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Epsom salt is a natural remedy for muscle aches, inflammation, and stress. People sometimes use an Epsom salt bath to relax.

In this article, we discuss the uses of Epsom salt. We also cover the benefits of Epsom salt, its possible side effects, and more.

A woman holds a spoon containing epsom salt.Share on Pinterest
Bathing with Epsom salt may help relieve inflammation and stress.

People sometimes soak their bodies in Epsom salt baths or drink Epsom salt after dissolving it in a glass of water.

However, some people should not consume Epsom salt at all. These include those with kidney disease or heart disease, pregnant women, and children.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved Epsom salt, so there are no official guidelines regarding the proper dosage or how to consume it.

However, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention have independently evaluated the product, so when purchasing Epsom salt, look for products that have a USP label.

How to take an Epsom salt bath

If a person is unsure about how to use Epsom salts in their bath, they can follow these steps:

  • Use 2 cups of Epsom salt for a standard-size bathtub.
  • Pour the Epsom salt into warm running water.
  • Soak in an Epsom salt bath for 15–30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

A person may consider adding the following essential oils to help them relax and get to sleep:

  • lavender
  • rose
  • bergamot
  • jasmine
  • eucalyptus

Drinking Epsom salt

If a person drinks Epsom salt, they could experience a laxative effect, which may help relieve constipation.

Adults should combine 2–6 teaspoons (tsp) of Epsom salt with 8 ounces of water and then drink.

When people drink small doses of Epsom salt, they may not experience any side effects. However, there is not enough evidence supporting its use for treating any health conditions other than constipation.

Learn more about using Epsom salt to relieve constipation here.

A person with any underlying medical condition should speak to their doctor before trying Epsom salt. People living with kidney disease must not consume Epsom salt.

Magnesium from oral supplements or an Epsom salt bath may provide the following health benefits:

Improving exercise performance and recovery

Some people take magnesium before a workout. This may help remove the lactic acid that builds up in muscles during exercise and improve future performance.

In a small 2015 study, researchers found short-term magnesium supplementation was associated with improved bench-press performance among 13 athletes.

When a person takes magnesium after a workout, it may also reduce recovery time and prevent muscle soreness. In a 2014 animal study, researchers treated rats with either magnesium sulfate or saline before placing them on a treadmill.

The rats that received magnesium sulfate had higher glucose levels during exercise and cleared lactic acid faster during recovery.

Pain relief

People who do not have enough magnesium may experience painful muscle cramps and chronic inflammation. Underlying health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, may also affect magnesium absorption.

An Epsom salt bath may help soothe sore muscles and reduce inflammation. However, experts are unclear whether Epsom salt is directly responsible for these effects.

Stress relief

Magnesium contributes to the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transport signals between neurons, or nerve cells. These chemical messengers impact every aspect of daily life, including sleep, mood, and concentration.

According to a 2017 review in the journal Nutrients, having low levels of magnesium could harm a person’s quality of sleep and ability to cope with stress.

If a person takes an Epsom salt bath, it may help their skin absorb magnesium, which could relieve stress and promote relaxation. But, other studies investigating this show conflicting results.

Treating constipation

For many people, drinking Epsom salt is generally safe. However, those with kidney disease or heart disease, pregnant women, and children should not consume it. A person should speak with their doctor if they are unsure about drinking Epsom salt.

People can use Epsom salt as a laxative to treat constipation. This treatment method involves dissolving a small amount of Epsom salt in water and drinking the mixture.

People may not experience any side effects after taking an Epsom salt bath. However, people with sensitive skin could develop a skin rash or contact dermatitis.

The following people should avoid consuming Epsom salt orally as they may experience unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects:

  • people who are pregnant
  • people who have kidney disease
  • people who have heart disease
  • children

If a person drinks Epsom salt, they may experience the following side effects:

Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, is a naturally occurring compound that contains magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It has a crystalline structure similar to that of common table salt, or sodium chloride.

Epsom salt is unlike table salt as it tastes bitter and is not a suitable ingredient for cooking. People use Epsom salt for its supposed healing and detoxifying properties.

The theory suggests that dissolving Epsom salt in water helps the skin absorb magnesium ions. These regulate numerous essential bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, and inflammation.

However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims that the body absorbs magnesium ions through the skin. Scientists need to perform more in-depth studies to confirm the effectiveness of using Epsom salt to treat various ailments.

Some research suggests the skin may absorb magnesium and sulfate ions dissolved in water. The authors of one 2017 review article cited several studies with conflicting results about whether or not magnesium can pass through the skin barrier.

While magnesium transporters carry magnesium ions across cellular membranes, the outermost layer of the skin consists of dead cells that do not have these transporters.

The authors also claim that magnesium ions are nearly 400 times larger when hydrated, making it almost impossible for them to penetrate the skin.

However, in a 2016 study, researchers found that magnesium can pass through the outer layer of skin. They also reported that the concentration of magnesium and the length of exposure directly affects how much magnesium the skin can absorb.

Scientists need to conduct further research to confirm the health benefits of magnesium products, specifically Epsom salt.

Epsom salt is a natural remedy that may help relieve muscle pain, inflammation, and constipation. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support these claims.

Epsom salt is generally safe for most adults and children. However, certain people should avoid drinking Epsom salt solutions. Consuming Epsom salt can lead to side effects, including diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness.

Epsom salt is available to purchase in stores and online.