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When it comes to nutrition, salt is often viewed critically as a food additive, and high intake is particularly discouraged if you have high blood pressure. However, the term salt is expressly related to sodium chloride. Epsom salt, however, is a magnesium salt that is said to have various positive effects on health.
In view of the nutrition-based discussion about table salt, it is sometimes forgotten that certain salt variants with reasonable doses can also have a health-promoting effect. For example, Dead Sea salt is used as standard in the treatment of chronic skin diseases such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis because, in addition to its essential salt content, it also contains minerals that are effective on the skin, such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. In asthma, too, the vapors from salt water are often used to relieve the symptoms of the disease. The first choice here is the so-called Epsom salt. In addition to the treatment of acute asthma attacks, a few heart problems and indigestion in the form of constipation are possible areas of application. For this reason, we would like to take a closer look at Epsom salts in our article.
What is Epsom Salt?
In principle, salts are described as chemical compounds that result from the precipitation of crystals from inorganic metals (e.g. magnesium or sodium) or organic acids (e.g. carboxylic acid). Epsom salt is a salt of the inorganic mineral magnesium (Mg). To be more precise, it is magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), which arises from the sulfuric acid through appropriate crystallization reactions.
Of course, this salt comes in the form of epsomite, which also received the name Epsom Salt because of its strikingly bitter taste. It is named after the English town of Epsom, which was also the first source of Epsom salt and the mineral water enriched with it. In general, thanks to salt deposits in epsomer water samples, it was found for the first time that epsom salt is a relevant component in mineral water. Corresponding descriptions date from the 19th century and are therefore not that old.
The use of epsom salt is very versatile. For example, because of its rich magnesium content, it is used in agriculture as a natural fertilizer for plants that have a special need for magnesium, including fruit and conifers. Magnesium sulfate also contributes to an acidic pH value of the soil, which plays an important role in the selection of sites and preparation for the location of numerous plants. Due to the draining effects of salt in general, epsom salt can also be used for certain drying processes, such as in leather and textile production. The drainage effect of Epsom salt is so strong that it is also used in natural medicine for laxative measures. The detoxifying aspect of the dehydrating salt is also of medical importance, for example when performing dehydration cures to detoxify the body or to clean the intestines during diets or fasting cures.
Attention: Epsom salt must not be used permanently as a natural laxative and also for detoxification, as this can lead to massive disturbances in the body's fluid and electrolyte balance!
Another component of Epsom salt, the so-called crystal water, is an important ingredient in basic medicinal products. They are used as hydrohalides to regulate the acid-base balance in the presence of acidity in the body and thus give Epsom salt a medicinal meaning. All in all, the areas of application of Epsom salt are as follows:
- Skin problems such as abscesses, acne boils, skin aging, herpes, pimples or dry skin.
- Heart problems such as heart attack, rapid heartbeat or ventricular fibrillation.
- Muscle and nerve complaints such as seizures, sore muscles, nerve pain or tension.
- Metabolism and digestive disorders such as biliary congestion, liver problems, irritable bowel syndrome, overacidification or constipation.
- other areas of application such as asthma, induction of birth, magnesium deficiency or heat treatment.
Ingredients of epsom salt
The healing properties of Epsom salt itself largely result from its osmotic abilities. Osmosis is a process in which particles flow in a specific direction and, for example, cause fluid to pass through the body tissues. Epsom salt has the ability to specifically activate a draining effect in certain parts of the body. In case of constipation, Epsom salt specifically causes an osmotic water accumulation in the digestive tract. Applying it to the skin, in turn, causes more water to enter the skin tissue, making it more moisturized. In the heart area, on the other hand, salt-based osmosis can improve muscle activity. The same applies to the transmission of nerve signals via liquid transport media such as amino acids.
In contrast to conventional table salt, which in the course of industrial production mostly contains only salt crystals, natural or healing salts generally also have important extracts of minerals that result from their natural occurrence in mineral rock or similar inorganic compounds. In the case of Epsom salts, these are minerals and trace elements relevant to health, such as
- and magnesium.
As a trace element, bromine supports the synthesis of collagen, which is required for a tight connective tissue. This also explains the good effect of epsom salt against aging processes of the skin, which are usually accompanied by a decrease in the collagen content in the connective tissue and thus provoke wrinkles and cellulite.
