Epsom salt baths are popular for soothing sore muscles. Many weekend warriors and desk job-workers have experienced the benefits of taking a warm epsom salt bath. But soaking in epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, has benefits beyond relieving achy muscles. Today I’ll highlight 3 of my favourite benefits and exactly how to take an epsom salt bath to get the full benefits.
I grew up struggling with sleep. In kindergarten I got in trouble because I wouldn’t sleep during naptime like everyone else. Sleep looks so easy – but it’s often not.
Quality sleep relies on multiple body systems working together: day/night hormones, brain chemistry, balanced nervous system and adequate nutrients to run all the systems. From the Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, sleep relies on the balance of yin and yang.
Sleep is the ultimate yin activity in our day. But most of our lives we promote the opposite, yang, energy: bright lights/screens, running around and “getting things done”. Having a history of difficulty falling asleep, in my younger years, I would often study (a yang activity) until late at night until I was completely exhausted. It’s no wonder I never felt rested.
Instead, cultivating yin energy with an intentional bedtime routine is a much more successful strategy. One part of that routine is an epsom salt bath. When there’s lots on your mind, you may find this especially helpful to transition to a slower pace.
Epsom salt contains the mineral magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, migraines, muscle tension/cramps and diabetes. Replenishing magnesium can help to improve muscle health, calm nerves and improve sleep quality. Soaking in an epsom salt bath appears to increase internal magnesium levels and may explain why so many people find epsom salts helpful for relieving the above stated health issues. Magnesium can also be replenished by taking magnesium capsules, applying topical magnesium sprays or “oils” or soaking with magnesium flakes.
Do you have a hard time falling asleep? The cooling of our body temperature in the evening is an important part of how quickly we’ll fall asleep. After taking a warm bath, we exaggerate this decrease in body temperature promoting sleepiness.
These days hundreds of environmental toxic chemicals are found in our bodies – even in newborns. Unfortunately many of these toxins act like strong estrogens in our bodies and may be one of the reasons why hormone imbalances are so common in both men and women. Estrogen dominance, heavy periods, PMS, skin and weight issues can all be linked to hormonal imbalances.
Our liver has the enormous task of processing hormones and toxic chemicals in order to safely eliminate it from our bodies – but often it can’t keep up to demand. Without adequate nutrients, liver detox slows way down and hormone imbalances worsen.
Sulfate is one critical detox nutrient. Sulfate allows the liver to convert the hormones to a form that can be eliminated from the body. Taking epsom salt baths appear to increase internal sulfate levels and therefore can promote better hormone balancing.
Meats, eggs, garlic and cruciferous vegetables are important sources of sulfur. If you have difficulty tolerating these foods and foods containing sulfites you may have nutrient deficiencies preventing you from converting these sulfur compounds to a form the body can use. Taking epsom salt baths may be one way to increase sulfate levels while you work with your physician on improving your tolerance to sulfur-rich foods.
Increasing body temperature as accomplished by a warm bath also appears to promote bile elimination of toxic chemicals like heavy metals. For these reasons, if you’re using binders (activated charcoal, bentonite clay, etc) as part of your detox protocol, your practitioner may consider timing the dose of binders around your epsom salt baths as well.
Epsom salt baths provide nutrients and heat to promote better liver detox function.
Sweating is an age-old detox strategy. Recently studies have confirmed that chemicals like bisphenol A are found in sweat. Unfortunately cultural influences make us feel embarrassed about sweating and this may be exacerbating the chronic toxic burden we face today.
When you soak in a warm bath for longer than 20 minutes, you’re likely going to be sweating – yet another benefit of epsom salt baths. It’s a good idea to hydrate with electrolytes (like a pinch of high quality salt and fresh lemon juice) to replenish important minerals after sweating.
Tips for taking an Epsom Salt Bath
- Dissolve 3-4 cups of epsom salt in a warm bath
- Soak for at least 20 minutes; Make it pleasant: Listen to an audiobook, music or podcast; add your favourite essential oils or light a non-toxic natural candle
- Take 2-3 baths per week
- Hydrate well afterwards; consider adding electrolytes to your water
- To help improve sleep: take a bath about 1-2 hours before bedtime (to allow body temp to cool down after the bath)
- Enjoy how relaxed you feel!
Epsom salt can be found at your local pharmacy and is relatively inexpensive making it an easy and affordable addition to your evening self-care routine. A pleasant epsom salt bath is a relaxing, destressing transition from yang time (activity of the day) to yin time (bedtime and sleeping). In addition to soothing sore muscles an epsom salt bath aids with hormone balance, the time it takes to fall asleep, detox, and better nutritional status.