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How Much Epsom Salt Should I Use In My Bath?

This is a really common question, and ask 5 different people and you will get five different answers.


So how much Epsom Salt should you use in your bath? Well if you ask us we’ll say, “probably none.” Not because epsom salt in your bath isn’t beneficial. We’ll cover what Epsom salt (or Magnesium Sulfate) is, why it can be helpful, why we don’t use it in our bath salts, and we’ll talk about how much is normally used and a few do’s and don'ts.

Even as a man I can say I think there’s nothing better than a long hot shower or bath (especially now that we’re parents.)

Escape is necessary, but also as an active individual; bath therapy goes a long way to improving recovery from workouts and injuries, chasing away aches and pains, toxins and maintaining pain free mobility.



Epsom Salt or Magnesium Sulfate is a chemical compound made of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen. It’s not typically something you want to consume as it doesn’t taste very good at all.


After calcium, magnesium is the abundant most mineral of the human body. Magnesium has several crucial roles in the health of the human brain and body. 


Epsom Salt, as a source of magnesium, has been used for decades for the treatment of many different ailments, unfortunately these treatments, specifically related to the benefits of epsom salt, are not well researched but there’s certainly enough anecdotal evidence to accept there are likely some positive benefits in almost all cases, and there is plenty of research around the benefits of magnesium as a whole.


So let’s talk about what the research says about magnesium, and specifically related to magnesium that has been absorbed through the skin (transdermal), you’ll see that orally and transdermally have many benefits that differ and compliment. 


Transdermal magnesium application is just another way to provide magnesium on a cellular level. Just like oral intake, topical application of magnesium can also help with replenishing the needs of magnesium.


Benefits of topical magnesium application:

Anti-depressant:

According to research; magnesium can play a significant role in brain functioning. Low mood, mood swings, and depression all are related to the functioning of the brain. An analysis shows that people under 65 years with a low intake of magnesium had about a 22% greater chance of feeling depressed.

Supplementation of magnesium can have a dramatic effect for anyone fighting against the feelings of depression. 

According to a study, about 450 mg of magnesium supplement can help in improving mood and behavior. Furthermore, magnesium supplements can work as an effective alternative to anti-depressant drugs. 

Magnesium supplements are available in both oral and topical forms to bring the effect.

Anti-inflammatory properties:

High magnesium bath salts (topical) have become a common practice in athletic circles. When epsom salt is used, it’s common to use about 2 cups of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water (which can equate to a lot of epsom and a very expensive bath if you’re using a blended product, which is one of the key reasons we don’t use Epsom in our Ache & Pain Bath Salts.) A study referenced below indicates that magnesium can be effective for treating inflammation and reducing dry skin. 

Because of its anti-inflammatory ability there are many other common uses for  magnesium baths and magnesium supplementation:

  • Soreness of muscles, feet, and joints
  • Inflammation or irritation of the skin
  • Itching
  • Sunburn
  • Depression or stress
  • Control of increased heartbeat
  • Migraine attacks
  • Treating the poisoning due to barium
  • Treating the seizures and muscle spasms due to magnesium deficiency
  • Delaying the premature birth of the baby
  • Preventing the seizures due to eclampsia and preeclampsia
  • Constipation
  • Stroke, diabetes, and several heart diseases

A high magnesium salt bath can also be a very efficient detoxification process for the human body. It helps in promoting detoxification and healing of the body’s internal systems. Pain due to arthritis, lupus, and gout may also be treatable with the help of Epsom salt or other high magnesium salt baths or oral magnesium.

Anti-hypertensive:

Magnesium also plays a role in relieving high blood pressure. Magnesium daily can help in decreasing diastolic and systolic blood pressure.

Although studies show that magnesium only works in the hypertensive population. In people with normal blood pressure levels, there is little to no effect of magnesium.

Improves insulin sensitivity:

A leading cause of diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance characterizes the inability of the body to use insulin. Magnesium has a critical role in decreasing insulin resistance due to any cause. 

