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Epsom Salt Baths: Health Benefits and How It Works

Epsom salt bath

You may have heard stories from your grandparents about soaking their feet in Epsom salts and dismissed the benefits as just lore. I was the same. I guess there was a small part of me that just couldn’t understand how a bag of salt could possibly do all of the things they said it could, so I never used it. However, people today are rediscovering the many benefits of soaking their entire body in an Epsom salt bath.

What are Epsom salts?

Epsom salts is a naturally occurring compound called magnesium sulfate, which is made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It gets its name from the village of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was first discovered in natural springs. Since Roman times and possibly before then, people have flocked to these mineral springs in the hopes that it would heal sores, relieve aches and pains, and cure any number of ailments. 


Magnesium plays a huge role in the body, regulates over 325 enzymes, reduces inflammation and high blood pressure, soothes the nerves and improves function, and is important for circulation. Sulfates help flush out toxins, improve nutrient absorption, and can ease even the worst migraine.


It is called a “salt” due to its chemical structure; however, it does not contain any chemicals in common with table salt. It does not taste salty. In fact, most people report it has a horrible, bitter taste. 

What are some benefits of an Epsom salt bath?

While most people use it to soothe aches and pains or to just decompress after a difficult day, soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath has many benefits, and could help with: 

How do you prepare an Epsom salt bath?

To prepare your bath, start running the water. It should be very warm but not so hot you are in danger of burning yourself. Slowly pour the salts into the water as the bath fills. Usually, one to two cups is sufficient for a standard bathtub, but always check the manufacturer’s label before use. It’s probably best to not use Epsom salts in a bath with running jets because the minerals can deposit in the machinery and clog it up. For that extra special bath, add in little essential oils and bubbles.

How long and how often should you soak?

Aim to soak in your bath for at least 15 minutes and you can stay in the bath for up to an hour. You can take an Epsom salt bath as often as every single day if necessary to soothe your aches and pains, or just take one every six months as needed to soothe a sunburn or an ingrown toenail.

How does it work?

There is some debate on how it works. Although transdermal absorption of magnesium isn’t fully proven, some studies suggest that the skin may be able to absorb small amounts of magnesium and sulfate ions through hair follicles. As far as Epsom salt’s effect on muscles and joints post-workout? Nobody can agree. Some of my fellow runners say the Epsom salt bath didn’t have any impact, others swear by it and prefer it over an ice bath for post-run recovery.

Are there any side effects of Epsom salt baths?

Although Epsom salt is a natural product and considered safe, there may be some potential side effects that you should know:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Skin Irritation
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Difficulty breathing or asthma


There is not enough evidence that taking Epsom salt orally is beneficial or even safe. The magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt can have a laxative effect, which may result in diarrhea and or upset stomach. It can also cause an adverse effect on your kidney. Some people find that taking magnesium supplements is helpful for muscle cramps and other ailments, but it is best to take a magnesium supplement manufactured for oral consumption and leave the Epsom salts for soaking in. 

How should I store my Epsom salts?

Store your package of dry Epsom salts in a cool, dry location. They do not go bad or expire, but they will absorb moisture from the air and clump together into rock-like chunks that are difficult to dissolve in your bath. Thus, seal the salts inside an air-tight container and do not store them in your bathroom, which tends to be humid. 

It’s bath time!

The addition of Epsom salt baths to your personal care routine can be empowering and improve your quality of life, especially if you are prone to aches and pains or looking to recover from a tough workout. Some will debate whether it truly works, but the only way to know for sure is to try it yourself. If it doesn’t work, you had the pleasure of taking a really awesome bath and you didn’t go into debt doing it.