Baths remedy all sorts of discomforts. Bathe in tomato juice and you can rid yourself of the smell of skunk spray. Bathe in oatmeal and it can cure the ill effects of poison ivy. Cleopatra used to bathe in milk which according to the legends gave her skin a youthful glow.
Among all the hogwash of home remedies and internet cure-alls bath salts are thrown into the mix, and alleged to work. Even, massage therapists and other health professionals recommend bath salts to sooth sore muscles but the science behind bath salts remains elusive and uncertain. (1)
What is Epsom Salt
Unfortunately, very few people seem to know what bath salts really are. Not all salts are the same. Sure! You can pour table salt in the bath and call it bath salt. However, real bath salts are actually special kinds of salts known as Epsom salts.
Epsom salts, also referred to as Epsom salt, are really just one special kind of salt. (2) They are a chemical compound made out of magnesium, oxygen and sulfur. Furthermore, they dissolve easily in water and are commonly used to relieve aching, itching and inflammation. (3)
Epsom salt is known as magnesium sulfate in the scientific community. It has many medical uses that are approved of by the FDA — but bathing in it? (3)
Magnesium sulfate supplements help you relax the muscles in your throat when you are having an asthma attack. (4) Also, they are powerful anticonvulsants and they help reduce your blood pressure. (5, 6) In addition, there is even a link between a magnesium deficiency and sudden death. (7) However, bathing in bath salt isn’t a remedy recognized by the United States government for anything.
Studies on Bath Salts
According to a scientific study, rheumatoid arthritis patients who bathed with bath salts over a placebo (table salt) saw significant improvement. (8) The results don’t lie. Something about bathing in bath salt did help the arthritis patients.
Epsom salts can be absorbed through the skin. (9) When you bathe in Epsom salts you minutely raise your sodium levels. (10) However, could slightly elevated magnesium levels be enough to make a difference?
Float system therapy suggests that maybe the arthritis patients felt better because the epsom water was denser and thus gave the patients a greater feeling of weightlessness. This could have caused the patients to relax more or stay in the tub longer and let the hot water help loosen the sore muscles. (11)
It is possible that the chemical makeup of bath salts has nothing to do with the arthritis patients results.
Bath salts are still being used in aromatherapy. Even though there are very few studies done on how they actually work. (12) Although how they work has not been proven it has not prevented therapeutic bath salts from being patented as a therapy to relax muscles, eliminate or reduce of muscle spasms, and improve a person’s mood. (12)
Most bath salts don’t rely on magic salt alone. Many of the bath salts purchased in stores also contain other active ingredients such as Copper gluconate, and essential oils. (13) The essential oils increase relaxation and soothe muscle pain. (12)
Simply bathing in bath salts does not hurt you yet, in a professional’s opinion bath salts appear to be more of a placebo than anything else. (10)
However there is no evidence that they don’t work. There is only a stunning lack of evidence that they do work. To get to the bottom of this, salt baths need to be studied more thoroughly.