In the case of insulin resistance, your body tends to lose magnesium through urine. It can further reduce the concentrations of magnesium in the body. That is why we need magnesium supplementation in case of insulin resistance. High magnesium salt baths are one of the best techniques to improve magnesium absorption topically (and specifically why we also add MSM to our Ache & Pain Bath Salts to further improve the absorption of magnesium through the skin.)

Energy boost:

Magnesium even plays a role in energy production.

In comparison to “at rest”, we need about 10-20% magnesium during exercise. Our requirement of magnesium also depends upon the type of activity we are performing. Magnesium works by moving the blood glucose into muscles as an energy source and dispose of the lactate from the muscles. Lactate is the main culprit for causing fatigue and lethargy during activity or exercise. 

250 mg intake of magnesium (oral or topical) can significantly improve the ability of athletes in different games, including arm movements, running, swimming, cycling, and jumping. You can apply topical magnesium over your arms, legs, and body to prevent cramps and fatigue.

Takeaway:

Adequate and consistent absorption of magnesium is crucial to maintain good health long term. Focus on food that is rich in magnesium along with the intake of supplements. You can not meet the needs of your body magnesium through diet alone. In the deficiency of essential minerals, your body can not function properly.


So what we know with certainty is that the majority of us could use a little more magnesium in our lives. Whether it’s because our diet is deficient; or we’re depleting it rapidly with things like caffeine consumption (guilty), or our lifestyle and activities simply require a little more magnesium. 


I can say in the more than 20 years I spent training thousands of athletes and every day people as a rehabilitative personal trainer and therapeutic massage therapist I’d go so far to say that I don’t think I ever met anyone that didn’t benefit in a notable way from the use of magnesium generally both as a supplement and through the benefits of topical magnesium in bath therapy or muscle and joint recovery creams.


But!


I can also say through all those years as a trainer that rarely did magnesium on its own have nearly as significant of an impact as an abundance of magnesium with a broad spectrum of other trace minerals. And it’s for that reason, in spite of the many epsom salt bath benefits that we DON’T use Epsom in our WIC Family Naturals Bath Salts.


First understand the body is always about balance, and more importantly in times of illness or injury about restoring balance.


Although magnesium is one of the most abundantly used minerals in our body an imbalance, shortage, or lack thereof of any trace mineral can derail our overall health and performance...significantly.


A good example of this in another environment would be an endurance athlete, like a marathon runner or tri-athlete, using an electrolyte drink. In this case potassium is the most abundant mineral used in that oxidative process and likely to be a limiting factor for performance, but in the same fashion as our benefits of magnesium example; ANY trace mineral lacking for an endurance athlete will lead them to early fatigue, cramping, injury and overall poor performance. Which is why the best electrolyte blends always contain an array of trace minerals while still having the largest amount of potassium.


So when we formulated our WIC Family Naturals bath salts (Specifically the Ache & Pain formulation which we’re very proud of; you might want to read this blog post on the benefits of Copaiba Balsam next) we knew that it was important to make magnesium and the many benefits of magnesium the foundation, but it was also critical to us to find a high magnesium salt that contained a broad array of other vital trace minerals.


Now there’s two reasons we feel this is very important to you as the client or consumer (and selfishly even me because we started on this product because I needed a replacement for the one I used to use.)


Number 1: We wanted to ensure it would have a broader effect for anyone that uses it. Even though the common theme with bath additive products is an Epsom salt base (which we believe has more to do with cost and search engines than effectiveness) we knew that only by having a broad array of trace minerals would it be more likely to have a positive impact for everyone that used it.


Number 2: Epsom salts are readily available at every supermarket or pharmacy and very inexpensive. The aim for us was to build a high quality concentrated natural product to harness the benefits of magnesium while promoting maximal efficacy with a small serving size by utilizing a proprietary blend of essential oils and MSM with an abundance of magnesium and an array of trace minerals. And here’s the big reason why that’s important.


