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.
By Matthew J. Landry and Heather Eicher-Miller
When university presidents were surveyed in spring of 2020 about what they felt were the most pressing concerns of COVID-19, college students going hungry didn't rank very high.
Why It Matters<p>This is not just a matter of growling stomachs. This is a straight-up education and health issue.</p><p>When students don't really know if they'll be able to get enough to eat, it can lead to a series of problems that make it harder to stay in school. For instance, it can affect <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1359105318783028" target="_blank">academic performance</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sleep quality</a>. It can also lead to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318783028" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">poor mental and physical health</a> outcomes for college students.</p><p>Food insecurity can also result in disrupted eating patterns if there is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627945/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">not enough food or the variety</a> or <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6943-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">quality of what someone eats</a> is low.</p>
Campus Food Pantries<p>Previous strategies by <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/696254.pdf" target="_blank">colleges and universities</a> to fight hunger in their student bodies have varied widely. They include campus food pantries, emergency cash assistance and nutrition education through noncredit classes or workshopse.</p><p>These strategies were put to the test during the spring 2020 semester, when nearly <a href="https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Hopecenter_RealCollegeDuringthePandemic.pdf" target="_blank">three in five students</a> said they had trouble meeting their own basic needs during the pandemic.</p><p>College food pantries saw <a href="https://www.utrgv.edu/newsroom/2020/05/01-utrgv-student-food-pantry-seeing-recent-increase-in-demand-during-covid-19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big increases</a> in demand. Others said they <a href="https://www.theprospectordaily.com/2020/09/22/uteps-food-pantry-is-running-out-of-food/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">were getting less donated food</a>. This made it even harder to meet the rising food needs of students.</p><p>Campus food pantries largely rely on local or regional food banks, which have been dealing with <a href="https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/2020/10/04/indiana-food-banks-call-more-food-stamps-meet-publics-need/3523683001/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">greater demand</a> than they are able to meet during the pandemic.</p><p>The many students who are attending college remotely will, of course, have less access to campus resources like food pantries.</p>
Federal Help<p>Other potential ways to get more food are government programs like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility" target="_blank">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, known as SNAP. Yet the majority of able-bodied students are not eligible. Long-standing restrictions, like the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/students" target="_blank">college SNAP rule</a>, prevent full-time students from receiving these benefits.</p><p>Such regulatory hurdles were created under the assumption that most students can rely on their parents to get enough to eat. However, college students have vastly different levels of financial support. Some students can rely on their parents for everything and others cannot rely on their parents for anything.</p><p>Decreased reliance on parental financial support is <a href="https://ir.library.louisville.edu/jsfa/vol47/iss3/5/" target="_blank">especially common</a> for first-generation students and students of color, who now make up <a href="https://1xfsu31b52d33idlp13twtos-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Race-and-Ethnicity-in-Higher-Education.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">45% of enrolled college students</a>.</p><p>Under normal circumstances, many college students might rely on part-time jobs to pay for their food.</p>
Short-Term Solutions<p>Universities and colleges can make it a priority to ensure students are aware of all available campus resources and services. They can also potentially help students apply for federal assistance benefits.</p><p>Campus food pantries are not a fully effective and efficacious solution for the scale of college food insecurity, but they can be a good interim solution to increase access to food for students.</p><p>Campuses without food pantries can start one, making use of resources the <a href="https://cufba.org/resources/" target="_blank">College and University Food Bank Alliance</a> provides. Schools with food pantries can try to get them to <a href="https://www.swipehunger.org/5campuspantry/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reach more students</a>.</p><p>Universities and colleges can also lean on one another for support. The <a href="http://wp.auburn.edu/endchildhungeral/alabama-campus-coalition-for-basic-needs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Alabama Campus Coalition for Basic Needs</a> is a great example of this. It brings together 10 universities across the state of Alabama collectively working to address student food insecurity.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
Is More CBD Really Better?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODQyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzYxMDMzN30.6B08i5QYW_Iq5bUf3qtm8oK8o6FKsRUZ74gdakgJ_TY/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ef5b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac86abf3ce246742b18b0dc4052f4dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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