a notch by adding essential oils.

essential oils 101

Fill your bathtub, add 1 – 2 cups of epsom salt, and then add 6 – 7 drops of your favorite essential oil.

Here are a few suggestions:

Lavender for relaxation and a good night’s sleep

Rosemary to soothe tired and aching muscles

Bergamot to chase away the blues

Peppermint for a pick-me-up

I hope that some of this information is helpful….especially to my fellow headache sufferers. Now go take a bath!

What is your favorite way to use epsom salts?

What essential oils do I use?
Have a question about essential oils? Curious about what brand of essential oils I prefer? Find the answers in my Essential Oils FAQ!

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  • I try to keep Epsom Salt around in the colder months. I have Hallux Rigidus-a form of Arthritis that affects my big toe. The colder wet months are when it hurts like crazy. Someone was asking about the foam bath. I discovered that the soap I use for our pumps- Mrs Meyers produces a lot of suds and also has the glycerin. I just use a little squirt – the foam baths are hard to find. Someone mentioned the Epsom Salts blends with the oils mixed in. Dr Teals makes that type of Epsom salts blends.

  • […] try to take at least one therapeutic salt bath a week in an attempt to control my headaches. Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of headache […]

  • […] feeling pretty frustrated at this point. I’ve been doing everything I know how to avoid them (The Power Of The Humble Epsom Salt Bath), but they still come and then it seems all my attempts to get RID of them are in […]

  • […] sunt ingrozitoare si s-a dovedit ca acestea se datoreaza lipsei magneziului din organism. Cititi acest articol in care se recomanda si baia in sare Epsom sau sare amara (magneziu sulfat). E bine de […]

  • [From article]
    A hand-held device which fires magnetic pulses into the brain could offer relief to millions of migraine suffers.
    The transcranial magnetic stimulator has been recommended by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)after clinical trials showed it was effective at reducing pain.
    [. . .]
    Professor Peter Goadsby, chair of the British Association for the Study of Headache, and director of the National Headache Centre at King’s College Hospital in London, added: “Single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation is a wonderful example of clinical and laboratory research delivering a real improvement in migraine treatment that is both effective and extremely well tolerated.
    [. . .]
    The device is held against the back of the head and a pulse of magnetic energy is released through the skull to stimulate nerves in the occipital cortex – the visual processing centre.

    So what else does this pulse do to the brain? Can it be used by criminals to harass civilians too?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10588318/Magentic-pulse-can-stop-migraine.html

    Magentic pulse can stop migraine
    Firing an electromagnetic pulse into the brain can stop the pain of migraine for days and has now been recommended National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
    By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent
    7:00AM GMT 22 Jan 2014

  • I also use Epsom salts for fibromyalgia and muscle spasms from back injury. I was told to just soak first, not to hot. Them wash, shampoo (not store bought), and rinse. Have not tried for migraines but if it works it would be a miracle. Like Jillee mine last for days, and start in neck and sinuses get in the act, it snowballs. A humidifier with eucalyptus eo has helped tremendously with sinus problems, And lessened impact on migraine. It is difficult to get down in tub, so think will try footbath. Thank you

  • For all you Epsom Salts lovers out there…I can buy mine at the feed for a LOT cheaper than anywhere else. I buy a #50 bag there and it lasts a good long time! PS, my naturopath suggests using 3-4 cups per bath when needing it for medicinal purposes. I hope that info helps someone out there…

  • About six years ago I was perscribed magnesium (Epsom Salt) baths by a neurologist as part of my migraine treatment plan. Eventually I have been able to stop using oral migraine pills (which were stupid expensive)and I rarely get a headache and just a simple asprin or ibrupofin will take it away and sometimes I don’t have to take anything at all. Epsom salt baths have given me back my life. Make sure you do not use any soap while doing your 20 minute soak and don’t cheap out on the salt. Use 2 cups of salt per soak. I started twice a week, then tapered to once a week.

  • I have given colored (a few drops of food coloring) scented (eo’s) mixed with Epsom salts and placed in pretty containers as a Christmas gift for work friends, and even sold them at craft fairs. Who knew I was giving a real health bonus too! Last craft fair, these bath salts sold out while everything else just sat there.

