What are Bath Salts?
Since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, various cultures and groups of people have visited the Dead Sea for therapy. Since the beginning, Dead Sea salts have been used in various forms, soaking, creams, soaps, scrubs and wraps, just as it is used today. The minerals found in bath salts are critical nutrients for our bodies, which are often not absorbed, or poorly absorbed, from our food.
At Salt Box, we stock the three main types of baths salts – they are Dead Sea Salts (straight from the Dead Sea), Himalayan Salts (out of the Himalayan Mountains in Northern Pakistan) and Epsom Salts. All of our salts are 100% pure and natural. We don’t believe in adding nasties to your bath.
All types of salts are said to have health benefits when used as bath soaks due to nutritive elements through absorption by the skin. Now to the technical stuff …
- Dead Sea Salts are found in Dead Sea water, which has a salt content of 29%, compared to 4% in the oceans. The major ions of Dead Sea water include: chloride, magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium.
- Epsom Salts are magnesium sulphate heptahydrate (usually just shortened to magnesium sulphate). It was originally obtained by boiling down mineral waters at Epsom, England. Officially, Epsom is not actually a salt, but a naturally occurring pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulphate.
- Himalayan Salts are from mined from the south-facing scarp of the Potwar Plateau in the Punjab region of northern Pakistan. It is buried amid mountains (literally) of sedimentary rock dating back over 500 million years ago. The salt that is taken out of here is revered as the purest of all the salts and is known as the ‘King Salt’ and originally served to royalty only (not common folk who used other salts) for both cooking and as a therapeutic ingredient. Indeed, Himalayan Salts, unlike Dead Sea salts and Epsom salts are the same salts used for food.
And just a word of caution! Before you go attempting to season tonight’s dinner with your Dead Sea or Epsom bath salts we strongly recommend you don’t. Epsom and Dead Sea salts are very different from food salts (and Himalayan). Common food salt is primarily (up to 95%) made up of sodium chloride - the chemical compound NaCl – and these salts are typically found in the Pacific Ocean. Dead Sea salts and Epsom salts have a stack of other minerals in them and both have low sodium chloride content (below 20% and often as little as 2.5) and are not suitable for eating. You may experience quite a drastic laxative effect if you do, which may not be very nice … for anyone.
The Benefits of Bath Salts
Many of us overlook the humble bath salt as something that Granny used to use, or something that you put on the shelf (you know … those colourful jars of salt we all used to make way back when). At Salt Box we find ourselves wanting to shout from the roof tops, "please people, think again - it’s not true!". We believe bath salts are one of the most natural, soothing and inexpensive ways to pamper and heal the human body and we just love them.
For over 2000 years people have been saying that certain salts, when used as a soak or treatment, deliver health benefits. These range from the slightly crazy claims (they help your libido) to scientific studies that show certain bath salts can be used to alleviate symptoms of inflamed skin, eczema, psoriasis and arthritis. There is even evidence out there to say that bath salts can assist with autism.
This is not to say that jumping in any old salty bath is going to cure all your ailments and create a new you (sorry). But we do believe that regular salty bathing (20 mins, up to 3x per week – link to how to use bath salts page) in either Dead Sea Salt, Epsom Salts or Himalayan salts can deliver benefits, enhance your skin and give you a healthy glow. More specific benefits include helping:
- Reduce stress
- Inflamed skin
So what is it about bath salts that is so good that even the Bible consistently refers to them as a healing source? (It’s true – it’s in both the New and Old Testaments.) Dead Sea, Himalayan and Epsom salts contain loads of minerals that are critical nutrients for our bodies, which are often not absorbed, or poorly absorbed, from our food. Some of these are detailed below:
- Magnesium: aids sleep and relaxation, promotes quick healing of skin tissue and provides the skin’s surface with anti-allergic elements, essential for cell metabolism.
- Bromide: soothes skin, relaxes body muscles and calms nerves.
- Chloride: combines with hydrogen in the stomach to make hydrochloric acid a powerful digestive enzyme.
- Sodium: relieves stiffness and muscle cramps. Also a detoxifying agent, helping cells retain nourishment and expel waste.
- Calcium: an essential mineral known to strengthen bones and teeth and cell membranes. Also cleanses pores.
- Potassium: helps balance moisture in the skin and body, aiding in the reduction of water retention and in the nourishment of cells. Also regulates the nervous system.
