Epsom salt baths may feel great but the unique health benefits are questionable, according to medical experts

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Epsom salt baths may feel great but the unique health benefits are questionable, according to medical experts
Epsom salt baths may not be any better than a regular warm bath.ONOKY - Fabrice LEROUGE/ Getty Images
  • People claim epsom salt baths helps relieve joint and muscle pain, but research hasn't proven this.
  • However, warm baths in general can benefit sore muscles and stress.
  • To take an epsom salt bath, add 300-600 grams of epsom salt to a warm bath and let it dissolve.

Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It is commonly dissolved in baths and used as a home remedy because it is rumored that absorbing magnesium through the skin can provide numerous health benefits.

"Epsom salts have been used for many years for conditions ranging from insomnia to constipation," says Anne Weisman, PhD, director of wellness and integrative medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "The purported benefits of Epsom salt baths are the reduction of muscular aches and pains, and increased relaxation."

While an Epsom salt bath won't replace any OTC or prescription pain relief your doctor recommends, it may still be a useful home remedy. If you'd like to try an Epsom salt bath, here's what you need to know about the supposed benefits of Epsom salt and how to make one at home.

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Should you take an epsom salt bath?

While Epsom salt remains a popular and seemingly effective home remedy for some people, it is yet unclear if magnesium can actually be absorbed by the skin, says Gary Soffer, MD, FAAP, physician at Yale Medicine and director of the integrative medicine program.

"Unfortunately, any research that has supported this idea remains unpublished in peer-reviewed journals," Soffer says.

Historically, Epsom salt baths have been used to provide relief for sunburn, sprains, and itchiness from poison ivy, says Weisman.

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"While patients often report feeling calm and relaxed after an Epsom salt bath I have yet to see convincing research, in the medical literature, that demonstrates adding Epsom salts to baths will provide greater benefit than a warm bath alone," says Soffer.

Note: Taking a warm bath in and of itself can help relieve muscle pain and stress.

Essentially, Epsom salt might not be the cure-all some people make it out to be, but it also can't hurt to try and see if it works for you.

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How to take an Epsom salt bath

It's fairly easy to make your own Epsom salt bath:

  1. Fill the bathtub with warm water.
  2. Add in about 300 to 600 grams (roughly 1.5-2.5 cups) of Epsom salt.
  3. When the salt is fully dissolved, sit in the bath for about 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Shower with plain water afterward to rinse off any excess salt on the skin.

A small 2014 report suggests that having an Epsom salt bath two to three times a week can safely increase sulfate and magnesium levels in the body. However, if you're significantly deficient in magnesium, consult with your doctor on the best way to supplement it.

"Epsom salts are a relatively safe bath additive but can cause skin irritation especially those products that contain essential oils or other ingredients," says Soffer. Do not soak in Epsom salt if you've experienced allergic reactions or infections from it, or if you currently have open wounds or severe burns.

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Use Epsom salt only as directed. Otherwise, you may experience nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal cramping as a result of having too much magnesium.

Insider's takeaway

An Epsom salt bath may relieve pain and discomfort, relax the muscles, and provide stress relief. All you need to do is dissolve about 300 to 600 grams of Epsom salt in the bathtub and sit in it for around 10 to 20 minutes. Make sure to rinse afterward to get rid of excess salt on the skin.

Other bath soaks aside from Epsom salt baths can be beneficial as well. A colloidal oatmeal bath can provide relief from itchy skin, while a good old-fashioned bubble bath can help you get better sleep.

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