The concept of Epsom salt soaking bath for psoriasis healing is not a new thing. When you soak in a bath tub with Epsom salt dissolved in it with other additives such as essential oils and baking soda- inflammation, itching and irritation related to psoriasis can be reduced significantly. Also, it helps in the easy removal of psoriasis scales by softening them.
A lot of people talk highly about the benefits of bathing in hot mineral springs to relieve psoriasis symptoms- the rich mineral content of spring water helps here. When you enjoy a soaking salt bath, you are replicating the same effect at the comfort of your own bathroom. The salts which are generally used are:
- Epsom salt- It provides Magnesium and sulfate
- Dead Sea salt– It provides a variety of minerals including magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulfate and bromide
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, soaking baths using Epsom salt and Dead Sea salt can help treat various skin and neuromuscular related issues.
What is Epsom Salt
Epsom salt is an inorganic salt, a mineral compound consisting of Magnesium and Sulfate.
Epsom Salt = Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate = MgSo4.7H20
The anhydrous Epsom salt (without these 7 units of water) is hygroscopic in nature and readily absorbs moisture from the environment. On the other hand, the hydrous form (heptahydrate form) is more stable and can be weighed and used with ease. Hence, the hydrous form is generally used. It is available in white granules form.
It is naturally occurring as well as chemically produced. In general, there is a belief that natural stuffs are always better than synthetically produced. Epsom salt is a pure mineral compound with two elements- magnesium and sulfate. There is not enough scope of any adulteration here. Hence, if it is produced by adhering to the standard norms, the commercially manufactured Epsom salt would be as effective as the natural one.
Why it is called Epsom salt?
Epsom is a town in Surrey, England. The original compound, Magnesium Sulfate was first identified in the saline springs at Epsom town. That’s why it is known as Epsom salt.
Benefits of Epsom salt
Various beauty experts suggest the use of Epsom salt as a face cleanser to exfoliate dead skin and remove blackheads. Epsom salt gives volume and texture to your hairs when you mix it in equal parts with hair conditioner.
Celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly enjoys Epsom salt soaking baths to maintain a flatter tummy. Life coach Janey Holliday explains that soaking in Epsom salt bath draws toxins and excess water through the skin to reduce water retention. It can help you to get a streamline figure. Body brushing before soaking bath can enhance the cleansing effect because it removes dead skin layers, increase blood circulation and open skin pores.
Soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath can help reduce muscles ache, swelling and soreness. This soaking bath has a sedative effect on the nervous system- improves sleep quality and relaxation.
Being a natural deodorizer, use of Epsom salt for foot bath is also very popular. It makes your foot soft, ache free and fresh smelling.
How the Epsom salt soaking bath works
Your skin, the biggest organ of your body is also known as the third kidney. It throws toxins out of your body through the skin pores in the form of sweating. It works like a membrane. When you soak in Epsom salt bath, reverse osmosis takes place. Magnesium and sulfate are absorbed within and toxins are pulled out towards the skin surface. Hence, the soaking bath replenishes your body with magnesium and sulfate and at the same time, it draws toxins out of your body. This purging effect relieves muscles ache, swelling and inflammation as well.
Read more: Body detox and Psoriasis
Why your body needs Magnesium
Magnesium possesses anti-inflammatory properties. In an animal study, Russian scientists found that administration of Magnesium salts helps reduce inflammatory responses in rats which were fed on a magnesium deficient diet.
Magnesium plays a vital role in the functioning of over 300 enzymes in the human body to regulate various biochemical reactions to proper functioning of muscle, nerve, brain and heart. Magnesium improves heart health by stimulating blood circulation, maintaining elasticity of arteries and preventing blood clotting.
Magnesium is well known for its toxins extraction properties from your body.
It is one of the most abundant mineral in the body, but, unfortunately, most of the adults are deficient in magnesium these days.
As per Wikipedia, 57% if the USA population doesn’t consume enough magnesium through foods to meet the RDA (recommended daily allowances) guidelines.
What causes Magnesium deficiency
- Soil depletion resulting in low amount of magnesium in the crops
- Unhealthy diet- high in processed foods and low in whole grains, vegetables and fruits
- Inefficient digestive tract, resulting in malabsorption of magnesium from the foods we eat
- Over consumption of alcohol
- Poor Calcium to Magnesium ratio in your body
Let us discuss the last factor in a bit detail.
Your body needs enough magnesium for proper metabolism of calcium. That’s why most of the calcium supplements available in the market always provide a certain amount of magnesium also. The proper calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1 to 1:1. Too low level of magnesium can lead to the accumulation of calcium in the body, also known as calcification. Similarly, too high amount of calcium in the body would consume magnesium quickly and again, your body would be left with excess of calcium with little magnesium. Chronic calcification can worsen joint pain and arthritis. These days, our diet is quite high in calcium with little magnesium. That’s why the calcium to magnesium ratio goes as high as 5:1. This highly disturbed ratio wipes out magnesium quickly from your body to cause magnesium deficiency.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, acute deficiency in magnesium can play a role in a variety of health disorders including- joint pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, digestive disorders, cardiovascular diseases and stress.
