Epsom Salt for skin problems, medical uses, nail fungus, athlete's foot, laxative, muscle aches and various medical conditions
September 15 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Epsom salt is basically crystals of magnesium sulfate. Epsom salt has many uses, from health and beauty to household cleaning and organic gardening. This web page focuses on the medical uses of Epsom salt.

Medical use
Although there is a great deal of historical and anecdotal information on the medical uses of Epsom salt, little human research has been published. It is known that soaking in Epsom salt leads to absorption of magnesium and sulfate into the bloodstream. Topical use of Epsom salt, or soaking with Epsom salt also acts as a drying agent for the skin which can be used to benefit certain skin and nail conditions. The following are some potential clinical conditions where Epsom salt use could be helpful:

Nail fungus. Modern medicine does not have a good, safe and effective treatment for toe nail fungus infections. However, the use of Epsom salt can be quite helpful in this condition and may offer a cure if done appropriately. Although it is very difficult to cure toe nail fungus, its use can prevent worsening.

Athlete's Foot. Soaking in Epsom salt could help eliminate fungi that cause athlete's foot. For specific details on how to use Epsom salt for this condition, see athlete's foot.

Relaxation and stress relief. Soaking may help muscle tissue relax and release stress.

Post exercise relief of muscle aches. Soaking in a bath of Epsom salt may, in some people, relieve muscle aches after a heavy workout.

Epsom salt bathing increase blood levels of magnesium and sulfate
At least one study has shown that whole body soaking in Epsom salt for seven days in a row does increase blood levels of magnesium and sulfate, although the rise is not excessive. Most people are not likely to soak in Epsom salt every day.

South Med J. 2005. Fatal hypermagnesemia caused by an Epsom salt enema: a case illustration. The authors describe a case of fatal hypermagnesemia caused by an Epsom salt enema. A 7-year-old male presented with cardiac arrest and was found to have a serum magnesium level of 41 mg/dL after having received an Epsom salt enema earlier that day. The medical history of Epsom salt, the common causes and symptoms of hypermagnesemia, and the treatment of hypermagnesemia are reviewed. The easy availability of magnesium, the subtle initial symptoms of hypermagnesemia, and the need for education about the toxicity of magnesium should be of interest to physicians.

Epsom salts to mother reduces risk in the baby from cerebral palsy,
Dr. John Thorp, a professor of obstetrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that magnesium sulfate, popularly known as Epsom salts, when given to the mother, cut the rate of cerebral palsy in half. He and his team gave either magnesium sulfate or a placebo to 224 women going into early labor or with ruptured membranes. The women's pregnancies were at between 24 to 31 weeks -- a full-term pregnancy goes 40 weeks. The magnesium did not prevent any deaths among the premature babies. But 4 percent of the babies born to women given magnesium developed cerebral palsy, versus 7 percent of those born to women who got the placebo. Magnesium may stabilize the blood vessels, prevent the damage caused by having oxygen cut off and also help prevent immune system damage to the brain. The March of Dimes estimates that about 500,000 people have cerebral palsy in the United States.

Q. How did Epsom salt derive its name?
   A. During the 1500s in Epsom, England, a discovery of magnesium sulfate was made, and hence magnesium sulfate crystals are now called Epsom salt.

Q. Where can I find Epsom salt for sale?
   A. It is sold in almost every grocery store. There are three suppliers of Epsom salt and all the products found in stores are privately labeled using the same Epsom salt material supplied by three suppliers which are Giles Chemical, Potash Import & Chemical Corporation, and PQ Corporation.

Q. Will Epsom salts help kill tinea versicolor and if so, how should they be used?
   A. We are not sure if Epsom salt will help tinea versicolor, but if you were to try, perhaps an Epsom salt paste covered with a bandage for 30 minutes may be an option. Please let us know if it works.

After reading your fine article on using Epsom salts to help beat toenail fungus, I started using your treatment. Like others, I have had the fungus for years now, trying many home-based treatments (Vick's vapor rub, oregano oil, tree tea oil, vinegar soaks, etc.) to no success. After further research, I started using Zeta Clear and Fungisil (they both use a mix of various natural ingredients) together for better affect. Now retired, I can wear sandals all day and periodically expose my feet to direct sunlight. Last November, I started a plant based diet (all organic). My question: In using your treatment throughout the day, should I continue to follow the prescribed intervals in applying above anti-fungal solutions? I am asking this because the fundamental benefit in using your treatment is to help keep the feet dry. Doesn't any anti-fungal treatment add some degree of moisture?
    A. It's difficult to predict whether using other methods in addition to the Epsom salt treatment would help with recovery, but it is worth a try. I don't think there is a need for concern regarding moisture with the use of the Zeta Clear or Fungisil. I just don't know whether they would or would not add any benefit.

On the webpage article you mention some research on Epsom salt bathing. Interested in floating tanks, where 22% Epsom salt solution is used for keeping the floater on the surface, I am currently trying to collect scientific data on the research on the effects of such bathing. Would you be so kind to provide some links where I can find such info?
    Try Medline.

