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A Helpful Guide to Epsom Salt: It’s Origins, Wide-Ranging Benefits and How To Use It

Posted by The Salt Box on 14th Dec 2017

Did you know that Epsom salt, perhaps the most well-known of all non-food salts, isn’t a salt at all? It’s actually a naturally occurring mineral compound of sulfate and magnesium that has long been praised for its magnificent health benefits, as well as its wide-ranging uses for everything from beauty to gardening. Disregarding the misleading name, Epsom salt is incredible stuff, and every household should have some stored away. You never know when you may need it!

Epsom salt is incredibly versatile stuff, useful for everything from relieving aches and pain to fertilising your garden. Find out more about this incredible mineral below! 

The Origins of Epsom Salt

Epsom salt gets its name from where it was discovered, in a rural community 15 miles southwest of London, near a town called Epsom. As the Royal Society of Chemistry recalls, it was first stumbled upon in the summer of 1618, when a cowherd in the drought-gripped town stumbled upon a spring that his thirty cattle refused to drink. Upon inspection, he noted that the water tasted extremely bitter, and that when it evaporated it left behind a salty-looking substance, which he found had a profound purging effect on the body. He also noted that animals who bathed in the water seemed to have wounds heal faster than others.

Soon after, people began to flock to Epsom to benefit from the purgative effects of this bitter water. Some were looking to relieve the painful symptoms of gout (the swelling of joints mainly), while others benefitted from its other purging effects (that being, as a laxative). It was said to have been drunk from stoneware mugs - sometimes as many as 15 pints at a time.

The incredible substance wasn’t officially named until the 1690s when a British anatomist and physiologist named Dr. Nehemiah Grew documented these "bitter purging salts" that he found near Epsom in a book, Nature and Use of the Salt contained in Epsom and such other Waters (1697). 

Grew acquired the patent for exclusive manufacturing of Epsom salt, and as more springs were discovered across England, it was soon readily available over the counter. From there, its popularity and abundance grew exponentially. Today it’s used every day in households around the world.

What Are The Health Benefits of Epsom Salt?

The sulfates and magnesium in Epsom salts have a range of health benefits that everyone can enjoy. Here are a few of the most beneficial.

Reduce Stress

The high magnesium content of Epsom salt is excellent for reducing stress in the mind and body. Once absorbed, magnesium aids with the conversion of tryptophan, an amino acid, to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which conveys sensations of satisfaction and relaxation. Magnesium is also a key player in the production of energy in cells, so by increasing levels in the body, it can make you feel more reviltalised.

Eliminate Toxins In The Body

A long soak in Epsom salts have been found to have a profound detoxifying effect on the body. The skin is very porous, and through the process of reverse osmosis, the salts help flush out toxins, heavy metals, and accumulations of other harmful substances.

Relieve Muscle Aches and Pains

One of the most sought-after benefits of Epsom salt is its ability to help relieve muscle aches and pains. Magnesium is a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral, and inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury. By modulating cellular events involved in inflammation, magnesium calms the process, making it an effective natural treatment for sore muscles, aching joints, and other systemic stress, and to promote a speedy recovery. 

Inflammation is at the core of a host of other health issues, from acute problems to chronic conditions, so there are a range of other ways you may benefit from a soak in Epsom salts. If you’re not feeling 100%, have a long soak in a salt bath, you may be pleasantly surprised by how revived you feel afterwards.

Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Both magnesium and sulfate have been found to help regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin production and utilisation. This is very important for reducing the risk (or severity) of diabetes. It is also important for managing day-to-day energy levels - yet another reason Epsom salts can help you feel more invigorated.

What Are Some of the Other Uses of Epsom Salt?

Aside from these core health benefits, Epsom salts have a range of other uses, for your body and around the house.

Health & Beauty

• Use it to cleanse and exfoliate your face and body

• Soak in a salt bath to help remove a splinter

• Soak your feet in a salt bath to get rid of foot odour and fungus

• Scrub your hair with Epsom salts before you shampoo to help remove hairspray and other styling products

• Add Epsom salt to conditioner to help to rid your hair of excess oil, which will help give it volume

• Apply to insect stings and bites to help relieve itching

Around The House

• Mix Epsom salt with floor detergent for an effective tile cleaner

• Use it to remove gunk build-up in your washing machine

• Keep slugs out of your house by placing salts near any entry points

• Fertilise your plants, flowers and vegetables (magnesium and sulfate are great for producing the primary nutrients needed for plants to survive)

• Scatter on your lawn to keep it green (magnesium is a key element in the chlorophyll molecule in plants)

• Use it as a natural insecticide to get rid of pests

How Do I Use Epsom Salts On My Body?

If you are looking to make the most of the wonderful benefits of Epsom salts can have on your body, there are a few ways it can be used.

In The Bath - This is best for widespread symptoms, like sore and aching joints. Add 6-8 cups of Epsom salt to a warm running bath and, once dissolved, soak for around 20 minutes. When you are done, rinse or shower with fresh water. If you have ongoing symptoms, repeat 3 times per week for 2-4 weeks. After symptoms subside, reduce to maintenance levels - once per week is ideal.

In a Foot or Arm Bath - This is suitable for symptoms in the extremities, such as sore feet. Grab a watertight container, fill it with warm water, and add roughly ¾ of a cup per 10 litres. Once dissolved, submerge the affected area for approximately 20 minutes. If you have ongoing symptoms, repeat 3 times per week for 2-4 weeks.

As a Body Wrap - This is suitable for localised symptoms. Dissolve in approximately ¾ cup of salt in 10 litres of warm water. Once 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.

Our Epsom salts are 100% natural, and are quite sensitive to things that aren’t. So when using them, enjoy the benefits on their own, don’t use any other of your normal products. The natural cleansing effect of the salt means you shouldn’t have to anyway! You can, however, add half a cup of olive oil to an Epsom salt bath to improve moisturisation.

Head here to see our range of Epsom salts.