Magnesium is the most abundantly needed mineral. And in the very rare circumstances of chronic pain or serious injury you might benefit from even more magnesium than would be found in our bath salts or an epsom and essential oil blend(pretty rare but I have seen it.) 


In these circumstances we the cost of using our product (or the amount of an epsom based product) becomes a concern for the consumer. And if you understand essential oils their benefits don’t typically scale by volume (in short more isn’t often better) so using more of the expensive blended product is often just a waste of money.


So in these rare circumstance where using a serving of high magnesium plus trace minerals concentrated bath salts like our Ache & Pain Bath Salts; which gives the further efficacy of the essential oils and MSM (we’re the only bath soak that we know of that has a valid NPN from Health Canada to substantiate claims for muscle and joint pain relief) doesn’t seem to deliver the impact hoped, there can be a benefit of adding about 1 cup of Epsom salt with our bath soak.


Since pure epsom salt is so inexpensive and readily available this is far more economical than using additional servings of our concentrated blend; and far more practical for both cost and solubility than using more of an epsom and essential oil blend (let’s face it can only get so much to dissolve.


Frequently asked questions:


How much Epsom salt should I add to a bath? (If I am adding only Epsom)


A: This varies but in relation to delayed onset muscle soreness over the years I found 1-3 cups to be the most effective. Depending on the volume of your bath once you reach a certain concentration only so much can be absorbed through the skin. (This is also why we add MSM to our product, it’s widely regarded to have an impact on joint pain and joint health, but less understood is that MSM is a great agent for allowing more to be absorbed through the skin, we can talk about that in another blog post.)


Can I use Epsom Salt or your WIC Family Naturals Natural Bath Soaks in a hot tub?


A: This is not recommended. The safe answer is check with your manufacturer. But the honest answer is, especially if you use chlorine as a water treatment chemical the addition of salts of any kind may drastically affect with the PH of the water, this can impact both how you maintain your hot tub and more important could cause burns or significantly damage your hot tub. If you use salt water in your hot tub it would be safer, but you should still check with your manufacturer as we can’t speculate on the impact of undissolved salts or the impact of essential oils on pumps and equipment (but would guess if you’re using salt in the water already this may be less of a concern.)


Can I use Epsom Salt or your WIC Family naturals Natural Bath Salts in a jetted tub in my home?


A: In this case if it’s an “air tub” this is totally fine (and very much recommended to enhance the therapeutic effect) as air tubs on expel air from the lines, the water (and salts and essential oils) will not circulate through your pump so there is little concern (we do this all the time, even with our kids using our Ache & Pain to help with growing pains and childhood injuries, and our Relax Bath Soak to encourage sleep.) For “jetted” tubs that actually circulate water, again we can’t speculate on the safety of the salts and essential oils through your pump and jets, however we do know many people who have done it, and although we can’t suggest it or offer warranty or claim (sorry lawyer made me do it) if you’re dissolving the salts well so you can’t feel any granules it’s likely pretty safe, but again check with your manufacturer.


When shouldn’t use Epsom or bath salts?


Pregnant or breastfeeding women shouldn’t use anything more than Epsom salts (and even then check with your doctor) any bath additive product blended with essential oils would be contraindicated by Health Canada. Our Ache & Pain Bath Soak does contain Wintergreen (only the tiniest amount is allowable if you don’t use synthetic Wintergreen but the anti-inflammatory effects and the smell are very wonderful) and although it’s unlikely and rare (especially at the amount we use) we are required to point out there is evidence of contraindication of Methyl salicylate found in Wintergreen essential oil. Children under the age of 2 are also contraindicated for the use of essential oils by Health Canada, our family personally adheres to this for Wintergreen and a select few other oils, but not all. Other than those circumstances about the only other situation would be to avoid broken skin or open wounds with the Ache & Pain formulation for obvious reasons.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25748766/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19271419/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19271419/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9719052/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19020533/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19359148/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22364157/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17172008/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24015935/

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