By Brianna Elliott
Epsom salt is a popular remedy for many ailments.
People use it to ease health problems such as muscle soreness and stress. It's also affordable, easy to use and harmless when used appropriately.
Epsom salt is a popular remedy for many ailments.Shutterstock
What Is Epsom Salt?
Epsom salt is also known as magnesium sulfate. It's a chemical compound made up of magnesium, sulfur and oxygen.
It gets its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was originally discovered.
Despite its name, Epsom salt is actually a completely different compound than table salt. It was most likely termed "salt" because of its chemical structure.
It has an appearance similar to table salt and is often dissolved in baths, which is why you may also know it as "bath salt."
While it looks similar to table salt, they taste distinctly different. Epsom salt is quite bitter and unpalatable.
Some people still consume it by dissolving the salt in water and drinking it. However, since it doesn't taste good, you probably wouldn't want to add it to food.
There are many different ways of manufacturing and packaging Epsom salt, but the contents are all exactly the same, chemically speaking.
For hundreds of years, this salt has been used to treat ailments such as constipation, insomnia and fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, its effects on these ailments are not well researched.
Most of the reported benefits of Epsom salt are attributed to its magnesium, which is a mineral that a lot of people do not get enough of.
You can find Epsom salt at most drug stores and grocery stores. It is typically located in the pharmacy or cosmetic area.
Bottom Line: Epsom salt, otherwise known as bath salt or magnesium sulfate, is a mineral compound believed to have many health benefits.
How Does It Work?
When Epsom salt is introduced to water, it dissolves and releases magnesium and sulfate ions.
The idea is that these particles can be absorbed through the skin, providing the body with magnesium and sulfates. These are minerals that have important functions in the body.
The most common use for Epsom salt is in baths, where it is simply dissolved in bath water. However, it can also be applied to the skin as a cosmetic product or taken by mouth as a laxative.
Bottom Line: Epsom salt dissolves in water, so can be added to baths and used as a cosmetic. It can also be taken by mouth as a laxative.
Reported Health Benefits and Uses of Epsom Salt
Many people, including some healthcare professionals, claim Epsom salt is therapeutic and use it as an alternative treatment for several conditions.
Better Magnesium Absorption
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, the first being calcium.
It is involved in more than 325 biochemical reactions that benefit the heart and nervous system.
Some people claim that magnesium may be better absorbed via Epsom salt baths than when taken by mouth.
This claim is based on a study that was conducted on 19 subjects, in which all but three showed higher blood magnesium levels after soaking in an Epsom salt bath (2).
Average blood magnesium levels went up about 10 ppm after the first salt bath. When subjects took baths for the next seven days, average magnesium levels increased from 105 ppm to 141 ppm.
While this study is promising, it is important to take it with a grain of salt since it is the only one of its kind and has several limitations.
More research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of using Epsom salt to increase magnesium levels.
Promotes Sleep and Stress Reduction
Magnesium may also help the body produce melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep (4).
Low magnesium levels may negatively affect sleep quality and stress. Many report that taking Epsom salt baths can reverse these issues by allowing the body to absorb magnesium through the skin.
Unfortunately, there is not any formal research to confirm whether enough magnesium can be absorbed from salt baths to affect sleep and stress.
Additionally, the calming effects of Epsom salt baths could simply be due to the relaxation caused by taking hot baths.
Helps With Digestion
Magnesium is often used to treat digestive issues, such as constipation.
Most often, magnesium is taken by mouth for constipation relief in the form of magnesium citrate or magnesium hydroxide.
However, taking Epsom salt is also said to be effective, although it is not well studied. Nevertheless, the Food and Drug Administration lists it as an approved laxative.
It can be taken by mouth with water, according to the directions on the package.
Adults are usually advised to take 2–6 teaspoons (10–30 ml) of Epsom salt at a time, dissolved in at least 8 ounces (237 ml) of water and consumed immediately. You can expect it to have a laxative effect in 30 minutes to six hours.
You should also know that consuming Epsom salt may produce unpleasant side effects, such as bloating and liquid stool (6).
It should only be used occasionally as a laxative and not as a long-term solution.
