Q: I have a friend who’s a patient at your clinic and she says that in addition to acupuncture for her low back pain, you recommended epsom salt baths. She says the combination has eliminated her pain. I know acupuncture is great for pain, but what do epsom salts do?
A: Epsom salts, as my patients know, are one of my favorite remedies. Epsom salts are really not composed of salt (sodium chloride) at all, but are a naturally occurring combination of the minerals magnesium and sulfate. Interestingly, when used in a hot bath, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin and benefits the body in many ways. Magnesium is a nervous system relaxant, which helps to produce serotonin which is a mood-elevating compound. Magnesium has been shown to benefit blood circulation and thus improve blood pressure. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory pain reliever, as your friend has discovered, when used in a hot bath. Use one and one-half cups of Epsom salts per standard size bathtub and soak for at least fifteen minutes. In addition, the sulfates in Epsom salts have been proven to flush heavy metals and toxins from the cells through a process called reverse osmosis. Aim for at least three Epsom salts baths a week as an overall health aid.