Epsom Salts and Topical Magnesium Absorption
Updated: Jan 6
In the 19th century, various hot water springs in Virginia were popularized for their medicinal properties, containing various minerals which helped to alleviate illnesses and lift the spirits of those who visited these healing pools. Similarly, Epsom salt soaks, whether for your feet alone or for your entire body, can yield benefits for the body and spirit. Here we’ll focus on the component of magnesium absorption into the body through means of an Epsom salt soak.
The chemical makeup of Epsom salts, aka Magnesium Sulfate, is magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Its name is derived from the town of Epsom in England where these salts from the sea were originally discovered hundreds of years ago. Studies show that at least 50% of people in the United States, are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body relating to muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation only to name a few. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include muscle cramps, joint pain, and migraines.
There are interesting reasons why many of us do not reach our daily value of magnesium. A few, yet significant reasons that many of us are magnesium deficient can include our diets where we don’t consume enough magnesium-rich foods, and the fact that our bodies prioritize the absorption of calcium over magnesium when they are presented together (such as in supplements).
But if magnesium is so crucial to the absorption and function of both calcium and vitamin D in our bodies, how can we increase our intake of this? You guessed it. The solution is also the most relaxing option: an Epsom salt soak! By being absorbed through the skin, magnesium does not need to compete with calcium in the GI tract and won’t be removed by the kidneys. The skin is the largest organ of the body. Topical absorption, especially through the feet, has been proven as a successful method of receiving benefits from essential oils, negative ions from the earth (aka “earthing” or “grounding”), and also applies to absorbing magnesium in your Epsom salt soak.
Benefits of taking an Epsom salt soak include relieving aching muscles and joints, alleviating headaches and migraines by relaxing muscles around the skull, reducing inflammation, assisting muscle recovery (after a workout), and stress relief. Some sources site that taking magnesium can increase serotonin levels in the body, thus decreasing anxiety, stress, and depression. The aromatherapy component of some Epsom salt blends, can also provide added benefits such as mood boosting scents, oils that soothe irritation (lavender), decrease inflammation (rosemary), or assist in clearing sinuses for easier breathing (eucalyptus). Other sited benefits include aiding insomnia, soothing pre and post-natal aches, and calming fibromyalgia.
There are not many risks to absorbing too much magnesium, as it’s difficult to do considering how much of our environment and diets prevent us from absorbing this mineral. It is even harder to absorb too much magnesium through soaks. In recorded instances of an individual overdosing on magnesium through means of supplements, it typically resulted in diarrhea. Additionally, ingesting Epsom salts could yield the same results. Individuals who experience severe skin inflammation, skin infections, open wounds, or severe burns, are cautioned against taking an Epsom salt soak before they first consult their healthcare provider.
In summary, there are many advantages to increasing our magnesium intake. As a boon to ourselves, the most effective method of doing so is also a method of self-care! So, the next time someone tries to tease you about your foot soak or Epsom salt bath, tell them you’re simply taking your daily vitamins!
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