Relieving stress is a huge part of the total health equation and it’s one of the best ways to take our energy back into our own hands. One of my favourite natural ways to de-stress, relax and unwind is by taking baths. Not any kind of baths and definitely not the ones filled with colourful and twinkly potions. Not a fan of these. I am talking about Epsom salt baths. Did you know that by simply adding some Epsom salt into your next bath or foot soak you can create a luxurious and therapeutic at home spa experience? This is definitely one of my favourite tricks that I like to pull from my sleeve whenever I am not feeling 100%. It’s so simple and effective! Never heard of Epsom salt? Let me explain you why this salt may be the one thing missing from your self care repertoire.
Epsom salt, chemically known as Magnesium Sulfate, is composed of small, colourless crystals. But don’t mistake it with table salt (although it looks alike). Table salt is sodium chloride and is an entirely different substance than Epsom Salt (made of two components – magnesium and sulfate), which has many beneficial properties that can soothe the body, mind and soul.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF EPSOM SALT
BOOSTS MAGNESIUM LEVELS
Magnesium, the primary component of Epsom Salt, is a naturally occurring mineral that is important for many systems in the body including the heart, muscles, nerves, kidneys, teeth and bones (1). It helps to turn the food we eat into energy (2); is a co-factor in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body (3) and is vital for optimal brain and muscle function also supporting immune system (4). Good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach or kale), nuts (such as almonds and cashews) and seeds, whole grains (such as brown rice and millet), etc. Although you should be able to get all the magnesium you need from your daily diet, many foods, drugs and medical conditions can interfere with the effectiveness of this delivery method. Therefore, soaking in an Epsom Salt bath might just be one of the most effective means of making the magnesium your body needs readily available.
EASES STRESS AND RELAXES BODY
I am sure that most of us have had stress related problems at some point in our lives and all of us have learnt to deal with it in different ways. But how many of us have tried soaking in a tub full of hot water with some Epsom salt to ease that stress? Not many surely. See, stress drains the body of magnesium and Epsom Salt is considered to be a natural stress reliever as it may help to replenish the levels of this essential mineral in the body. Now, this is definitely not some breakthrough research as the wonders of Epsom salt have actually been well-known for ages. The magnesium also helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.
RELIEVES PAIN, INFLAMMATION AND MENSTRUAL CRAMPS
Epsom salt absorbed through the skin may work to relieve muscle tension, ease pain, and inflammation in joints, alleviate tension headaches and soothe abdominal cramps. Many athletes use Epsom salt for sore muscles, but did you know that it can also help to relieve menstrual cramps? Although poor diet and stress are most likely to cause inflammation and hormonal havoc in the body, the two culprits mostly responsible for menstrual symptoms, Epsom salt baths are a great way to get more magnesium while also de-stressing. Let me ask you, who can turn down a prescription for a warm, relaxing bath and some alone time? Hmm. No one! Next time try this to alleviate the pain, you are likely to be surprised.
Epsom salt bath may also enhance the detoxification capabilities of the body as it may help to stimulate the excretion of sodium and other unwanted elements though pores of the skin. Well, no secret that hot bath will make you sweat and “Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body” (6, 7, 8).
Numerous studies have revealed that Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) can be used as a laxative to relieve occasional constipation. Epsom salt acts like a laxative by increasing water in the intestines and can bring about temporary relief from constipation. However, it is strictly warned that Epsom salt SHOULD NOT be used to relieve constipation without the consultation of your GP.
HOW TO USE EPSOM SALT?
First and foremost, make sure you buy quality Epsom salt as there are many concentrated mixtures of toxic chemicals being sold on the market for high profit by unscrupulous manufacturers usually referring to its products as “bath salts”. These “bath salts” are not at all related to Epsom salt (the original bath salts) which can be found at reasonable prices in reputable pharmacies or health food shops. Always check the ingredient list on the package and look for one that has one and only Magnesium Sulphate on the list.
TO MAKE HOMEMADE EPSOM SALT BATH:
- Fill yourself a bottle of filtered water and put it next to the bathtub. You will see that the bath will get you quite hot and sweaty therefore it’s important to have some water on hand.
- Set the mood! Prepare your essential oil burner: add water to the bowl on top of the burner and mix in about 4-6 drops of your favourite essential oil. I like to use lavender, peppermint, Ylang Ylang or Frankincense oils for its relaxant properties. Light the candle in the bottom of the burner after placing the burner in a safe location. Be cautious and do not put the burner near drapes or other flammable material or leave it unattended.
- Run a hot bath, as hot as you can handle.
- Add around 300-500g (1-2 cups) of Epsom salt into the standard sized bathtub.
- While the bath is running, take a dry skin brush and brush all parts of the body in circular motions towards the heart. Read full instructions here.
- Sit in the bath for 10-20 minutes while Epsom salt work its magic. Make sure that you have a very good sweat on. The water needs to be hot to make you sweat. If you are not sweating, the water isn’t hot enough.
- While laying in the bath try to massage your body simply by rubbing all the areas with your hands, ideally clockwise circular motions while soaking. Don’t forget your breasts, gently massage them, too, as it’s a great way to ward against breast cancer.
- Do not stay in the bathtub for more than 30 minutes.
- Before getting up make sure to take a couple deep breaths to allow oxygen back to the brain, and get up slowly. This bath can make you feel a little lightheaded so be cautious.
- Do not use any shower gels as you would normally do when you have a shower. There is no need to wash off the salts before getting off the bathtub.
- Take a rest after bathing with Epsom salt. When you get out of the bath, make sure you keep warm, dress up quickly or go straight to bed and wrap yourself up in blankets. Do not apply any lotions, creams or serums to your skin as this will clog your pores thereby defeating the whole purpose of this cleansing bath. You will continue to sweat for some time after the bath, don’t worry, it will stop after about an hour. I like to lie down, because I feel so relaxed after taking this bath, so it’s pretty much all I am able to do afterwards anyways! Make sure you keep water next to your bed in case you get thirsty at night.
- Continue to drink loads of water the next day.
- Please Note: Take a bath no more than once a week. If you want to take it more often, consult your naturopath or other natural healthcare practitioner.
Next time: Add 2 tablespoons of powdered or ¼ cup fresh grated ginger in the bathtub along with Epsom salt. The ginger will make the bath “hotter” as it comes into contact with your skin. This will allow your pores to open even more, so you will most definitely sweat more.
This bath is perfect to soak after a long day, strenuous activity, but particularly when you are feeling anxious and unable to relax. If you give it a go, let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: This isn’t intended to cure disease and Epsom salt should not be used in place of medication prescribed for you by your doctor. As always, practice caution with home remedies. In case of pregnancy or other health concerns, consult your physician first.