I promise that you can find dozens of articles on the internet about how Epsom salt (a.k.a magnesium sulfate) works. They will likely tell you that Epsom salt is great for detoxification and alleviating muscle soreness and explain these benefits by suggesting that our skin, a porous membrane, is absorbing good stuff from the salt while kicking bad stuff out.
That sounds beautiful and simple, but as it turns out it’s probably bogus.
What I found out when I decided to write this post was that there is a dearth of scientific studies backing up these claims. And yet even such authorities as the Epsom Salt Council (because that’s apparently a thing) continue to state that magnesium sulfate is readily absorbed through the skin.
I’m also not one to dismiss claims asserting the effectiveness of a given therapy just because it lacks scientific studies proving it. For instance, there is no scientific explanation for why (if?) acupuncture works. The studies that do exist are often dismissed because there’s no way to prove that any documented benefit wasn’t solely a result of placebo effect. Plausible physiological theories still abound because, well, acupuncture has been used as treatment for a variety of ailments for thousands of years.
Epsom salt hasn’t been around nearly that long, but its use for relaxation, muscle soreness, and detoxification is widespread.
Placebo effect or not, I try to take a hot, relaxing bath at least once a week. While luxurious bath bombs make for a nice treat, I prefer to use Epsom salt; one bag of Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt is about $5 at the grocery store, whereas I feel you’ll be lucky to find a good bath bomb that won’t run you that or more each. And hey, if it turns out there’s anything to the “magnesium sulfate absorption” theory, I’m still getting that benefit!
Science aside, just soaking in the hot water can be relaxing. We talked last week about the effects of stress on muscle tension; heat can help alleviate this discomfort.
I also like to add some essential oils for a little aromatherapy. Dr. Teal’s offers scented Epsom salt if you don’t have any of your own oils at home. You can also mix and match! My favorite combination lately has been Dr. Teal’s Milk and Honey salt with a few drops of lemon and rosemary essential oils. I feel like I’m soaking in a giant cup of tea.
Any scientists out there who can back up or further debunk the ubiquitous claims of the wonders of Epsom salt??