Exercise Performance and Recovery
Some claim that taking Epsom salt baths can reduce muscle soreness and relieve cramps—both important factors for exercise performance and recovery.
Like the digestive effects of Epsom salts, this effect is also attributed to magnesium. It is well known that adequate magnesium levels are helpful for exercise because magnesium helps the body use glucose and lactic acid (7).
Magnesium deficiency is more common in athletes, so health professionals often recommended they take magnesium supplements to ensure optimal levels.
While magnesium is clearly important for exercise, the use of Epsom salt to enhance fitness is not well researched. At this point, the benefits are anecdotal.
Reduced Pain and Swelling
Another common claim is that Epsom salt helps reduce pain and swelling.
Many people report that taking Epsom salt baths improves symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis.
Again, the magnesium is deemed responsible for these effects, since many people with fibromyalgia and arthritis are deficient in the mineral.
One study on 15 women with fibromyalgia concluded that applying magnesium chloride to the skin may be beneficial for reducing symptoms (8).
The participants applied magnesium to their lower limbs every day for four weeks. After using the solution, women reported less pain and tenderness, as well as increased quality of life.
While this finding is promising for forms of magnesium that can be applied to the skin, such as Epsom salt, it must be interpreted cautiously since there isn't any more research available on the topic.
Bottom Line: Most of the benefits of Epsom salt are anecdotal and attributed to its magnesium content. It may be beneficial for sleep, stress, digestion, exercise and pain.
Safety and Side Effects of Epsom Salt
While Epsom salt is generally safe, there are a few negative effects that can occur if you use it incorrectly. This is mostly a concern if you take it by mouth.
First of all, the magnesium sulfate in it can have a laxative effect. Consuming it may result in diarrhea, bloating or upset stomach.
If you use it as a laxative, make sure to drink plenty of water, which may reduce digestive discomfort. Furthermore, never take more than the recommended dosage without consulting your doctor first.
In extreme cases, magnesium overdose can lead to heart problems, coma, paralysis and death. This is unlikely as long as you take it in appropriate amounts as recommended by your doctor or listed on the package (1, 9).
Contact your doctor if you experience signs of an allergic reaction or other serious side effects.
Bottom Line: The magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt can produce side effects when taken by mouth. You can prevent these by using it correctly and talking with your doctor before increasing your dosage.
How to Use Epsom Salt
Here are a few of the most common ways to use Epsom salt.
The most common use is taking what's called an Epsom salt bath.
To do this, add 2 cups (about 475 ml) of Epsom salt to the water in a standard size bathtub and soak your body for at least 15 minutes.
You can also put the Epsom salt under running water if you want it to dissolve more quickly.
Epsom salt may be used as a beauty product for skin and hair. To use it as an exfoliant, just place some in your hand, dampen it and massage it into your skin.
Some people claim it's a useful addition to facial wash, since it may help cleanse pores.
Just a 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) will do the trick. Simply combine it with your own cleansing cream and massage onto the skin.
It can also be added to conditioner and may help add volume to hair. For this effect, combine equal parts conditioner and Epsom salt. Work the mixture through your hair and leave for 20 minutes, then rinse.
These uses are entirely anecdotal and not backed up by any research studies. Remember that it works differently for everyone and you may not notice all the reported benefits.
As a Laxative
Epsom salt can be taken by mouth as a magnesium supplement or as a laxative.
Most brands recommend taking 2–6 teaspoons (10–30 ml) per day, dissolved in water, as a maximum for adults.
Approximately 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) is generally enough for children.
Consult with your doctor if you need a more individualized dosage, or if you want to increase the dose to more than what is listed on the package.
Unless you have the consent of a doctor, never ingest more than the upper limit of intake stated on the package. Taking more than you need could lead to magnesium sulfate poisoning.
If you want to begin taking Epsom salt by mouth, start slowly. Try consuming 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 ml) at a time and gradually increase the dose as needed.
Remember that everyone's magnesium needs are different. You may need more or less than the recommended dose, depending on how your body reacts and what exactly you are using it for.
Additionally, when consuming Epsom salt, make sure to use pure Epsom salt that does not have any added scents or coloring.