According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina- Magnesium deficiency enhances stressful reactions in human body.
In such a scenario, Epsom salt soaking bath has a special importance- it helps replenish your body with magnesium irrespective of your digestive health. Soaking bath provides magnesium (through the skin) without bothering the digestive tract.
What about Sulfate
Sulfates play a variety of roles in the human body:
- It improves the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat
- It plays a role in protein synthesis (joint protein as well as the mucus protein of the intestinal linings)
- It has a purging effect on the body to get rid of heavy metals and other toxins
- It promotes the generation of pancreatic digestive enzymes
Epsom salt soaking bath for Psoriasis
- Relieves Inflammation, irritation and itching
During soaking, Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin to increase Magnesium and sulfate levels in the body. At the same time, it draws out toxins through the skin. The overall result is lesser inflammation, itching and irritation related to psoriasis.
- Easy removal of Psoriasis scales
During Epsom salt soaking bath, your skin becomes soft and the psoriasis flakes become loose. These loosened dead skin patches can be removed by gentle rubbing during subsequent rinsing. If you don’t want to rinse after soaking bath, then gently rub the psoriasis lesions during soaking bath itself to get rid of them.
- Relieves Stress
Stress wipes out magnesium from your body to increase the level of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that increases the heart beat and breathing to further aggravate the situation. During soaking bath, Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin to make up for magnesium deficiency. Improved magnesium level stimulates the production of serotonin, a brain chemical. Serotonin is a mood enhancer which counter stress by creating a feeling of peace and calmness.
- Lessen joint pain and stiffness
Epsom salt soaking bath provides relief from arthritis and gout also. Hence, if you are dealing with psoriasis arthritis (along with psoriasis), then Epsom salt soaking bath becomes more attractive for you.
A warm Epsom salt bath relaxes joint pain and stiffness related to psoriasis arthritis.
In 2006, a British researcher at the University of Birmingham conducted a quantitative analysis to confirm whether Epsom salt bath actually increases the level of Magnesium and sulfate in human body. She measured magnesium and sulfate levels in the blood and urine before and after the soaking bath. Out of 19, after soaking results were higher in case of 16 participants. Hence, it was evident that Epsom salt soaking bath does replenish your body with magnesium and sulfate.
But, currently, there is almost no research evidence to acknowledge the health benefits of Epsom salt soaking bath.
Then why should we give it a try?
Salt soaking bath is not a new concept. People are advocating these soaking baths for a variety of a health disorders, particularly skin problems (including psoriasis).
Hence, it is not a completely bad idea to see if it can make our lives better. After all, psoriasis is all about trying safe and effective ways to discover the best ideas for its long term management.
How to enjoy an Epsom salt soaking bath
- Dissolve two cups of Epsom salt in running water in your bathtub. Adding Epsom salt to running water helps in easily dissolution. Water used should be soft, too much hardness in the water means chlorine and other contamination which can enter through your skin to cause damage.
- Keep the water temperature warm- around 2 degree Celsius more than the body temperature. Don’t worry, you don’t need a thermometer to check it. Just make sure the water is warm and comfortable to touch.
- Bath water should not be too hot otherwise it would strip off the natural moisture from your skin to leave it utterly dry. Also, hot water can irritate your skin.
- Soak in this salt water for 20 to 25 minutes. It is interesting to note that different resources suggest varying soaking time- ranging from 12 minutes to 40 minutes. In my opinion, when we are trying to heal a complex issue like psoriasis, 12 minutes is too less. Similarly, 40 minutes seems overdoing. Let us settle for something around 20 to 25 minutes.
- You can play your favorite music in the background while soaking to have a good time.
- After soaking, rinse and pat dry with a soft towel.
- Immediately after drying your skin with the towel, use a moisturizer to lock the water in your skin. It would keep your skin moisturized for a long time. You can try moisturizing oils such as Virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Rinsing after Soaking bath- To do or Not to do
After soaking, I have recommended rinsing before using the towel to pat your skin dry. Now, it is a debatable issue. Some people would say that rinsing the salt off your skin can reduce the effectiveness and on the other hand, some people have the opinion that soaking bath brings toxins at the surface of your skin and it is better to get rid of them by a light shower/ rinse.
Let me put it this way- it is a completely personal choice. I crawled through numerous discussion forums and articles on the Internet. I couldn’t freeze out a single opinion on this issue. Some people would say that Epsom salt leaves their skin chalky and dry and hence, they prefer to rinse. Others would say that they don’t feel uncomfortable at all with this minor skin dryness and they love going into bed after their soaking bath for a relaxing sleep.
