Saturday, December 7, 2013

Epsom Salt—Miracle Cure?

A friend emailed me a link to an article on the benefits of Epsom salt. This friend is big on alternative remedies; she also loves the Tea Party, so her endorsements are subject to scrutiny. Some people will not see using “alternative remedies” and “Tea Party” in the same sentence as an oxymoron. I would not be one of them. However, the “9 Reasons To Use Epsom Salt” intrigued me, so I clicked through to

First, they tell us: “Epsom salt is a mineral compound comprised of magnesium and sulfate... used for centuries as a natural remedy for a number of ailments.” My attention is waning, but I keep reading about this supposed miracle cure.

The site claims: “Both magnesium and sulfate are readily absorbed into the skin which makes the health benefits readily accessible. Over 325 enzymes in the body are regulated by magnesium... Sulfates improve the rate at which nutrients are absorbed and help to flush out toxins.”

I’m surprised that there are 325 enzymes in our bodies, period, much less ones that pay attention to magnesium. The site explains that “622 of the (human) enzymes are assigned roles in 135 predicted metabolic pathways… (which) closely match the known nutritional requirements of humans.” Of course they do.

I Google “Uses for Epsom Salt,” turning up another website,, which has either directly quoted or has been plagiarized by the latter, in either case with no attribution. Since I don’t know which is the chicken here and which the egg, consider both sites as my sources. I should research this further (Is there a third, primary source?), but I want to get to all those uses.

Most websites group these into Health, Beauty and Home and Garden. Let’s start with Health, where there are a number of conditions that should prompt retirees to add Epsom salt to their shopping lists.

If you’re stressed (and what retiree isn’t), you could be deficient in magnesium. (Or, you could just be experiencing a normal retirement.) claims that “magnesium helps the body produce serotonin… a mood elevating chemical...” Call me a skeptic, but doesn’t a long soak in a tubful of Crabtree and Evelyn product do the same?

Got muscle pain? Again, what retiree doesn’t, at least occasionally? tells us: “The sulphates in Epsom salt draw heavy metals and other toxins from cells which can ease muscle pain.” credits an Epsom salt soak with treating toenail fungus and easing gout—other senior plagues.

The last Health benefit is the relief of constipation. An empty container I have says take 2 teaspoons in water for a laxative effect, 4 for a cathartic. (That’s what Californians call a cleanse.) For those snickering about why I have Epsom salt, it was a yard sale find. I like the pink and black package graphics. It pre-dates zip codes, so it’s a collectible.

Moving on to Beauty. We’re told to use Epsom salt as an “exfoliating facial cleanser” by mixing it with coconut oil and rubbing it on our faces. It also serves as a “hair volumizer,” addressing that bane of senior women—thinning hair. This requires warming it in a pan with an equal amount of “deep conditioner,” then working it into the hair and leaving it on for 20 minutes.

Finally, let’s look at Home and Garden. The use that immediately catches my eye is for cleaning bathroom tiles. Mix “equal parts of Epsom salt with liquid dish detergent. Scrub tiles with the mixture and rinse well.” After reading this, I have two thoughts: Who would use the same product to cleanse their face as they use to clean tile grout? And then: Is it the Epsom salt doing this good stuff, or the coconut oil, the conditioner and the detergent?

Full disclosure: my research turned up a Canadian website,, that put the lie to virtually all the purported benefits of Epsom salt. The author, Paul Ingraham, could find scientifically-proven support for only one benefit: easing constipation, an internal use of the salts. He trashes all the external uses.

Ingraham claims that our “skin is almost completely waterproof.” I have two comments on that. First, we all know that “almost” doesn’t count. Second, tell it to the pharmaceutical companies that market patches for the transdermal delivery of drugs. Also to the makers of the caffeine-infused panties I blogged about two weeks ago.

Perhaps the most significant use for Epsom salt is as the inspiration for this Retirement Sparks blog post. On that note, I’m off to soak in the tub. But I’ll be filling mine with La Source body wash. I’ll also have a nice glass of vino by my side. Now that’s what I call a miracle cure.

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