Bottom Line: Epsom salt can be dissolved in baths and used as a beauty product. It can also be consumed with water as a magnesium supplement or laxative.
Take Home Message
Epsom salt may be helpful in treating a variety of health ailments. It can also be used as a beauty product.
There isn't a lot of evidence to support all of the reported benefits. Its positive effects are mostly anecdotal at this point, and more research is needed.
However, Epsom salt is generally safe and easy to use, so it's certainly worth a try.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.
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What Is PTSD?<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">PTSD</a> can occur when someone is exposed to extreme exposure traumatic experience. Typically, the trauma involves a threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Along with war veterans, it happens to refugees; to victims of gun violence, rape and other physical assaults; and to survivors of car accidents and natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.</p><p>PTSD can also happen by witnessing trauma or its aftermath, often the case with <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd" target="_blank">first responders</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-anxiety-and-trauma/202006/invisible-wounds-the-frontline-heroes" target="_blank">front-line workers</a>.</p><p>All this adds up to tens of millions of Americans. Up to 30% of combat veterans and first responders, and 8% of civilians, <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/epidemiology.asp" target="_blank">fulfill the diagnostic criteria for PTSD</a>. And that criteria is not easily met: symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of reminders of trauma, negative emotions, and what we call "hyperarousal symptoms."</p>
Fireworks Can Trigger Flashbacks<p>Hyperarousal, a core component of PTSD, occurs when a person is hyper-alert to any sign of threat – constantly on edge, easily startled and continuously screening the environment.</p><p>Imagine, for instance, stepping down the stairs in the dark after hearing a noise; you're worried an intruder might be downstairs. Then a totally unpredictable loud sound explodes right outside your window.</p><p>For people with PTSD, that sound – reminiscent of gunfire, a thunderstorm or a car crash – <a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">can cause</a> a panic attack or trigger flashbacks, a sensory experience that makes it seem as if the old trauma is happening here and now. Flashbacks can be so severe that combat veterans may suddenly drop to the ground, the same way they would when an explosion took place in combat. Later, the experience can trigger nightmares, insomnia or worsening of other PTSD symptoms.</p><p>Those of us who set off fireworks need to ask ourselves: Are those few minutes of fun worth the hours, days, or weeks of torment that will begin for some of our friends and neighbors – including many who put their lives on the line to protect us?</p>
Who Else Is Affected?<p>Millions of others, though not diagnosed with PTSD, may similarly be affected by fireworks. <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank">One in five Americans</a> have an anxiety disorder, many with symptoms of hyperarousal. Also impacted are those with autism or developmental disabilities; they find it difficult to cope with the noise, or just the drastic change from life routines. Then there are people who have to work, holiday or not: nurses, physicians and first responders, who have to be up at 4 a.m. for a 30-hour shift.</p><h3>How to Reduce the Negative Impact</h3><p>There are ways to reduce how fireworks affect others:</p><ul><li>For those with PTSD, the unexpected nature of fireworks is probably the worst part. So at least make it as predictable as possible. Do it in designated areas during designated times. Don't explode one, for instance, two hours after the designated time window. And avoid setting them off <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/04/fireworks-ptsd-fourth-of-july-veterans-shooting-survivors" target="_blank">on the 3rd</a>. People are less prepared then.</li><li>If you're aware that a veteran or trauma survivor lives in the neighborhood, move the noise as far as possible from their home and give them prior warning. Consider putting a sign in your front yard noting the time you'll set the fireworks.</li><li>Remember, it doesn't have to be super loud to make it fun. Consider using <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504964-its-time-for-silent-fireworks" target="_blank">silent fireworks</a>. And you don't have to be the one who lights the fireworks. Simply enjoy watching while your city or township does it safely.</li></ul>
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By Jeff Berardelli
For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.