Iodine is usually also found in iodized salt, but here it is often unnaturally highly concentrated and therefore rather harmful to the body if, for example, there is an overactive thyroid. In the right dose, iodine can also help the body. For example, it compensates for the iodine deficiency that occurs with an underactive thyroid. In the long term, it can lead to the formation of a goiter and can also influence the production of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which consist primarily of iodine and are responsible for essential metabolic processes in the body. In medicine, iodine is also used as a disinfectant and antiseptic agent to treat skin wounds and infections.
Potassium is essential in the body for nerve irritation. The mineral plays an important role when it comes to the electrical stimulation of the heart. This explains why Epsom salt is used for heart complaints that result from disturbed stimulation and thus cause cardiac arrhythmias. Potassium also influences the regulation of blood pressure, which makes magnesium sulfate an important natural remedy for high blood pressure patients. Overall has potassium
- vascular protective,
- hormone regulating,
- muscle and nerve strengthening,
- acid base regulating,
- pain relieving,
- and cell protecting
Properties. It is very similar to calcium and magnesium in Epsom salt. The latter occurs in Epsom salt not only through its sulfates, but also in its pure form, which further expands the magnesium-based health effects. Together with calcium, the mineral supplements the effects of iodine by one
- skin and hair strengthening,
- bone and tooth strengthening
Effect. Furthermore, magnesium, as the basis for sulfate, is of course indispensable for the formation of epsom salt itself.
Use of epsom salt
The uses of Epsom salt are sometimes very diverse. For example, the application as a medicinal water additive is famous. Here, magnesium sulfate acts as a mineral donor, as well as an osmotic pressure miracle for water pipes. Saidschitzer Bitterwasser is particularly well known in this context. The mineralized healing water is sourced from the Saidschitzer Epsom salt springs, which - like the village Epsom in England mentioned at the beginning - is one of the first officially used sources for the Epsom salt production in the Middle Ages. The healing water is so famous that it is known even to traditional Chinese medicine. This is confirmed by China as the most important customer for the bitter water.
Now you don't have to rely on the expensive premium version of mineral water. There are countless manufacturers of mineral water that list magnesium sulfate in their drinks as standard. Above all, water, which is obtained from magnesium-containing mineral springs such as the Gerolsteiner Dolomitenquellen, the Adelholzener Alpenquellen or the Wittmansthaler Quelle in the Black Forest, is usually a reliable guarantee of a healthy magnesium sulfate content. In such cases, mineral water usually brings with it a whole bunch of other minerals that are particularly valuable for health.
In addition to being used as drinking water, epsom salt can now also be used in a very different way for the body. There are both internal and external application methods. Below is a brief overview of the most important forms of application.
Epsom salt as a laxative
There are numerous laxatives (laxatives) that contain magnesium sulfate as an ingredient. The selection here is very large, from liquid preparations to enemas. However, you can make such a laxative yourself in no time at all. Simply take:
- 1 teaspoon (TL) Epsom salt,
- 300 ml water,
- 3 to 5 drops of lemon juice.
Preparation: Epsom salt powder is available in any pharmacy or health food store and is ideal for economical dosing. Mix it well with the water and make sure that the salt dissolves completely in it. Since Epsom salt tastes a bit bitter in the name, it makes sense to refine it with a few drops of water.
Epsom salt steam bath
If you complain of asthma or if you have blemished facial skin, we recommend an epsom salt steam bath. Both the extracts of Epsom salt and the water vapor provide additional moisturization of the skin and mucous membranes, which reduces irritation to the mucous membrane in asthma and removes impurities from the dermal tissue in the case of skin problems. In addition, the steam bath can also be equipped with other medicinal herbs for better skin or mucous membrane protection, which further reinforces the positive effect. The ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon (tablespoon) of epsom salt,
- for asthma: pine, sage, plantain, thyme or juniper,
- for skin complaints: chamomile, mullein, dandelion or yarrow,
- 1 bowl of hot water.
Preparation: Mix the Epsom salt and a teaspoon of the herbs in a bowl with boiling water. Then hold your head over the bowl for about ten to 15 minutes and let the steam bath act on the respiratory tract and facial skin. Some also put a towel over their heads so that the healing steam does not easily escape into the air.