- Iodine: important for the correct function of the thyroid gland and aids metabolic exchanges
- Sulfur: a natural disinfectant and detoxifying agent as it works with the liver to rid the body of toxins.
- Zinc: when applied topically zinc is known to boost the immune system.
Starting to see why we love them so much? Bathing in salty water is not only nice, but it is nourishing and effective. When used properly they are 100% safe and produce no nasty side effects*. So go ahead … try them. We think you will become converts.
*Please note: Our only caveats are that people with sensitivities to Sulfur should not bath in Epsom salts and safety precautions should always be followed when soaking in baths – use caution getting in and out of any body of water, including the tub and avoid water that is too hot.
Benefits of Dead Sea Salts
Unsurprisingly, given the number of people who have sung the benefits of the Israeli beach vacation cure, the benefits of Dead Sea salt have been the most scientifically researched and tested of all the bath salts. And, the results have meant that the cynics have had to cast their cynicism to one side as studies from across the globe have demonstrated the positive effect that Dead Sea salts can have on inflammatory diseases, including eczema, psoriasis and arthritis. Indeed, many hospitals, health bodies and dermatologists are advocates for Dead Sea salts as a natural remedy for these conditions. So, sceptics – beware! Our Dead Sea goddess is not just a pretty face. Dead Sea Salts can soothe, nourish AND assist with a number of ailments.
Inflammatory diseases (eczema, psoriasis, allergic reactions, rashes, dry and ageing skin)
Dead Sea salts have been linked to successfully reducing the effects of inflammatory diseases such as eczema, dry skin, roughness and skin redness. This is thought to be linked to the high magnesium content in Dead Sea salts which binds water, influences epidermal proliferation and differentiation and enhances permeability barrier repair. The high bromide and magnesium in Dead Sea salt can relieve allergic reactions by cleansing.
A number of Eczema bodies, hospitals and dermatologists, including the National Eczema Association in the U.S.A. and the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, recommend bathing in salts to reduce the symptoms of eczema. In Australia (and other countries) there are dedicated therapy rooms that provide ‘salt therapy’ to assist adults and children with skin conditions such as eczema.
One of the most interesting studies to back this up is one by Dr J. Arndt, from Germany, on the effect of Dead Sea Bath Salts on patients suffering from psoriasis. Dr Arndt showed that most symptoms of the illness diminished within one week of treatment i.e. notable itch, scaling, joint complaints, and sleeping difficulties. Other parameters, such as the spread redness and infiltration decreased more slowly, but after four weeks the majority of the patients were essentially free from complaints. Pretty remarkable we think.
Interestingly, one study into Dead Sea salt benefits has shown a 40% reduction in the depth of wrinkling. However, this is one you will have to prove yourself as it isn’t backed by enough independent scientific studies … We know bath salts are good, but even we can’t claim that they can turn back the clock.
Dead Sea Salts are known to assist with rheumatic arthritis. Studies in Germany and Israel have proven that bathing in a 2% bath solution at home can deliver significant benefits to sufferers of arthritis. These include reduction in morning stiffness, improvement in walk time, hand-grip strength, activities of daily living, circumference of proximal interphalangeal joints, number of active joints and serum levels of amyloid A, rheumatoid factor, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Stress and insomnia
A good old soak in Dead Sea salts (we recommend 20 minute plus) is an excellent way to achieve deep relaxation. The combination of the warmth of the bath and the Dead Sea salts (which are a feast of minerals for the skin) assists with reducing stress, calming the mind and balancing emotions. A relaxation solution that is cheaper than a massage, a yoga or meditation session … what is there not to love?
Muscle aches and pains
The minerals from Dead Sea salts can help improve blood circulation which reduces inflammation and serves as a general muscle relaxant – this is mainly due to the potassium and bromide in Dead Sea salts. So for your sporty ones out there – it may be worth incorporating a salty bath into your regime. Hey – you may even become the next Hussain Bolt (or maybe not).
People with autism, and parents of children with autism, have offered anecdotal support to the benefits of bath salts (both Dead Sea and Epsom) to help relax their children. This is due to the sulphur and magnesium contained in these salts which help relax and promote calmness.
Benefits of Himalayan Salts
Improve the quality of skin
Himalayan salt is said to clean and purify pores and make skin smoother and suppler - so you too can look like a Queen...or a King.
