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Naturopath Sandi Rogers shares six ways you can use this ancient, inexpensive folk cure as a modern-day multi-tasking miracle. Named for a bitter saline spring at Epsom in England, and patented in 1695 by Nehemiah Grew, Epsom salt is magnesium sulphate heptahydrate, a pure, naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulphur traditionally extracted by boiling down the Epsom mineral waters.

Epsom salts bath Take to ease pain and swelling of arthritis, fibromyalgia, bruises and sprains; to counter muscle soreness and tired, swollen feet; and to soothe sunburn and psoriasis. Epsom salts dissolved in water breaks down into magnesium and sulphate. Run hot water – which should still be comfortable to the touch – into the tub, adding one to two cups of salts while it’s filling to help them dissolve. Use Epsom salts in a hot tub or any tub with jets only if the manufacturer approves.

Constipation In the US, it’s FDA-approved for this purpose. Dissolve one teaspoon of salts in a glass of warm water and drink. This remedy should not be used more than once daily.

Splinter removal Soak affected area in a strong solution of Epsom salts (one-third of a cup) and warm water (one cup) for 10 minutes. The magnesium sulphate reduces inflammation and softens the splinter, making it easier to remove.

Skin scrub Epsom salts is a lovely natural exfoliation agent. Take a small handful and rub gently all over your body – but not your face – while skin is still damp from a bath or shower. To exfoliate facial skin, simply mix one-half to one teaspoon of salts with your cleanser and apply as usual.

Deep-clean hand wash Combine equal parts of Epsom salts and extra-virgin olive oil. Use after dirty jobs like gardening, D-I-Y projects or cleaning.

Non-toxic tile and grout cleaner Mix together equal parts of Epsom salts and dish-washing liquid and apply with a brush to tiles and grout. Rinse thoroughly, as the soap is slippery.

In the garden Apply Epsom salts to any plant with yellowing leaves; sprinkle generously around citrus trees and roses; use as a soil conditioner when digging over garden beds; add a tablespoon to soil mix when potting up plants; and sprinkle around slug-affected areas to deter the creatures.

The absorption issue

Read anything about Epsom salts baths, and you’ll see extraordinary claims about the benefits delivered by magnesium that is purportedly absorbed into the body via the skin. Without question, magnesium is critical to our health, and many claims – such as reducing high blood pressure – are accurate for ingested magnesium. However, according to an International Journal of Cosmetic Science review, there is no published research to prove that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, although an Experimental Biology and Medicine review did concede that, under the right conditions (heat, high salt concentrations, or cut or broken skin), absorption could occur. The Epsom Salt Council also quotes an unpublished paper by a toxicologist that noted a rise in magnesium levels following a very hot Epsom salts bath; but this study did not control for the effects of taking a normal bath. Always obtain advice from a qualified naturopath and nutritionist.

Sandi Rogers EDD, ND is a life member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. www.atms.com.au