Chances are, you’ve got a bag of Epsom salt hidden in the back of your sink cabinet, ready to pull out when your muscles are sore. But have you ever wondered why this simple salt is so soothing—and if there are any other ways you can reap the benefits?
Epsom salt (also called magnesium sulfate) is essentially a form of the vital nutrient magnesium. Bruce Roberts, MD, an integrative medicine physician, explains: “Epsom salts are a magnesium salt. Magnesium is a co-factor in over 300 different metabolic processes in the body including energy production, detoxification, muscle, and nerve function.”
So, when you soak in a bath filled with Epsom salt, you are essentially replenishing your magnesium stores—and that’s why it’s so ahhh-worthy.
Here are some solid benefits found in this special salt.
1. Promotes Relaxation
“[Magnesium] tends to be one of the first minerals to be used up during times of stress,” says Roberts. And we’ve all experienced its dreadful symptoms: “When people are under stress they tend to get depleted in magnesium resulting in tight, sore muscles, irritable nerves, insomnia, high blood pressure, and constipation,” says Roberts. That’s where Epsom salt comes in. The calming effect of the magnesium can make a big difference in times of stress or upheaval, too.
2. Supports Regularity
Having trouble going number two? Epsom salt is a proven gentle laxative. A small amount of salt, mixed with water, can be taken internally (check the directions on your box and speak with your doc). Dr. Roberts warns that some people cannot tolerate magnesium orally because of the bowel effect, though. Not to fear! “Epsom salt baths are a good alternative way to get magnesium into the body without going through the GI tract,” says Roberts. (But don’t think a bath has the same effect as taking it internally).
3. Exfoliates Dry Skin
4. Aids Healthy Sleep Patterns
Magnesium is also a powerful sleep aid (no)—a study in the Journal of Research in Medical Science found that magnesium supplementation helped support sleep in elderly people. But you don’t have to pop a pill to feel its effects, as an Epsom salt soak before bed can calm you down and prep your body for a solid night of slumber.
5. Soothes Bruises & Aches
Soaking in an Epsom salt solution can help relieve sore muscles, minor strains, general aches and pains, and post-workout pulls.
6. Helps Plants Grow
Epsom salt can be applied to the soil in your garden or houseplants, as it helps to promote a healthy soil composition (after all, magnesium is a mineral!). An Epsom salt solution can also help keep bugs away, when sprayed on plants.
7. Cleans Your Home
As a cleaning aid, Epsom salt works wonders on dirty tile and grout (just combine with a liquid soap). They’re also useful for scrubbing gunk (think caked-on food on your plates and pans). Another bonus? If you find that your washing machine is in need of a clean, a quick cycle with a healthy scoop of Epsom salt can also remove detergent buildup.