In the early 17th Century, the district of Epsom and Ewell in southern England became a destination for English high society looking to soak in its mineral springs. Dr. Nehemiah Grew — a physician, botanist, and Fellow of the Royal Society — was the first to successfully extract the salts from Epsom and Ewell’s spas. Since then, Epsom salts have become commonplace traditional remedies. Scientist haven’t invested much time in researching the effects of Epsom salt, but if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, a soak in these salts can exfoliate your skin, relieve sore muscles, and promote relaxation.
What Are Epsom Salts and How Do They Help Us?
Epsom salts are granules of magnesium sulfate, a dissolvable form of the mineral magnesium. Even those it’s always referred to in the plural form, all Epsom salts are chemically the same. If Epsom salt baths are indeed helpful, it’s likely that the positive effects come from the absorption of magnesium and sulfate through a person’s skin. Magnesium has many roles in our bodies. It helps regulate enzyme activity, contract and relax muscles, produce and transport energy, and produce protein. Magnesium deficiency is common and can lead to irritability, muscle cramps, and even irregular heartbeat. According to a paper from the Epsom Salt Council, sulfate is involved in joint formation, digestion, and the formation of brain tissue in the womb.
Few studies have been done on Epsom salt baths. Some of the reason for that may be that Epsom salts are easily available and, therefore, not a very profitable vein of research. Still, one study from the Epsom Salt Council and the University of Birmingham in England found that people would likely reap the most benefit from Epsom salt baths two to three times a week with about 2 cups of salts (assuming your bath uses about 15 gallons of water).