Ask Marilyn – Star Question: are epsom salts effective and are they always safe to take?

Q: I’ve read up a little about Epsom Salts or Magnesium Sulphate, and they sound great for some skin problems, helping the body to detox, as a muscle relaxant (good for muscle cramp/spasm?) and de-stressor. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject and if there are any cases where it would not be recommended (such as during pregnancy?).

A: We think of magnesium generally as nature’s tranquilliser as it has a calming and relaxing effect on the body including the muscles.  Epsom salts are just hydrated magnesium sulphate and when used in the bath, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin, hence the relaxing effect on problems with muscle cramps and spasms.  This relaxant effect is also useful for women who have painful periods because the womb is a muscle and can also be helpful for other conditions where muscles are affected e.g. fibromyalgia.  The magnesium can also help reduce inflammation so may be useful for people with arthritis and general aches and pains.

Epsom salt baths can also be helpful for skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis as it can reduce inflammation in the skin.  Soaking in Epsom salt baths can also be helpful for relieving a flare up of genital herpes and when suffering from shingles. 

It is also thought that Epsom salts can help draw toxins out of the body, so helpful if you are doing a detox and want something to make the detox more effective.  It is not advisable to detox during pregnancy because the toxins will be released into the bloodstream and can pass into the baby.  So I would suggest that in pregnancy only the feet are soaked in Epsom salts.

For a regular bath use one to two cups of Epsom salts in water temperature that is comfortable (not too hot).  You could do dry body brushing before you get in the bath as this will help to open up the pores to increase the absorption of the Epsom salts.  An Epsom salt bath is best at the end of the day because at the end of the bath, just dry yourself off and get into bed, it is better not to rinse off the salts.

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