19 Surprising Ways Epsom Salts Can Improve Your Life

I can recall vividly—and count on one hand—the migraine headaches I’ve had in my life, all of them before age ten. Once I turned double digits, I outgrew them. Until about two years ago.

With no warning at all, there I was back to my 8-year-old self, flat on my back with a raging migraine. Why then, after all these years?

Flower in bowl next to bath tub

In reading up on the latest findings on what might cause my migraine headaches, I discovered the importance of magnesium to overall health.

Turns out that an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. population suffer from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues—one of them being migraine headaches. One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine concludes that all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. 

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that common, ordinary Epsom salts is one of the richest sources of magnesium. Studies like this one offer scientific evidence that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin—by soaking in it. In a nice warm bath! Just make sure the bath water is not too hot, otherwise your skin will eliminate rather than absorb.

You can be sure that Epsom salts soaks are now part of my routine to boost my magnesium and hopefully continue to avoid migraines in the future.

In the nearly two years since I wrote about my recurring migraine experience, I’ve been working Epsom salt baths into my regular routine and I have not had even the hint of another migraine.

Epsom salts, also known as hydrated magnesium sulfate (not to be confused with table salt, which is sodium chloride and NOT even close to the same thing) is plentiful, inexpensive, and available at drugstores, supermarkets, and online. And it has dozens of other practical uses and health benefits, too!


Sedative bath

Soak in a warm bath to soothe muscle pain and aches and to keep you feeling rejuvenated and your skin hydrated and healthy. Add two cups of Epsom salts to a bathtub of very warm water (double that to four cups if you have an extra deep soaking tub) and soak for at least 12 minutes. Treat yourself to a soak three times weekly for optimal results.

Sleep aid

Because of its ability to soothe skin and relax muscles, Epsom salts can contribute to a good night’s rest. Take a nice, warm Epsom salts bath right before bed and say goodbye to insomnia.

Sprains and bruises

Soaking in a warm Epsom salts bath will reduce the swelling of sprains and bruises.

Foot soak

To combat the swelling and soothe sore feet, add 1/2 cup Epsom salts to a gallon of lukewarm water and soak your feet for 15 minutes at the end of the day. Especially helpful for painfuil ingrown toenails.

Splinter remover

Soak in Epsom salts to draw out the splinter. It really works.

Sunburn relief

Epsom salt’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a great tool for treating mild sunburn irritation. Take an empty spray bottle, mix two tablespoons of Epsom salts with one cup of water and spray on the affected area.

Bug bites

To help relieve common insect bites, just mix two tablespoons of Epsom salts with one cup of water, dip a cotton washcloth in the solution, and apply to the affected area. Relief!

Bee stings

Battle minor swelling from bee stings by using an anti-inflammatory Epsom salt compress. Mix two tablespoons of Epsom salts with a cup of cold water and soak a cotton washcloth in the solution. Apply to affected area. (If you have severe swelling or trouble breathing following a bee sting, seek emergency medical attention.)


Facial cleanser

To clean your face at night, mix a half-teaspoon of Epsom salt with your regular cleanser. Massage into skin and rinse with cool water.


Massage handfuls of Epsom salts over your wet skin, starting with your feet and continuing up towards the face. Rinse well in a bath or shower.

MORE: Beauty from the Pantry

Dry lips

Try giving your lips a deeper treatment using Epsom salt. Combine a few tablespoons of salt with a teaspoon of petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Apply and gently rub it in. The solution helps remove dry skin and will leave your lips looking fuller and healthier.


Adding Epsom salts to conditioner helps you to rid your hair of excess oil, which can weigh hair down and leave it looking flat. Create your own homemade volumizer by combining equal parts Epsom salt and conditioner. Apply and leave in for 20 minutes before rinsing. Repeat the treatment weekly. Consult with a professional if this treatment might have any negative affect on colored hair.


