Anxiety is a natural human emotion. It’s usually caused by our mind entering the ‘fight or flight’ response when situations occur. For some, it can be a fleeting feeling felt when big changes occur in our lives such as starting a new job, speaking in public or getting married. But for others, it can be a daily ongoing mix of fear, worry, and uneasiness. The constant nervousness and inner turmoil can be uncomfortable and tiring. Sleep patterns can become disturbed and concentration wanes. In terms of the mind, it does not only deplete our happiness but it can also cause physical symptoms like headaches, muscle aches and tension. There are many ways to cope with anxiety issues but daily relaxation techniques can help calm the inner turmoil, help you sleep better and give you a greater peace of mind. Many people suggest taking a bath using Epsom salt as it is known to relieve symptoms of anxiety and actually improve our mood. But what is Epsom salt and how does it work?
How Is Epsom Salt Different To Other Salt?
Epsom Salt is not like sea salt or regular table salt. Although the crystal structure looks similar, Epsom salt is a mineral compound made up of magnesium and sulphate unlike other salts that are almost entirely made up of sodium chloride. Another huge difference is that sea salt, when left on the skin, will dry it out pretty quickly and leave a residue whereas Epsom salt actually rinses off and leaves the skin soft. So because of its specific structural composition, the way Epsom salts work are greatly different to other salts and the benefits are far greater.
How Epsom Salt Baths Work – The Science
Mention an Epsom salt bath to anyone and they will probably conjure up thoughts of a hot, steaming bath – a welcome delight at the end of a hard, stressful day. But an Epsom salt bath is actually unlike a normal one. Remember the magnesium that makes up most of its compound? Well it’s this that gives you the great health benefits that can relieve anxiety issues. When we’re feeling stressed, our magnesium levels are decreased and depleted. Magnesium is a mineral that is important in the production of serotonin – the feel-good hormone – so less magnesium equals less serotonin. Serotonin is crucial for enhancing our mood and sense of wellbeing so without it, anxiety attacks can seem worse and prolonged.
A study, conducted by researchers at the School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham, showed that a certain amount of magnesium in Epsom salt is readily absorbed through the skin. They studied a group of participants before and after being immersed in a bath with dissolved Epsom salt and found that their magnesium levels had risen without any adverse effects. Therefore using Epsom bath salts is an effective, yet-gentle, way to raise magnesium levels without taking supplements.
How To Make Your Own Epsom Bath Salt
There are many ready-made Epsom salt products in stores but they can prove costly. Plain Epsom salt usually comes in bigger packs and is more economical. But why not try making your own? It’s actually very easy and fun to do and you can make your own varieties. All you need is:
- 1/2 cup of Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate)
- 1/2 cup of water
- A small cup or bowl
- Food colouring (optional)
What to do:
- Boil the water and stir in the 1/2 cup of Epsom salt for around a minute in the cup or bowl. This creates a saturated solution, meaning no more salt can dissolve in the water. (Some undissolved crystals will be at the bottom of the glass.)
- Choose a food colouring and add a couple of drops to give them a nice vibrant colour. (optional)
- Place the cup or bowl in the refrigerator straight away as the solution needs to be cooled down rapidly.
- After a few hours, check it to see the cup full of crystals. Pour off any remaining solution.
Your end result should see small, thin, and numerous crystals which you can add to your bath. Although you can create a scent-less bath salt mixture, adding essential oils creates a calming atmosphere when you take your bath and will help you to relax a bit more. Just combine your favourite essential oil and leave it to infuse in the cup or bowl before adding it to your bath.
How To Use Epsom Bath Salt
The ideal concentration for using Epsom salt baths to raise magnesium status, according to the study, is approximately 500 grams, or 2 cups, of Epsom salt dissolved in 15 gallons of water – the amount that can fit in a standard-sized bathtub. Ideal amount of time spent soaking is 10-20 minutes, two to three times per week.
While an Epsom salt bath is generally a safe and gentle way to raise magnesium levels, it is good to check with your doctor before using it to treat any medical conditions or using it while pregnant.
Featured photo credit: Matt_Weibo via flickr.com