If you've ever heard of Epsom salt, chances are you've also heard it lauded for being something of a natural cure-all. For centuries, it has been thought to heal all sorts of ailments, from colds and congestion to skin problems, to easing stress by pouring a cupful in the bath. However, as it often happens, modern medicine has debunked many of these old wives' tales and found a lack of proof for others. Some of these Epsom salt rumors are harmless; however, some of them may actually be more harmful than helpful. If you've got a bunch that you were hoping to use, don't worry. Epsom salt does have its uses. Just educate yourself before you try it.
As a Laxative
Though Epsom salt can be used as a laxative by simply mixing some in with your water, it can be dangerous for people with certain chronic illnesses such as kidney problems or eating disorders, and therefore it's important to check with your doctor before you use them. If you get the OK from your physician, it will work by drawing fluid into your colon and helping you to pass waste.
Related: How to Use Epsom Salt as a Laxative
Though Epsom salt can be used safely as a laxative with counsel from your doctor, it is only safe to use it orally and not as an enema. Epsom salt enemas can lead to magnesium poisoning with symptoms of pain and swelling, nausea, vomiting or even death in extreme cases. Your body does contain magnesium, which is found in Epsom salt, but too much magnesium can easily turn poisonous. Play it safe and only use Epsom salt as an oral laxative with your doctor's permission.
To Relax Muscles
The Epsom salt bath to relax muscles may be the most common way to use Epsom salt; however, when scientist Paul Ingraham went looking for evidence of this claim in 2006, he found none. Though legend says that it is supposed to detoxify the muscles by osmosis, there is no science behind these claims. Tight muscles can be relaxed by a hot bath, though, and some people enjoy the way Epsom salt makes the water feel. There are no known negative repercussions to bathing in Epsom salt, but it might not help your muscles any more than a regular ol' bath.
Related: How Does Epsom Salt Relax Muscles?
In a Bath
No supported scientific studies exist that have shown any positive benefit to bathing in Epsom salt water. If you like the way Epsom salt feels in the bathwater, fear not, because there are also no peer-reviewed studies that show any negative effects of bathing in Epsom salt water. It probably isn't a good idea for children or anyone who might swallow their bathwater, though, as ingesting it can have negative effects.
Related: Epsom Salt Bath Benefits
For Sore Feet
Soaking your feet in Epsom salt water has long been recommended as a way to relieve foot pain, but just like soaking in an Epsom salt bath, there are no studies to prove any health benefits. If you do have foot pain, try other professionally recommended remedies such as elevating your feet, massaging them and applying ice packs, and preventative measures such as wearing well-fitted shoes and maintaining a healthy weight.
Related: How to Soak Feet in Epsom Salt
To Treat Wounds and Cuts
Wounds that happen at home can be scary, and many of us are unsure how to clean basic wounds. Your doctor is likely to recommend using a basic saline solution, which is another word for saltwater. Normal saline can be purchased or made at home, although it will be sterile if purchased at the drugstore. If you're in a pinch and need to make some at home, use 2 teaspoons of salt to 1 quart of water. More salt than that might irritate the wound and prolong healing.
Related: Treating Wounds With Salt Water
To Use on the Skin
As is the case with many suggested medical uses of Epsom salt, there is no hard evidence to suggest it can aid boils in any way. Home treatment of boils is quite basic; just apply a warm, moist compress several times a day until the boil opens on its own, drains and begins healing. If this does not occur within two weeks, you should probably see a doctor for medical attention. The doctor will drain the boil with sterile instruments and make sure you don't have a more severe infection.
Related: Epsom Salt & Boils
To Get Rid of Tree Stumps
Though Epsom salt often gets a lot of glory (misplaced, as it turns out) for helping physical ailments, it actually is far more useful as a horticultural tool. Epsom salt gives plants magnesium, which helps prevent yellowing of plants. Though it has positive benefits, it can also help you get rid of that old tree stump by dehydrating it and causing decay. With a drill and a saturated solution of Epsom salt and water, your pesky stump will be dead in three to four months.
If your houseplants are turning yellow, they may have either a sulfate or magnesium deficiency, both of which can be cured by a dose of Epsom salt, which is a natural source of both minerals. You can apply it to the roots or spray it on the leaves, and it works especially well for certain plants, such as roses or tomatoes. Don’t just apply with abandon though -- it can harm plants that aren't in need of either mineral.
To Use on Your Pets’ Paws
It can be emotionally hard when your dog gets hurt, especially because its not always clear how to help him: You can’t just slap a bandage on a furry paw. Epsom salt can be used in several ways for dogs that may help you avoid a trip to the vet. It can be used to cleanse minor wounds, remove allergens from its paws or relieve anal gland blockage. The same risks apply to internal usage for dogs and humans, so keep usage external.
Related: Epsom Salt for Dogs
As a Household Cleaner
Epsom salt can be used as an abrasive cleaner without any harmful chemicals. The natural abrasive quality of Epsom salt make it a cleaner for hard-to-get stains, such as tub and tile as well as pots and pans. All you need is some Epsom salt, dish soap and a scrubber, and you’ll get those tough mildew or burnt food stains out in no time.
Related: How to Clean with Epsom Salt
To Make Vegetables and Plants Grow
Epsom salt is known by gardeners to be great for tomato plants. It makes the leaves greener and the tomatoes juicer because it consists of magnesium and sulfur, both of which help plants grow. You can apply before you plant or after, by scratching the soil, sprinkling the solution over the soil and watering well.
Related: Tomato Plants & Epsom Salt
To Fertilize Your Grass and Garden
If you live in an area of light or sandy soil or have been experiencing heavy rains, you might have trouble with your garden due to a magnesium deficiency in the soil. You can spread an Epsom salt solution all over your soil, or apply it to each plant as needed to restore magnesium and bring greenness back to your garden.
You should never take Epsom salts internally without consulting your physician. Adding too much magnesium to the body can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues that could be dangerous. However, the good news is that external use of Epsom salts poses no known threats. Use it on your plants, your dirty pans and soak in it without worry.
Related: Side Effects of Epsom Salts