Inflammatory diseases (eczema, psoriasis, allergic reactions, rashes, dry and ageing skin)
Like Dead Sea salts, Himalayan salts are also said to have a positive effect on common skin conditions such as dry skin, psoriasis and acne, as well as heal rashes, blisters and insect bites.
Prevent muscle cramping and soreness
Soaking in warm salty water can sooth cramping aches and pain. Like Dead Sea Salts, the minerals from Pink Himalayan Salts can help improve blood circulation which reduces inflammation and serves as a general muscle relaxant – this is mainly due to the potassium and bromide. Interestingly, Himalayan Salts are said to alleviate the symptoms of PMS (we told you this salt keeps on giving).
Regulate sleep and decrease stress
Like other bath salts, Himalayan Salts are linked to better sleep and reduced stress. Bathing in warm, salty water (we recommend 20 minutes plus) is an excellent way to achieve deep relaxation. The combination of the warmth of the bath and the Himalayan Salts (which are a feast of minerals for the skin) assists with reducing stress, calming the mind and balancing emotions. A relaxation solution that is cheaper than a massage, a yoga or meditation session … what is there not to love?
Benefits of Epsom Salts
Ease stress and relax the body
The magnesium in Espom salts, once absorbed by the skin, have been said to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the body, to create a feeling of calm and relaxation. In addition, magnesium has been linked to the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy packets made in the cells. Many say that regular soaking in Epsom salts will help you feel better and gain more energy.
Relieve pain and muscle cramps
There are a lot of athletes, personal trainers, gym junkies out there that swear by soaking in Epsom salts to ease muscle pain and reduce inflammation. Many athletes and amateur athletes soak in Epsom salts following physical activity to reduce muscle pain and promote recovery.
Eliminate toxins from the body
The sulphates in Epson salts have been claimed to have a detoxifying effect on the body (through flushing toxins and heavy metals from the skin) and improving nerve function by encouraging proper regulation of electrolytes. An Epsom salt soak is also said to encourage detoxification of drugs remaining in the body after surgery.
How to Bath Salts Work?
This very question has long being occupying the minds of both the advocates and critics of bath salts. For many years there was debate about whether the minerals from bath salts could be absorbed into the human skin through soaking. Many claimed it did happen, some disagreed altogether, while others said that it is the combination of the salts and the ultra-violet radiation from the sun that is the reason why the Israeli beach vacation cure works.
Luckily, in 2006 Rosemary Waring (a British biochemist at the University of Birmingham) put an end to the debate. She undertook scientific work which proved that magnesium is well absorbed by the skin through bathing. Waring measured this through measuring magnesium and sulphate in the blood and urine before and after people had bathed in Epsom salts. She found them to be higher after the baths – with 16 out of 19 people having more magnesium and sulphate in their blood after the baths than before. This has proven that the minerals from bath salts can be absorbed in to the human skin, which explains how they might work.
How do I use Bath Salts?
Bath salts are pretty simple to use and can be used in a variety of ways.
In the bath tub (for widespread symptoms)
Add 2-4 cups of salt to a warm running bath and, once dissolved, relax for approximately 20 minutes. Rinse or shower after with fresh water if you wish. Take 3 baths per week for 2-4 weeks. After symptoms subside reduce to maintenance levels – approximately once per week.
Foot or arm bath (for use on the extremities)
Use a watertight bowl and fill with warm water. Use approximately ¾ cups per 10 litres. Ensure the salt has dissolved and then submerge the affected area for approximately 20 mins. Rinse after with fresh water. Take 3 baths per week for 2-4 weeks. After symptoms subside reduce to maintenance levels – approximately once per week.
Body wrap (localised symptoms)
Dissolve in approximately ¾ cup of salt in 10 litres of warm water. When the salt is fully dissolved, saturate a small to medium sized towel with the salted water. Cover the affected area of skin with the towel for 20 minutes. Rinse with water after use. Repeat 3 times per week for 2-4 weeks. After symptoms subside reduce to maintenance levels – approximately once per week.
Our bath salts are 100% natural and are really sensitive to things that aren’t. So don’t use salts with your usual shower products as it will interfere with the minerals (and anyway, the bath salts have a cleansing effect on the skin so you shouldn’t need them). If you really want to get tricky, you can add ½ cup of olive oil to the bath to improve moisturisation.