The Truth Behind Epsom Salts Baths

By: Dr. Karim Riskallah, DC

I often ask my patients daily what kind of self care they have applied when they have suffered either an acute injury or managing a chronic problem.  Each time I would hope that they would inform me of an active rehab program they began, the application of the prototypical R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol, or even starting a course of anti inflammatory medication when warranted.  But more often than not, patients will instead inform me that they soaked in an epsom salt bath a few times per week with the belief that an epsom salt bath helped accelerate the healing of their injury, aided in muscle recovery, or my personal favourite, ‘detoxified’ their body.  With that in mind, I wanted to write this quick post demystifying those myth.  I apologize in advance for bursting anybody’s bubble.

Epsom salt baths are cheap and essentially harmless, but certainly do not have the healing power often believed and very heavily marketed.   Most of the theories you hear are oversimplified and driven my marketing key words such as “detoxification” or “eliminates aches”.  One thing to keep in mind that I believe is the primary reason epsom salts are not as potent as claimed is that epsom salt (Magnesium Sulfate) cannot be absorbed through your skin by osmosis. Therefore, epsom salts can never be absorbed into your muscles and cause all the miraculous health claims labeled on the box.  Also, as nice as it would be, the notion that epsom salts can be used for ‘detoxification” is simply impossible.  The human body has a natural system to eliminate toxic substances and often preventing them from even entering the blood system.  Thank you Mr. Liver, Mr. Kidney, and GI System.  The notion that epsom salts somehow get into the body and “suck” toxic substances out of your muscles, organs, and skin and perform a little “clean up” is laughable.  This claim is simply false, impossible, and there is absolutely no scientific evidence supporting that rational to date.

The million dollar question then is:  Is there any good reason to put epsom salts in your bath? Well, in my opinion, epsom salts will dissolve in your bath and will make your water feel nice and soothing.   If putting some Epsom salts in your bath causes a positive and powerful placebo effect, nothing wrong with that either.  But please don’t expect epsom salts to accelerate healing, improved muscle flexibility, sooth aches, improve circulation, decrease inflammation, accelerate muscle recovery,  detox your body, release muscle cramps, restore energy levels, etc etc, etc, etc.……