  • This is so amazing and informative! Who would have known all this about the lowly Epsom Salts? Our parents and grandparents did know alot about alot of things and I just thought newer was better… goes to show how much I knew :-( Thanks for all the information ladies and gents!!

  • Epsom salts can ‘evaporate’ with time losing weight if not sealed but it doesn’t go bad.

    Go easy with Epsom salts if you are pregnant and in labour or hoping to be soon. An IV version is what they use to stop premature labour as it relaxes muscles. Too much can stop labour all together which is bad if you are trying to speed things up.

    Scented salts are not the same as ones with essential oils. They are perfumes not useful medicines. Not that I believe every single thing that’s suggested EO cure but I do believe they are useful.

    Jillee didn’t give some pie in the sky hopes for autism just said it could help. I’m going to add it to my sons baths. Sure can’t hurt can it and it’s cheap!

    Why respond to an English comment with Spanish? If you can read the comment in English, then respond in English. If you translated everything, why not translate your comment too? If it was just a comment to the original post then comment in any language you like but when reponding to a specific commenter, it seems rude to me.

  • I found that taking a magnesium supplement also lowers blood pressure. It is also needed to absorb calcium. They talk about calcium but if you don’t have enough magnesium calcium does not do any good. Thanks for the tip. I don’t get migraines as often could be because of the magnesium I take on a weekly basis! Thanks for the tips!

  • Forgot to answer teh Q What is your favorite way to use epsom salts?

    These days I use Epsom Salts as a water ( & fabric) softener with the laundry. I dissolve it in water on stove, let it cool & add a vinegar. A scant 1/2 cup then goes in my rinse dispenser. I have read that vinegar cuts away soap residue from clothes; but the amount needed to soften the water (in my area anyway) would be between 3-4 C/load. So the Epsom Salts picks up the slack. If anyone is interested my ratios are: 1 1/2 C Epsom Salts, 2 C Water, 2 C Vinegar.

  • Just read this article (and all of its links)
    http://www.naturallivingideas.com/5-diy-ways-to-boost-your-magnesium-levels/.
    Apparently there is a difference between Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) and Epsom flakes (magnesium chloride) and that the flakes are much more readily absorbed into the body. And as these things go–the price tag seems to be higher too. I would think that there are better prices from companies that did not advertise at the sight.

  • Granos enteros de café tostado para la migraña. Esta terapia dura 13 días, así :
    Dia 1: tomar 1 grano de café, con agua; Dia 2: tomar 2 granos de café, siempre con agua. El dia 3 tomar 3 granos; el dia 4 tomar 4 granos… hasta el dia 7 tomar 7 granos. El dia 8 comenzar a bajar el consumo tomando 6 granos; el dia 9 tomar 5 granos…hasta el dia 13 tomar 1 grano. Descansar unos dias y repetir la terapia. Puede ayudar a bajar la intensidad y frecuencia de jaquecas y migrañas.

  • I suffer from chronic severe migraines and nothing has helped. I take magnesium (3 tablets daily) but it hasn’t helped. I wish I had a bathtub (shower only in this house) so I could benefit from the Epsom soak. Any suggestions? Would soaking my feet in it still help with the migraines? How long are the salts good for? I think I still have a box that was bought several years ago but not much has been used out of it. Does it lose it’s effectiveness after a while?

  • An Epsom salts bath is a great way to get relief from a yeast infection. It works wonders if your child has diaper rash, too. Got a bad scrape from a fall or bike crash, or a splinter???….a nice soak in the Epsom salts bath really speeds the healing process for just about any boo-boo. My kids tease that an Epsom salts bath is my cure for everything.(and it just about is!)

    Recycle that Epsom salts bath water, too. Instead of letting the water go down the drain, use it to water house plants. I even take it out to the garden. My tomatoes love it.

  • Just a tip I thought I’d share – I’ve understood that if you actually mix the essential oils IN the epsom salt BEFORE adding it to the water, your body will absorb the essential oils more effectively in addition to the epsom salt. If you just add the essential oils to the water, the oil separates and just floats on the top of the water mostly. You def still get the benefits of the soothing smell from the EOs by adding only to water, but would get additional benefits from soaking it up as well if added to the Epsom salt. Hope that’s helpful to some :)

  • Epsom salt baths also help muscle pain by neutralizing lactic acid in the muscles. I was taught that you shouldn’t put oils in the bath or use a moisturizing body wash at the same time becuase they impair the absorbtion of the salt water through the pores – effectively blocking the pores with the oil and not allowing that healing salt water in to do its job. Also, these baths should not be longer than 20 minutes when being used for lactic acid, as the reaction will reverse. It’s also important to drink a glass of water during or immediately after the bath because the salts will dehydrate you. If you really want to use oils, put them in for the last few minutes of your bath only. Enjoy!

