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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Return of Epsom Salts

Don't look now but you're soaking in it.

Is there anything I can do for you?” I asked my younger brother, sympathetically, as he lie on the couch; his back “out” again.  “Yes,” he said, “can you pick me up a big bag of Epsom salts?”   

I was impressed that my normally non-compliant brother, who I’ve had to practically beg to do the exercises I taught him to rehabilitate his back, would make the effort to run a bath.  But, I guess pain can be a powerful motivator. 

Many people still think of Epsom salts baths as the decidedly unsophisticated remedy Grandma used to ease her arthritis pain; and while most of the claims for Epsom salts as a cure for arthritis are anecdotal, I was pleased that my brother had discovered this old-school remedy for pain and detoxification.  

There has been a
renewed interest in Epsom Salts baths as of late. As one who has soothed many a sore and achy muscle in an Epsom Salts bath, I'm glad to see it.

From the the benefits of sulfation, an important biological process and major pathway in detoxifying drugs (prescription or over the counter) and environmental contaiminants, to salt-based beauty tips, Epsom salts are making a comeback. Indeed, there is even an Epsom Salt Council devoted to all things Epsom.

Originally prepared by boiling down the mineral waters at Epsom, England, the healthful springs at Epsom are no longer used to make this salt.  It was eventually prepared from sea water, and is now made from naturally occurring mineral magnesium sulfate; one of only a few water soluble sulfate minerals. When magnesium sulfate is absorbed through the skin, such as in a bath, it promotes perspiration and draws acidic toxic wastes such as uric acid from the body through the pores of the skin.  More than just a purgative (a medicinal agent used to purge or cleanse most notably the bowel,) it can even be said to ward off a cold or the flu if taken at the onset of symptoms. 

“Most people know about the importance of calcium and vitamin D, but many Americans are also magnesium deficient,” says the Epsom Salt Council.  “Doctors say it stems largely from the increasing prevalence of processed foods in our diets. Today, 68 percent of U.S. adults consume less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, and 19 percent consume less than half of the RDA.” Magnesium is responsible of over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium deficiency, contributes to our society's high rate of heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and joint pain, and a host of other ailments.  It can sedate the nervous system, reduce swelling, relax muscles and soothe general soreness."  It is a natural emollient, and even acts as an exfoliator, and the best I've ever used. (Try Magnesium Crystal Polish by Promaxyl.)   

With the natural ability to digest our food decreasing as we age, our  ability to absorb vitamins and minerals through our food as we once did is reduced.  Fortunately the skin, our body’s largest organ, can absorb this mineral directly, through the pores. 

What is the best way to prepare an Epsom salts bath?  Use at least two cups of salts and don't fill the tub very full.  A half cup of salts per gallon of water is a good amount. It's not costly and it won't hurt if you absorb too much. It dissolves best if you use hot water, stir until the grains disappear, then add cool water to get the temperature just nice and warm. Add a few drops of lavender or other essential oil for an even more relaxing effect. Do not use soap as it will interfere with the action of the salts (I often shower first.) Relax for about fifteen minutes in your bath, step out, and give yourself a thoroughly vigorous rub. Avoid becoming chilled. A simple but very effective treatment.

Note: If you have arthritic joints, move them as much as possible after an Epsom salts bath to prevent a build-up of fluid in local tissues, which can aggravate joint pain. 


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