Epsom Salts: Not Just for Grandma?

Grandma was on to something...
Things stay pretty clean around the Eco Runner household. Both Sam and I tend to be a little…obsessive about keeping our house in shipshape (it’s a hazard of having six pets).

In the spring with the mud and muck our wood floors tend to suffer a little. Whenever we go for a run, take the dogs out or just come in from outside, chances are mud is being tracked in.

Last weekend we were cleaning floors, and suddenly Sam called out to say he was hurt. As it turns out, while scrubbing the floor he managed to get a giant splinter in his hand.

After a day his finger was swollen and red. Under quite a bit of protest I convinced him to go to Urgent Care to have it checked out. They gave him a tetanus shot, sent him home with an antibiotic, some gauze and instructions to soak his hand in Epsom salts…

Wait what?

We both thought this was an old wives tale, a folk remedy and a little silly, but considering that his finger was still swollen, we decided to give it a whirl.

Epsom salt for muscle pain
Admittedly, I had used Epsom salt for bathing before, especially after runs. My grandma claimed that it helped to ease muscle soreness (plus they looked pretty in the jar in my bathroom). I added a few drops of lavender to them, and tossed a scoop in the tub, when I needed a little pampering.

Meep
Does it work? Well, kind of…I think? The effect may be a little bit psychosomatic but I always feel that it makes the water feel softer and in combination with the lavender oil seems to make the bath seem relaxing. Hot water relaxes muscles and soaking in a tub never seemed to hurt.

Do Epsom salts work for splinters?
I turned to my friend, the internet to figure out how this works, and if it works. What I found is that there is very little and mostly vague research out there on the topic. Magnesium sulfate is named for Epsom Springs,  a hot spring where it was discovered in Surrey, England.

Most of the material on “how” this works, discusses “drawing out” the splinter, and osmosis. It’s all very vague and there’s nothing clear-cut or medically backed, as far as I could find. It seems that Epsom salts cause water to “prune” up the skin a little quicker, and the pruning pushes the splinter towards the surface.

In practice, after ten days of soaking the finger for half an hour a day…well, the splinter’s still in there. I’m all for natural remedies, but I’m not very certain that this one is working. Bandages, tea tree oil, and an antibiotic seem to be helping just as much, if not more than the salt.


So what is Epsom salt good for?
The FDA has approved it as a laxative (good to know, but as vegans that’s not something I’m often in the market for). Apparently in small doses it can help with constipation. Follow the instructions on the box, and keep me posted how that’s working out for you.


In other uses, several gardening resources recommend adding Epsom salt to the soil around roses, which benefit from the magnesium and the sulfide. The PH neutral chemical dissolves in water and won’t harm plants other plants. There are gardeners across the web touting the benefits of adding the salts to vegetable plants, tomatoes, sweet peppers, berries, and as a deterrent for slugs.

I have always been terrified of slugs and I’m a gardener, but having seen what table salt does to slugs, I was relieved to find out that the crystals simply deter them because of their sharp shape.

These gardening claims are not necessarily scientifically proven, but seem to be proven by experience of many gardeners who claim good results. Again, it’s more of a “can’t hurt” philosophy.

Overall, that seems to be the conclusion about the use of Epsom salts….While they aren’t necessarily proven or scientifically backed claims, they can’t hurt.

I’ll keep you posted on how things are working out with Sam’s poor hand.