For many people, soaking in a relaxing bath at the end of a busy day is a great way to reduce stress and relieve any muscular aches and pains. Some people claim that the benefits can be enhanced by adding Epsom salts to the bath but others have questioned whether there is any real health benefits that are provided by including salts whilst you soak.
The proponents and supporters of Epsom salts can that the benefits have been known for hundreds of years and that bathing in Epsom salts is one of the easiest ways to reduce stress and ease muscular pains. Other specific claims are that it relaxes the nervous system, provides benefit for the skin (such as treating Athlete’s foot), helps prevention of hardening of the arteries, makes insulin more effective and that it eliminates toxins from the body.
However, the amount of rigorous research that would support these claims varies and, if you pardon the pun, they should be taken with a pinch of salt (particularly any claims associated with removal of toxins and heavy metals from the body as these are likely to be particularly spurious in nature).
It should be mentioned at this point that if you are pregnant then you should always talk to your doctor before considering an Epsom salt soak. If you have any other diseases, conditions or concerns then it might be a good idea to raise the use of Epsom salt baths the next time you speak to them.
Chemically Epsom salts are hydrated magnesium sulphate and there is no doubt that magnesium is important mineral for many health functions in the body. For example, some cramps have been attributed to lack of magnesium in the diet and when cramp sufferers begin to take magnesium supplements then the pain and intensity of their cramps may drop within a relatively short time. (For more information about the importance of magnesium as a mineral check out this article).
Despite all the benefits and claims that you may find if you research Epsom salts, a recent online article has questioned whether or not they do actually deliver. The article itself is a fairly lengthy piece discussing this topic in some details (click here if you wish to read it).
The jist of the argument is that for many years we have “known” that a soak in a Epsom salt bath is good for relieving muscular stress, pain and tension. However, when you look at the science and research that has been carried out then there is very little supporting evidence. In particular, the claim that the body absorbs the magnesium sulphate through the skin is in doubt and the author questions whether there is a plausible mechanism how Epsom salts can have an impact on muscle tissue and function. Osmosis can be ruled out as osmosis, by definition, is the movement of water molecules through a semi-permeable membrane.
Despite the scepticism about whether a soak in an Epsom salt bath is effective, there are many who frequently resort to a lengthy soak at the end of a stressful or physical day. And as a recent facebook contributor wrote:
“Works great for me, if Epsom doesn’t work for you then it sucks to be you. ;-)”