Tip: Similar recipes are also suitable for washing feet, for example if there is a fungal infection, smell of the foot or exciting feet.
Epsom salt facial peel
For a peeling for facial cleansing, granular additives are usually used, which are able to stimulate the skin due to its rough surface. Salt is always a popular means of doing this, although it makes sense to use Dead Sea salt or Epsom salt. Because the mineral ingredients of both salts are particularly good for the skin. An application example:
- 1 tsp Epsom salt,
- 1 tsp Dead Sea salt,
- Cup of mild cleansing cream (either face oil or face mask).
Preparation: Mix the components together and then apply the peeling to your face with circular hand movements. Let the whole thing work for about ten to 15 minutes before rinsing it carefully with lukewarm water. Applying with circular movements is particularly important here, because this is the only way to create the peeling effect on the skin.
Tip: If you want to further support the natural cleansing effect of the facial peeling, you can also mix some healing earth into the peeling.
Medicinal bath with epsom salt
An Epsom salt spa can be useful for skin problems outside the face, as well as for muscle and nerve pain. Again, this bath can be equipped with other herbs that promise a better healing effect in the event of specific complaints. Our recipe:
- 2 cups of epsom salt,
- for pain complaints: comfrey, chilli, spruce, camphor or lavender,
- for skin complaints: birch, nettle, chamomile, calendula or yarrow,
- 1 bowl of boiling water.
Preparation: First put 1 tablespoon of the medicinal herbs in a bowl of boiling water and let the whole thing steep for about ten minutes. Then filter the herbs and add the herb stock together with the Epsom salt to the bath water. Bathed in it for 15 to 20 minutes, the symptoms should clear up shortly afterwards.
Tip: Especially for skin complaints such as neurodermatitis or psoriasis, it is advisable to also add Dead Sea salt to the bath water. Here half of the Epsom salt dosage can be replaced by the Dead Sea salt.
Epsom salt hair treatment
The magnesium and calcium in Epsom salt is also important for strong and beautiful hair. For this reason, it is a special tip to use the healing salt for hair care. You can easily add the salt to any shampoo or conditioner, although it is advisable to use a natural preparation that has as few artificial additives as possible. Ideally, mix a small hair mask yourself. This can be made up as follows:
- 3 tablespoons of epsom salt,
- 2 tbsp coconut or olive oil,
- 1 tsp honey,
- 1 mashed avocado,
- 2 egg yolks.
Preparation: First mix oil, honey, avocado and egg yolk so that a creamy paste results. If necessary, the hair mask can be diluted with a little extra oil or pureed properly with a mixer. Only at the end is the Epsom salt mixed in. Then massage the mask into damp hair for a cure, cover your head with cling film and additionally wrap the whole thing with a head towel. This creates a sauna-like and airtight environment around the hair, in which the hair mask can work well. After about 20 to 30 minutes, the mask must then be rinsed carefully with warm water. Make sure that all mask residues have been completely removed from the hair.
Epsom salt compresses
In the event of existing sunburn, but also in the case of painful or itchy insect bites, a compress made from epsom salt can help. The preparation takes place here
- 1 tsp Epsom salt,
- 1 cup of aloe vera (either fresh or as a gel),
- 1 cup of cold water.
Stir the ingredients together and soak a compress or a clean linen cloth in them. Then wrap it around the affected area of skin and let the compress work for about 30 minutes. Cooling, together with the healing ingredients of Epsom salt and aloe vera, should be able to alleviate existing skin irritations well.
Side effects and contraindications
When taking Epsom salt orally, it is important to limit it to specific health problems such as constipation or heart problems and to only use it for a short time. Otherwise, an overdose of magnesium sulfate could lead to side effects such as diarrhea, nausea or flatulence. Epsom salt also quickly leads to dehydration due to its draining properties if it is consumed in excessive amounts.
In this context, be warned against using the salt for existing underlying diseases such as intestinal obstruction, existing disturbances in the electrolyte balance or abdominal pain with an unclear cause. Here the salt is rather counterproductive. In principle, a medical consultation should be carried out before use to rule out possible undesirable side effects. (ma)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Miriam Adam, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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