So, what I have been able to conclude is- If you are taking a soaking bath in the night with no other work left except sleep, you may avoid the rinsing step and enjoy your sleep with a little salt still on your skin (obviously, you would apply moisturizer to keep your skin moist).
If you are taking the bath in the morning or any other time and you have to carry on with your daily tasks, then you may opt for rinsing to avoid any feeling of skin dryness.
But the bottom line is- rinsing would not cause much difference. This little left over salt would neither increase the healing effect nor it is going to keep the toxins attached to your skin. So, take your shot and follow whatever makes you comfortable.
List of Additives for the soaking bath
- Baking soda– Baking soda reduces itching- 2 to 4 teaspoons would be enough.
- Essential oils– Essential oils, when added, can enhance the soaking experience in many ways- cleansing, relaxation and refreshment. For example:
- Eucalyptus and Grapefruit oil for cleansing
- Lavender and lemongrass oil for relaxation
- Mint and Rosemary oil for refreshment and energy
It is a personal choice- to use a single essential oil or a blend of essential oils. Just add a few drops.
- Ginger– Half teaspoon of grated ginger would stimulate sweating for increased detox effect.
- Neem oil– Neem oil is renowned for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Add a few drops of neem oil to your soaking bath.
Additional tips for a better experience
- As explained earlier, sweating promotes body detox. Hence, drinking water before starting the soaking bath, during and after the bath would stimulate sweating to enhance the detox effect. Also, it would keep your body hydrated and avoid any significant loss of fluids from your body.
- Do not use any soap during the soaking bath as it would not do any good- rather it would interfere with the action of Epsom salt.
- After soaking, try to have some rest. If you are doing it at night, then obviously, you can go for a sound sleep. If you are doing in the morning or some other time, try to have some rest before getting ready for daily tasks. If you are dealing with psoriasis arthritis, then do the opposite. Move your joints as much as possible to avoid stiffness in the joints.
Frequency of Epsom salt soaking
If you are seeking quick relief, do it three times a week. In case of severe itching or irritation, you can opt for daily soaking also. Otherwise, for mild to moderate psoriasis, once a week is enough.
Soaking bath and wounds/ cuts
In case of minor open wounds or cuts, Epsom salt soaking bath should not a problem. Even some doctors recommend hot Epsom salt soaking of the wounded portion for quick healing. But, for major wounds, you better avoid it because prolonged contact of water may worsen them.
Oral consumption of Epsom Salt for Constipation
When taken orally, Epsom salt can act like a laxative to relieve constipation. It increases water in the large intestine (colon) to provide temporary relief from constipation.
The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has approved Epsom salt as a laxative to bring temporary relief from constipation. Still, the oral consumption of Epsom salt is tricky and doctor’s consultation is advised.
The general dosage guidelines are- 1 to 2 teaspoons of food grade Epsom salt mixed with 8 ounces of water with a little quantity of lemon juice to make the taste bearable. It would stimulate bowel movements within 30 minutes to 6 hours after drinking. For detailed instructions, refer to the information printed on the Epsom salt packet.
A high fiber diet comprising of raw fruits, vegetables and whole foods along with plenty of drinking water and regular physical activity can bring long term relief from constipation in a safe manner. Certain medications and stressful life also play a role in disturbed bowel movements.
Epsom salt is a mineral compound, not a drug. Hence, side effects would be rare if you don’t overdose.
External consumption (Soaking bath)
Chances of overdose are very rare when you infuse Epsom salt through soaking bath. Still, to avoid any possible complications, doctor’s consultation is advised in case of below listed health conditions:
- If you are allergic to Sulfur
- If you are dealing with any of the health conditions such as kidney problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems
- In case of pregnant women because the absorption of minerals and extraction of toxins from the body may affect the unborn child. Although, the temperature during Epsom salt bath is warm (pleasant) and sweating caused during Epsom salt bath is not as intense as Dead sea salt bath, still physician’s advice is recommended.
- For breastfeeding women, it is not as complex as in case of pregnancy. The chances of transfer of Epsom salt minerals in breast milk are very unlikely; still prior consultation is recommended.
For oral consumption, we need to follow a certain set of rules. First of all, consult with your doctor if you can ingest it. After getting a go ahead from your doctor, do read the instructions printed on the Epsom salt packet/ bag if they have provided instructions about how to use it for laxative purposes. It would make sure that it is safe for ingestion. Always use non scented, plain varieties for oral consumption.
From where to buy
Commercially available Epsom salt can be of two types:
- Pharma grade (for therapeutic purposes)
- Agricultural grade (for gardening and household purposes)
We have to purchase the pharma grade Epsom salt. Any packet of Epsom salt labeled “U.S.P.” is of pharma grade. It means that it is tested and certified for therapeutic use by humans.
USP stands for United States Pharmacopeia.
You can easily buy it from a chemist shop/ departmental store near to you without a prescription. Otherwise, get it online.
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