Epsom salt testimonials for nail fungus infection
Q. Dr. Sahelian, thank you for the Epsom Salt "solution" for toe nail fungus. I have been battling a slight problem with this for almost 2 years. After only 2 weeks I have seen significant improvement.
   A. You're welcome. Most of the time it takes several months of Epsom salt use for the toe nail fungus to be eliminated.

Q. Just want to inform that the recommendation for the treatment of toe nail fungus with Epson salt worked perfectly for my wife. It took about 4 months of soaking to get rid of this nail fungus which she had for many years.

I can testify that Epsom salt soaks can indeed cure toenail fungus. I thought that you may be interested in my wife's experience. My wife had toenail fungus completely to the nail bed on at least 2 toes that were 100% infected. a couple more toes were partially infected. She had the infection for several years. We never thought about trying Epsom salts, but last summer, around July she developed another condition that resembled more of an infection of several toes. I had her soak her feet one time daily for about 4 weeks, maybe 5. Finally the redness in the toes was improved to the point that she stopped the soaks. It wasn't until about October that we realized that her toenail fungus was cured also. At that time, she showed me that her toenails were OK from the nail bed to about 1/2 way to the end of the toes. Since then I have encouraged her to add a cup of Epsom salts to her bath as a sort of maintenance program. Even though she only soaked her feet for about a month, followed by occasional Epsom salts soaks in her bath water, her toes are completely cured. Our experience sounds almost too good to be true, but is in fact true! It would be good if a study could be conducted to properly document and legitimize this cure.

I would thank you for the information on your website for curing nail fungus using Epsom salts. I had tried various remedies for over twenty years without success. I used a variation of your method employing Epsom salts that seemed to "speed up" the healing process that may possibly be of some interest. This process keeps the Epsom salt in contact with the toe nail 24/7 and seems to speed up the process significantly. The process is as follows: File the nail down, Apply a thick layer of Epsom salt gel to the toe nail, Cover the toe nail and the end of the toe with 1.5" wide sports tape (coach's tape) forming a water tight cap so that the gel does not wash off when you bathe or shower. Repeat process once or twice a week. My toe nails, which had not responded noticeably to any other treatment, showed good progress each week and cleared up fairly quickly. It seems the point may be to keep the Epsom salt in contact with the toe nail as much as possible and this method worked for me. Thanks again for your suggestion.

Q. I read your article about Epsom salt for curing toe nail fungus. One person mentioned using Epsom salt gel but did not say what brand. There are many brands with magnesium and arnica in them. Any recommendations on type or concentration of Epsom salt?
   A. I am not familiar with the different brands so at this time I don't know which brand is best.

I wanted to let you know I got rid of toe rot on my big left toe that was fully fungus infected by using Epsom salt. I tried your recommended Epsom salt baths but the fungus came back when i stopped it. That is until I came up with a new idea. What if I could keep my big infected toe in Epsom salt instead of just a few hours a day how about months at at time? So I decided on a plan to purchase a pair of quality blue rubber gloves from Lowe's hardware store. Once home I used a pair of scissors to cut a single long digit off the glove. Then I filled it 25% of the way with Epsom salt and added 3 drops of water. Not at all uncomfortable, feels fine with, or without shoes and socks. Then I fitted the secured rubber finger digit over the infected toe. I started last September 2009. I would take the rubber finger off of my infected toe once a week and place a new load of Epsom salt in it. I stopped this in February 2010 and so far it appears to be gone with a new toe nail. I thought I'd share this blessed moment with you and hope it works for anyone else out there with this misery. And best of all not having to soak for hours each day.
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I want to mention that filing the nail every day is very helpful, too.

Epsom salt use in animals
Q. I use Epsom salt as a sheath cleanser for breeding stallions and have not had any problems in our breeding sheds for years.

Q. Dear Doctor, I was pleased to come across the following question and answer from your website on nail fungus. "Q. I read with interest your article on Epsom salts. I have one nail that has nagged me for years, I no sooner think I have it cleared up and it starts all over. What I want to tell you though is that did you know Epsom salts comes in a gel form? We use the gel in boots for the horses when they get a bruised or abscessed hoof and we need to draw it out. I am thinking I could put some of the gel on a Band-Aid and cover the nail with it at times that I need to wear socks and shoes.
   A. This is interesting, perhaps the Epsom salt gel form could help with toe nail fungus infection. Please keep us updated."
   It is in fact our company who is the exclusive wholesaler of Epsom Salt Gel. I appreciate you posting the above question and answer on your website. For more information on our product, feel free to contact is at anytime or you can check out our website at www epsomsaltgel dot com.

Epsom salt use for other conditions
Q.  I have tendonitis in my right wrist. Will soaking it in Epsom salt help in any way?
   A. I have not seen studies regarding the use of Epsom salt soaks and tendonitis, but if your doctor approves it is worth a try.

Q. Can I purchase Epsom Salt Get at Walmart?
   A. We just googled this and this does appear Epsom salt gel is available at Walmart.