    • Hola Laurie. El bicarbonato de sodio también neutraliza el ácido láctico que produce dolor en los músculos, cuando hace mucho tiempo que no nos ejercitamos. Tomar 1/2 cucharadita de bicarbonato disuelta en medio vaso de agua luego del ejercicio, o antes de acostarse esa noche.

  • I had a monster headache this week that lasted from early Tuesday into late Wednesday! I ate carbs, drank caffeine and sugar and took more ibuprofen and Excedrin than recommended. I wish I had seen this post two days ago!! But no worries, the next time I’m armed with this info. Thanks Jillee!!

  • I made a sore muscle soak powder for xmas gifts (and myself of course)- epsom salt, a little baking soda and Birch essential oil. It smells heavenly and helps sore and tired muscles.

  • I usually get about 4-5 migraines a year and it’s due to that lovely time of the month and hormone fluctuations. I am totally going to try this now in hopes of preventing them. If it helps me take less pain killers when a migraine comes around, all the better!

    • Michelle, I get those “hormone headaches” too. They’re the worst. I’ve read that they’re actually sinus migraines. I got a prescription for Allegra D and that usually knocks it right out, but Excedrin Migraine (or the generic) works well, too.

  • My husband suffers from gout and rubs Epsom Lotion directly on the affected joint with good results. Try rubbing the Epson Salt lotion directly on your tired, achy muscles for faster relief.

      • I found my Epsom Lotion at WalMart right next to the Epsom Salt. It works great not only for migraines (I too am a migraineur) but also for Fibromyalgia and Lupus pain of which I am daily challenged with.

  • Our local herb shop recommended giving our teenage girls magnesium capsules daily for menstrual cramps. It definitely has improved their PMS symptoms. We will try Epsom Salt baths as well.

  • I don’t think it’s wise to post that an Epsom salt bath can help with Autism. A soak in a hot tub with Epsom salts can help anyone relax, Autism or not.

  • I try to drink a lot of coconut water and sometimes sports drinks to increase my magnesium intake for my migraines. It never even crossed my mind to use an Epsom Salt soak for the same reason. Now I can enjoy the long soaks I love so much without the guilt of removing myself from household duties.

  • I love soaking in Epsom salt when I have sore muscles and it works so well I can barely believe it. But I have a couple of questions one being do you have to rinse off with plain water afterwards? The next is what kind of soap works in the salty water? My soap doesn’t soap up. Thank you so much. I love your site and read it every day.
    Thanks again Helen

    • Hi Helen,

      I saw your post asking a few questions so I thought I would tell the world what I do.

      First off, you do not HAVE to, however, I do tend to jump into my shower to rinse off for a few reasons:

      1) I take the time to deep condition my hair–shampoo well–strip it with a clarifying shampoo & then follow with a deep conditioner such as LeKair Cholesterol (stinks but is a great & cheap product, $1.87-2.50 in the African section & is a peach color).

      2) I take a palm sized pumice stone ($1-1.25) to my whole body–lightly; the dead skin just rolls up, even on my face & is able to wash away easily. I say again LIGHTLY!! {If it hurts, you are being too rough or gone over the same place too many times.} It feels great & gets rid of the “dry skin pimples” which I find to be the little bumps on my knees, elbows, shoulders, etc. that are really ingrown hairs starting. Take the layer of skin off & the hair is free & no longer causing problems.

      3) After I have exfoliated with my pumice stone, I take this time to use a mask of some form on my face. I like the Queen Heleen(?) Mint Julep mask, but you could do the Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask as a mask, or Biore warming anti-blackhead cream cleanser & leave it on as long as you can. It all just depends on what your skin problems happen to be at the time.

