Epsom salt is an ingredient used in a soak to treat minor aches and pains. It’s thought to soothe tired muscles and reduce swelling.
The most popular use for Epsom salt is in baths. While there isn’t strong, scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness, many people say they feel relief for multiple symptoms by soaking in an Epsom salt bath.
Reported Health Benefits and Uses of Epsom Salt
Many people, including some healthcare professionals, claim Epsom salt is therapeutic and use it as an alternative treatment for several conditions.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, the first being calcium. Many people do not consume enough magnesium. Even if you do, factors such as dietary phytates and oxalates can interfere with how much your body absorbs.
While magnesium sulfate has value as a magnesium supplement, some people claim that magnesium may be better absorbed via Epsom salt baths than when taken by mouth.
This claim is not based on any available evidence.
Promotes Sleep and Stress Reduction
Adequate magnesium levels are essential for sleep and stress management, likely because magnesium helps your brain produce neurotransmitters that induce sleep and reduce stress.
Magnesium may also help your body produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
Helps with Constipation
Magnesium is often used to treat constipation.
It appears to be helpful because it draws water into your colon, which promotes bowel movements.
Most often, magnesium is taken by mouth for constipation relief in the form of magnesium citrate or magnesium hydroxide.
However, taking Epsom salt is also said to be effective, although it is not well studied. Nevertheless, the FDA lists it as an approved laxative.
Exercise Performance and Recovery
Some people claim that taking Epsom salt baths can reduce muscle soreness and relieve cramps — both important factors for exercise performance and recovery.
It is well known that adequate magnesium levels are helpful for exercise because magnesium helps your body use glucose and lactic acid (8Trusted Source).
Reduced Pain and Swelling
Another common claim is that Epsom salt helps reduce pain and swelling.
Many people report that taking Epsom salt baths improves symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Again, the magnesium is deemed responsible for these effects, since many people with fibromyalgia and arthritis are deficient in this mineral.
Safety and Side Effects
While Epsom salt is generally safe, there are a few negative effects that can occur if you use it incorrectly. This is only a concern when you take it by mouth.
First of all, the magnesium sulfate in it can have a laxative effect. Consuming it may result in diarrhea, bloating, or upset stomach.
If you use it as a laxative, make sure to drink plenty of water, which may reduce digestive discomfort. Furthermore, never take more than the recommended dosage without first consulting your doctor.
The Bottom Line
Epsom salt may be helpful in treating magnesium deficiency or constipation when taken as a supplement. It can also be used as a beauty product or bath salt.
There isn’t a lot of evidence to support all of its reported benefits. Its positive effects are mostly anecdotal at this point, and more research is needed on its functions.
However, Epsom salt is generally safe and easy to use.