Epsom salt has a variety of applications and has been used to relieve sore muscle as well as painful headaches. While there are many benefits to using bath salts, Epsom salt has had a long-standing reputation for being the most effective. But what does Epsom salt do, exactly, and how does it work?
The Origins of Epsom Salt
Epsom salt was discovered by a cowherd during a dry summer of 1618 in the English town of Epsom. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry serving at that time, they recorded that the cowherd noticed his cows refused to drink the water, and upon tasting it, it was bitter and evaporated into a grainy, salt-like substance. However, he also noted that when his cows would bathe in it, their wounds seemed to heal at a much faster rate than the others.
While the name Epsom salt wasn’t officially coined until the 1690s by physiologist Dr. Nehemiah Grew, people had flocked to the area to get rid of aches and pains since its first discovery.
What Is Epsom Salt?
Epsom salt is not your typical table salt; it’s a chemical compound known as magnesium sulfate. It’s a white crystal formation that only dissolves in water, hence why it’s used in showers and baths. In nature, magnesium sulfate is typically found in limestone caves. This makes sense, as limestone is mainly comprised of calcite and dolomite, with dolomite being comprised of calcium magnesium carbonate. The sulfur comes into play when precipitation pulls the sulfur out of the gypsum layer and into the caves below.
How Does Epsom Salt Work?
When Epsom salt is put in water, it breaks down into its individual components, magnesium and sulfate. As you bathe, the idea is that your body absorbs the magnesium and sulfate. While there is technically now solid scientific evidence that this occurs, many Epsom salt users will tell you that it absolutely makes a difference.
But what do magnesium and sulfate do for the body? These two elements help the body perform essential functions as they support muscle function, nerve function, and energy production. If you’ve ever had someone tell you to eat a banana for a twitchy eye, that comes from the high concentration of magnesium in bananas, although not everyone is aware of the science behind this odd trick.
The history and science behind what Epsom salt is, what it does, and how it works is surprisingly complex. While there may always be scientific debate on whether Epsom salt works, try it for yourself. It just may do the trick.