      So, on to the question of what soap works in the salty water. If I am in the mmod for a bubble bath, I always use baby bath/wash. Since I stopped using regular bubble bath, I no longer have “issues” in the “girl parts” caused by bubble bath–I also don’t take a bath “all the time” which was the biggest help there. Anyway, the baby bath/wash I just use the generic from wallyworld, parents choice, nighttime lavender scent. I have to use a fair bit–I don’t measure, I just pour into the stream of water.

      I also read someplace, not sure if it was here or not, in the comments, about Octagon Soap (remember from a kid grandparents called a tar soap, but can’t find it now) & Kirk’s Coco Castile Soap, Original soaping in ANY kind of hard, salty, nasty, rusty water. I went on a hunt for both, but alas, could only find Kirk’s. The cheapest place to find it was at Family Dollar, $3.38 after tax for 3 bars. This stuff is amazing!! Wet fingers rubbed on bar 3-4 times gets enough to wash my whole face. It lathers better than ANYTHING I have seen in YEARS!! It can be used for anything that would want to use it in–laundry, dishes, bathing, washing hair….

      So the first time I used this in the bath, I soaped up my hair, left it in for about 10-15 minutes or so, rinsed it out, repeated but only left it for 5 minutes max. Meanwhile, I also used it on my face–I had a bad breakout. Warning, it WILL burn a bit on chapped lips or chapped skin…however, I got a good lather ALL over my face & let it just about completely dry–it felt all tingly. I used it like a mask (how I found out about the chapped lips). For the first time in I can’t even remeber when, my skin, face & hair felt CLEAN like I remeber feeling as a kid, 30ish years ago. It rinses clean & easy with NO residue left behind.

      My kid is starting to hit puberty with some pretty severe acne breakouts & after just 1 time, skin cleared up DRAMATICALLY. So, daily use in the shower for face, with a follow up after shower of witch hazel (4 un-coated aspirin added to 16oz generic witch hazel) as a toner & moisturizer finisher, skin now has only the occassional few hairline pimples. My husband, who has always been a bit oily with greasy hair & dandruff problems has been using it–flaky face is gone, & now dandruff shampoo is 2-3 times a week instead of daily. His hair is not greasy anymore & he said the same thing about feeling clean like when a kid.

      So far I have not been willing to use it any place else in the house, only hygiene purposes. Oh, & I wish it smelled like coconut, but I don’t detect any kind of smell.

      Anyway, I just realized that a short response post has turned quite long–I do apologize, but I was excited to share, what can I say!!

      • I wanted to clarify that this is my epsom salt soaking bath routine (yes, the baby bath/wash does bubble if you want a epsom bubble bath, but lately that hasn’t been my priority, since I found the Kirk’s)–about 1/2 to 1 cup epsom salts depending on how bad I hurt, added to my very large bath tub. Sam’s club has 10 lbs of epsom salt in a great & sturdy tub with a good strong measuring cup for $4.98-6.99. Cheapest place to buy it hands down. Plus I now have sturdy containers for my oxyclean, bulk baking soda & various chomemade cleaning concoctions.

  • I suffer from migraines also usually about one or two a month but I read somewhere about eating kale to prevent them from occurring. So every few days I eat kale in my smoothie or in a salad or even as kale chips and knock on wood in the last year I had only 2 migraine headaches. Prevention is so much better than to handle the headache after it comes. I do not know the science behind it but it works and I want the world of migraine sufferer to know.

  • I love my weekly Epsom salt bath! I find that the essential oils are easier to add to the salt itself as it prevents the oil from staying on too of the water. I always have a large jar of my lavender Epsom salts right next to my bathtub.

  • I have used Epsom salts on my rosé garden.
    ..and now I volunteer weekly in a warehouse on cement floors……tired dogs at the end of the day! So next Monday I am going to soak my feet in a warm, loving bath of Epsom salts and peppermint!
    I sincerely love the great ideas I get from you, Jillee.
    My feet and I salute you!

  • Occasionally facewashing as it leaves the skin soft. But by far a bath, also leaving skin soft but I discovered it when I was gardening a lot and it hr Lord th hose muscles. Now that I have Fibromyalgia I take Epsom salt baths for the same reason…both magnesium and sulphur is helpful for muscle pain and inflammation and the easiest way is for it to be absorbed directly through the skin.

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