International Effort to Evaluate Climate Models<p>For the past 25 years the international community has been evaluating and comparing the world's most sophisticated climate models produced by various teams at universities, research centers, and government agencies. The effort is organized by the World Climate Research Programme under the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.</p><p>Climate models are complicated computer programs composed of millions of lines of code that calculate the physical properties and interactions between the main climate forces like the atmosphere, oceans, and solar input. But models also go a lot further, incorporating other systems like ice sheets, forests, and the biosphere, to name a few. The models are then used to simulate the real-world climate system and project how certain changes, like added pollution or land-use changes, will alter the climate.</p><p>Every few years there is a new comprehensive international evaluation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). In the sixth such effort, known as CMIP6 and now under way, experts are reviewing about 100 models.</p><p>Information gleaned from this effort will act as a scientific foundation for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next major assessment report, scheduled for release in 2021. The goal of the report – the sixth in 30 years – is to inform the international community about how much the climate has changed, and, importantly, how much change can be expected in coming decades.</p>
A Conundrum Emerges<p>Over the past year, the CMIP6 collection of models being reviewed threw researchers an unexpected curveball: a significant number of the climate model runs showed substantially more global warming than previous model versions had projected. If accurate, the international climate goals would be nearly impossible to achieve, and there would be significantly more extreme impacts worldwide.</p><p>A foundational experiment in every report addresses "sensitivity": If you double levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) that were in the air before the Industrial Revolution, how much warming do the models show? This doubling is not expected for a few more decades, but it is a quick way to communicate the critical role of greenhouse gases in changing the climate.</p><p>The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 35% since the 1800s because of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, global temperatures have already increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.</p><p>In the first IPCC assessment report, published in 1990, the answer to that question about the impact of doubling carbon dioxide gave a fairly wide range of results – between 2.7-8 degrees F of global warming. Since then, four more assessments issued six to seven years apart reached nearly the exact same conclusion on sensitivity.</p><p>But that sensitivity may, for the first time, change significantly in next year's assessment. Why? Because starting last year, numerous models in the CMIP6 collection displayed even bigger spikes in temperature upon doubling of CO2 concentrations. We're in serious trouble if the climate sensitivity falls in the mid or upper range of the previous assessments. But if the new, higher estimates are correct, the impacts on civilization would be catastrophic.</p>
In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).
New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging<p>At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.</p><p>"Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm," explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.</p><p>For example, <a href="https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2020-23/" target="_blank">a study</a> released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.</p><p>That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.</p><p>Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2019-86/&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNHYwFB-1KqndGfJ4sXdrrm9DpbLaQ" target="_blank">narrow the range</a> of future warming projections and also <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/12/eaaz9549&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNEhKY1YZ19qgjSZ_hJM14JmzqXOXw" target="_blank">reduce the projected warming</a> of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.</p><p>Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.</p><p>Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. "We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it's tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly," explains Schmidt.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/26/eaba1981" target="_blank">a new study</a> addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, "Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6."</p>
Understanding the Complexity of Clouds<p>It's long been known in climate modeling circles that cloud processes and interactions are a potential weak link for climate modeling. That reality has been brought front and center by the urgent challenges posed during this CMIP6 evaluation period, but the current evaluation of models also provides an opportunity for discovery and improvement.</p><p>Cloud complexity comes from the reality that clouds have a multitude of sizes, altitudes, and textures. Some clouds cool Earth by providing shade, reflecting sunlight back into space. Others act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the world.</p><p>Given that about <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/icesat_light.html" target="_blank">70% of the globe</a> is covered by clouds at any given time, it's no surprise that they play an integral role in regulating the climate. The challenge is to figure out which types of clouds will increase, which will decrease, and what the net effect will be on cooling or warming as the climate changes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0310-1" target="_blank">One study</a> last year reached an alarming conclusion: Left unchecked, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere may lead to a tipping point where shallow low clouds disappear – leading to runaway, catastrophic warming of nearly 15 degrees F. While scientists see that outcome as only a remote possibility, it drives home the urgent need to better understand clouds.</p><p>"We have a saying at NOAA: It isn't rocket science – it's much, much harder than that," quips Dr. Chris Fairall, ATOMIC's lead investigator. "One of the major problems for modeling is there is not clean separation of scales." The photo below is one that Fairall took from the NOAA P-3 aircraft.</p>
Investigating the Secrets of Clouds<p>To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/video/study-aims-to-examine-links-between-climate-change-and-clouds/" target="_blank">CBS This Morning: Saturday</a>."</p>
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