Epsom salts’ natural exfoliation properties will help soften rough and callused skin, leaving your feet feeling spa-fresh. Add 1/2 to 1 cup Epsom salts to the foot bath.



Tests show that Epsom salts (not table salt, sodium chloride, which would prove deadly to lawns and gardens) helps produce more flowers, larger plants and make fruit taste sweeter.

RELATED: Hands Down the Best Way to Kill Weeds and It’s Not Roundup

House plants

Feed houseplants monthly by adding 2 tablespoons Epsom salt per gallon of water.


Apply 1 tablespoon Epsom salt diluted in water per foot of tomato plant height per plant.


Feed three pounds of Epsom salt to every 1,250 square feet of lawn. Apply with a spreader or dilute the Epsom salt in water and use a sprayer.


Use 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet by diluting in water. Apply 3 times each year over the root zone.


To feed evergreens, azaleas, and rhododendron, dilute 1 tablespoon in water for every nine square feet and apply over the root zone every 2 to 4 weeks.

I hope that some of this information is helpful, especially for my readers who suffer from debilitating headaches. Even if you’ve never had a migraine, do yourself a favor and consider how making magnesium may improve your health. I’m convinced there is something to this “miracle.”

I’d love to hear what you discover.

First published: 6-13-17; Updated 4-2-19

PREVIOUSLY: Worst and Best Ways to Clean Your Eyeglasses

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17 replies
  1. crabbyoldlady
    crabbyoldlady says:

    I used to soak in Epsom salts to help my fibromyalgia, it worked well. Now, I can’t get in and out of the bathtub.

  2. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I love using Epsom salts to make my own bath and foot soaks. Baking Soda can be added, also essential oils or dried herbs. Lavender is something that is very relaxing and soothing. I love adding dried lavender to the soak.

  3. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Except that in scientific studies, unless you use 4 cups of Epsom salts or more, almost no Mg is absorbed thru the skin:

    Michigan State University Extension concludes that there isn’t enough reliable research in the area of Epsom salt as a healing ailment for athletes and individuals with varying illnesses. The relief felt from people soaking in Epsom salt may be a placebo effect. If the effects are a placebo, that is the result of a moment’s peace to reduce the stress. MSU Extension advises to always consult your doctor or a pharmacist before trying any pain relieving remedies.

    Placebo effect! Epsom salts is also not proven to have any effect in the garden. People use it and think it works, but unless you have run a control group in the exact same conditions, you can’t know. Excess Mg actually becomes a pollutant as it is very soluble and runs off into lakes and streams.

    Soak in it and enjoy the warm water. Just know it isn’t really doing anything.

  4. Sue in MN
    Sue in MN says:

    Please stop repeating the myths about Epsom salts as a fertilizer. “Home remedies” are not always as benign as a little extra magnesium in the soil, so should not be recommended without studying the science behind them. Excess magnesium in a water-borne solution does run off, and for true cases of magnesium deficiency, a slow release source should be used. Look for information from sources with the extension “.edu” to find research-based data as opposed to oft-repeated anecdotal information. For example, https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/epsom-salts.pdf. I would love to see you share scientifically sound information with your vast audience.
    Magnesium should only be added to soil that has a true deficiency, and a slow-release supplement should be used. If you suspect that soil is lacking nutrients, a soil test by the local university or a reputable company should be done, then follow the recommendations for fertilizing. Usually if soil is deficient in one nutrient, there will be other problems as well. (Usual cost $20-40.) Excess magnesium applied to soil or plants does not result in extra growth – a plant will only take in and use each element as it’s biology requires, and only in the proper combination.
    Potted plants are sometimes deficient in numerous nutrients since they tend to wash through and drain away during regular, thorough watering, so routine use of a multi-nutrient fertilizer with trace minerals including magnesium is a good idea. Tomatoes CAN benefit from additional magnesium IN SOME CASES, but it should usually be in combination with calcium. Use a good vegetable fertilizer with trace minerals. Always follow label directions to avoid burning plants or roots and polluting water and soil with too many chemicals.

