8 Health Benefits of Epsom Salt

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

Epsom salt, also known as magnesium sulfate, is often thought of as a cure-all for everything from muscle aches to bug bites. The secret of the salt is said to be in the magnesium which helps regulate many of the body’s functions, including muscle, nerve and bone health.

Woman's hand adding salt to bath

The health benefits of Epsom salt are both physical and mental, and a soothing soak in an Epsom salt bath can make you feel better in many ways. Just remember that external use is recommended and you should shop for quality Epsom salt that’s 100% magnesium sulfate.

1. Muscle Health and Recovery

The magnesium and sulfate that make up Epsom salt are the key to its health benefits. Magnesium is said to reduce inflammation, increase relaxation, and enhance muscle and nerve function. It also helps regulate your electrolyte balance and may help the body process glucose and lactic acid. The sulfate functions as a detoxifier and speeds up muscle recovery. It all adds up to the perfect recipe for soothing muscles and easing soreness after a workout. Though the scientific evidence is limited, athletes and trainers recommend a relaxing Epsom salt bath after exercising to treat achy muscles and joints.

2. Foot Care

You don’t need a full-body Epsom salt bath to get the benefits. An Epsom salt foot soak works wonders for tired, sore feet. If your feet are swollen or you have blisters, the magnesium helps reduce inflammation. Most doctors recommend adding 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt to a quart of room temperature water and soaking your feet for 20 minutes. Do this every eight hours until your feet feel better, especially if you have arthritis. An Epsom salt soak is a good go-to for any foot issue from athlete’s foot to gout to an ingrown toenail.

3. Stress and Anxiety Relief

A classic Epsom salt bath is part of every doctor’s stress-relief toolkit, especially when they don’t want to prescribe any or additional medication for patients. The magnesium may help boost serotonin and create a calm feeling. Though there’s no significant research showing that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, patients claim an Epsom salt bath works wonders to relieve anxiety, increase feelings of relaxation, and even help with insomnia. Proponents recommend taking Epsom salt baths several times a week for maximum stress relief benefits. Dissolve 2 cups of Epsom salt in your bath (and a few drops of your favorite essential oil) and wash your worries away.

4. Skin Exfoliation and Acne Treatment

The texture of Epsom salt makes it a natural exfoliant and effective addition to any skin care routine. Mix a tablespoon of Epsom salt with olive oil and rub it on wet skin in the shower or bath. Blend a half teaspoon of Epsom salt with your cleanser for an exfoliating face wash. For acne, try using Epsom salt to remove blackheads: Put a teaspoon of Epsom salt with 3 drops of iodine into a half cup of boiling water. Once the salt is dissolved, let the mixture cool to room temperature and dab onto blackheads with a cotton ball. Let it work for a few minutes, then rinse off, wash your face gently, rinse again, and pat dry.

5. Sunburn and Skin Relief

The anti-inflammatory properties of Epsom salt make it a summertime essential for soothing sunburns, rashes, and bug bites. To ease sunburn pain, put one cup of water and two tablespoons of Epsom salt in a spray bottle to spritz your reddest areas. Take the sting out of bug bites and poison ivy rashes by soaking a cotton cloth with the same solution of 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt, then apply to the skin. An Epsom salt bath is another great option for all-over skin soother. Stay in the lukewarm tub for at least 15 minutes. Apply moisturizer generously.

6. Splinter Removal

Epsom salt can help you remove a splinter! This is more of a pro tip, but the health benefit is you won’t have a painful, annoying splinter anymore and you’ll feel better. Soak the area with the splinter in a bowl or bath with Epsom salt and water. Mix a ratio of 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt for each cup of water. Soaking in Epsom salt increases the osmotic pressure of your skin, which pushes the splinter to the surface. The magnesium also helps reduce inflammation around the splinter, so it’s easier to remove.

7. Inflammation and Pain Relief

Studies show that a magnesium deficiency can contribute to inflammation and chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Regular Epsom salt baths may help increase your magnesium levels and reduce inflammation throughout your body. It’s also been reported to help with acute pain, like tension headaches and migraines, or chronic pain, such as back pain. Salty, warm water also makes you more buoyant, which means you have more joint mobility in the bathtub and feel lighter in general. At the very least, you’ll feel relaxed and floaty while you’re in the bath.

8. Cold and Flu Treatment

If your grandmother ever told you to take an Epsom salt bath when you had a cold, she was on the right track. It’s a classic cold and flu home remedy, because it combines all the best health benefits of Epsom salts. It soothes body aches, improves sleep, boosts energy and circulation, and feels like a warm hug. Some experts report that an Epsom salt bath may increase white blood cell production to increase your immune system’s response and fight illness better. Doctors suggest starting Epsom salt baths as soon as you feel a cold coming on.

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  1. Health benefits of Epsom salt baths. Epsom Salt Council. https://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/uses-benefits/health/
  2. 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Epsom Salt. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-epsom-salt/
  3. Magnesium Sulfate (Oral Route, Topical Application Route, Route Not Applicable). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/magnesium-sulfate-oral-route-topical-application-route-route-not-applicable/proper-use/drg-20088513
  4. Uses and benefits of Epsom salt. Epsom Salt Council. https://www.epsomsaltcouncil.org/uses-benefits/
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 7
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