Epsom salt as a home remedy

Home remedy research.

Growing up, my parents boasted of minor conditions being cured with home remedies. This included using baking soda paste to draw out the itch of mosquito bites or a splinter, and soaking in Epsom Salt. As an adult and an avid runner I had forgotten about these home remedies.

Recently, I received a blood blister on my toe after running in a pair of socks that aren’t built for long distance running. The voice of my mother sang in my head to try Epsom salt for the nasty blood blister – so I soaked my toe in a bowl of warm water with a cup of Epson salt. Along with my blister I could feel a reoccurring overuse muscle pain in my ankle, which usually suspends my running for a week while it heals. After soaking my toe, my blister looked much better and to my amazement, my ankle no longer had the muscle strain that I was beginning to feel. I began to wonder if Epsom salt does have an effect on muscle strain. I began to research Epsom salt and its effect on reducing aches, pains and simple skin irritations.

Epsom salt is derived from the earliest discoveries of magnesium sulfate in Epsom, England. The idea behind the principles of Epsom salt healing powers are from having the magnesium taken in through the skin either through bathing in the salts or by doing a salt rub directly on the skin. Most of the articles discuss many people being low in magnesium, thus making sore muscles and skin irritations difficult to heal. Through osmosis (skin absorbing magnesium) the magnesium is absorbed and has the ability to aid in healing the areas of concern.

My research brought differing opinions of whether or not Epsom salt actually works for muscle soreness and pain. The article from PainScience.com claims it is not possible for the body to absorb magnesium through the water during a hot bath and believes there is little research proving magnesium sulfate (a mineral compound and is Epsom salt) has any relief to sore muscles. Another article by ABC news agrees with the PainScience article, stating the muscle ease felt from soaking in magnesium sulfate is a placebo effect and because there are no ill effects, if the relief is felt, then go ahead and soak. An Angry Trainer article agrees with the previous mentioned articles, giving reasons to the impossibility of magnesium being readily taken up by the body and entering the blood stream to be delivered to sore muscles. The Angry Trainer calls the idea behind Epsom salt as being an urban myth.

On the contrary, LiveStrong.org boasts of the healing powers of the English salt and magnesium infiltration through salt baths. They believe the magnesium helps many conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and the seasonal cold or flu. Many articles mention one clinical study that was conducted by Rosemary Waring, University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, which claimed that blood and urine levels of magnesium and sulfate rose significantly after 19 test subjects were immersed in a warm bath of water and Epsom salt for 12 minutes. Another study, mentioned in Runners Connect, confirms that both magnesium and sulfate ions (which are formed when magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is dissolved in water) can indeed be transported through the skin. Later in the article the author mentions that this study does not have any validity to it for a number of reasons.

Michigan State University Extension concludes that there isn’t enough reliable research in the area of Epsom salt as a healing ailment for athletes and individuals with varying illnesses. The relief felt from people soaking in Epsom salt may be a placebo effect. If the effects are a placebo, that is the result of a moment’s peace to reduce the stress. MSU Extension advises to always consult your doctor or a pharmacist before trying any pain relieving remedies.

Did you find this article useful?