  5. Donna-Nick Bartlett
    Donna-Nick Bartlett says:

    Epson Salt Bathes and Magnesium supplements each evening cured my migraines. Haven’t had them in years…after suffering from many horrible ones!

  6. Jackie B
    Jackie B says:

    Actual peer-reviewed science shows that no home gardens are Mg deficient and that adding Epsom salts does nothing but run off into lakes and rivers. How did your plants without ES fare? Even the Epsom salt council doesn’t have any good data. And research done in1917 during WWI shows that Mg doesn’t cross the skin barrier, so soak away, you’re not changing anything. The warm bath is what is helping, not the ES. Check the Garden Professors blog on FB to learn about Epsom salts. There’s a lot of myth, but no science.

  7. Lorrie Ney
    Lorrie Ney says:

    I use magnesium lotion or gel from the health food store. Works well too. If you use gel it can be itchy. So I use pre-oil like coconut or emu oil on stiff joints to help my skin absorb it deeply. Since total knee replacement I use a blue emu oil mixed w my magnesium gel on my legs from hips to toes. And I move more freely! The nice thing about epsom salt and gels or lotion is no stomach upset and diarrhea. Supplements of all kinds give me the laxative effects. The topicals do not.

    • Linda
      Linda says:

      Quite the opposite, Rebecca. You might want to do a search for “hypertension magnesium Dr. Carolyn Dean”. She is THE magnesium expert, and has several books to her credit.

  8. Marianne Vinz
    Marianne Vinz says:

    Hello Mary! This is a great post! I’m quite familiar with the wonders of magnesium. It, in combination with calcium and vitamin D have greatly helped alleviate my leg cramps. You’re quite right about plant blooms. They really like their doses of magnesium i.e. Epsom salts, especially the bougainvillea. It winters in the basement with some sunlight reflected from snow, gets mad, drops leaves but gets happy come summer and magnesium.! Thank you for your column!

  9. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    Thanks for this info. We also use an Epsom salt soak as part of a routine to help my son recover more quickly from accidental exposure to his allergens. Glad to learn more about other uses!

  10. Luisa
    Luisa says:

    When I was first learning about growing tomatoes, my godfather told me to put some Epsom salts in the holes I dug for the tomatoes before planting, which I do to this day. Also, I remembered my mother having me soak my foot in water with Epsom salts when I had splinters from running around outside barefoot all day in the summer. I don’t spend my days barefoot or outside any more, but I will try this again for the splinters that I do get.

  11. jill
    jill says:

    Would you say more about using it as a hair Volumizer? I assumed that Epsom salt was good for almost everything but that at least one of the exceptions was hair. Wouldn’t it throw the PH balance of your hair off? I thought hair did well with things that were slightly acidic (like a weak vinegar rinse). I also thought that excess minerals would tend to build up on hair. Are you sure about using Epsom salt for hair? What about for colored/chemically treated hair?

  12. Linda
    Linda says:

    Great article, Mary! I rub magnesium oil on my forehead for a minor headache, and soon it will be gone. I started adding magnesium drops (ReMag) to all my drinking water about three months ago and am finding I have more stamina. I also started adding mineral drops from the Great Salt Lake at the same time because I use reverse osmosis water. Keep the great tips coming. A weekday without your column would be like a day without sunshine, and we all know how vital that is!

  13. Marla
    Marla says:

    My GP recommended that I take magnesium supplements to avoid migraines. It really worked for me. If you decide to take a supplement research the different types of magnesium (there are many). Some are better absorbed and used by the body (magnesium oxide – the form most often found in pill supplements on the pharmacy shelves is not as bioavailable as other forms). Personally, I use magnesium citrate and have had good results from it. My sister uses magnesium oil (magnesium chloride) and has given me some of it. It works but the salty residue it leaves is a little bothersome (it feels like you’ve just come in from the beach).


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