A leading emergency room physician has an unusual prescription to treat patients’ aches and pains. He tells them to “Add two scoops of Epsom salt to a warm bath. Soak for 20 minutes then rinse with a cold shower. Repeat nightly as needed.”
According to USA Today, Dr. Michael Daignault, a board-certified ER physician in Los Angeles, says that soaking in Epsom salt helps relieve low back pain, muscles strains, occupational aches and pains, and stress. It’s also inexpensive, widely available over the counter, and doesn’t interact with medication people take for other medical problems.
“The therapeutic benefit of soaking in Epsom salt does not require metabolization or detoxification by our liver or kidney the way pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen do,” says Daignault. “And unlike more potent narcotic medications, Epsom salt is not habit-forming or addicting. It’s a great option for almost everyone.”
However, people suffering from diabetes should be careful about soaking in a bath as they are at increased risk for open wounds, nerve damage and poor circulation which makes it more difficult to gauge water temperature, which could result in burns. Those with low blood pressure should also exercise caution as the baths could lower pressure even further.
Epsom salt is also known as magnesium saltate, says Healthline. It’s a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. The name is derived from the town of Surrey, England where it was originally discovered. For centuries this salt has been used to treat ailments such as constipation, insomnia, and fibromyalgia. Although many of the benefits have not been well researched, it is believed that the mineral magnesium is responsible for the healing effect.
Dr. David Friedman, the best-selling author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction tells Newsmax that “magnesium plays a vital role in converting food into energy, protein synthesis, regulating the nervous system and repairing our DNA.”
The health benefits of magnesium are wide-ranging and crucial for every function in our body. Research shows that this mighty mineral:
• Improves sleep. Friedman, who loves his Epsom salt baths, says that 160 million Americans have trouble sleeping and it could be the result of magnesium deficiency. “This mineral has been used successfully to help people get deep restorative sleep,” he says. Soaking in Epsom salt could allow people to absorb more magnesium through their skin.
• Beats depression. Friedman notes that 90 million Americans suffer from mild anxiety and depression, with a full 17.3 million adults in the U.S. experiencing a major depressive episode annually. “Research shows magnesium lowers the risk of depression by 22%,” he says, adding that the mineral activates the parasympathetic system, which is responsible for calming you down and helping you relax.
• Reduces pain and swelling. Many people report that taking Epsom salt baths improves the symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia, says Healthline. Since many people suffering from these conditions are deficient in magnesium, this may be the reason the baths help.
• Relaxes muscles. People who suffer from muscle cramps may also be deficient in magnesium. “This includes the muscles in your digestive tract and arterial walls,” says Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a board-certified nutritionist. “So, magnesium is important in digestive and heart health.” It also stabilizes blood pressure and helps the nervous system to relax which allows enzymes to help the body heal, thus slowing down the aging process.
Daignault says that while we don’t know the exact science behind how Epsom salt works, there are over 400 years of anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness.
“Perhaps it is the simple act of decompressing at night and having a wind-down regimen,” he says, adding that the salt in the bath prevents wrinkling of the skin, leaving it more silky and smooth. “The bottom line is that a large bag of Epsom salt should be a staple in your home medicine cabinet."
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