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It can soothe a bruise, relieve aching muscles, reduce swelling, even help your roses grow. Plus, it's cheap!
We're talking Epsom salt, which was spotlighted recently in the Wall Street Journal for its tried-and-true therapeutic benefits -- at just two bucks a box.
Epsom salt has been around for centuries, named for Epsom, England, where people would go to soak away their aches and pains in the natural mineral springs.
The white salt crystals are made up of magnesium and sulfate, which help reduce minor inflammation -- like from bee stings and sunburn -- as well as decrease muscle aches. (It is not the kind of salt to be used in cooking, however.)
Your grandparents (or even great-grandparents) may have soaked their aching feet or back in an Epsom salt bath; today, websites like Livestrong.com tout it for golfers to relieve tendinitis in their arm and elbow. Superstar basketball player Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat said he swears by Epsom salt foot baths.
Rosemary Waring, a faculty member in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, in England, is an Epsom salt expert. She explained to the Journal that soaking in an Epsom salt bath releases magnesium ions that act as a pain reliever.
The sulfate in Epsom salt is also useful for people with low sulfate levels, such as those with rheumatoid arthritis, she said. Putting extra sulfate into the system through a nice, long soak also lessens the discomfort from sprains, strains, the flu and other aches.
Here are more tips from the Epsom Salt Council, a trade group of manufacturers:
*Bath soak. Make a warm bath by dissolving two cups of Epsom salt in a bathtub of warm water and then soak for at least 12 minutes. It not only relieves minor pain and inflammation, it can also can help fade bruises.
*Splinter removal. Epsom salt increases osmotic pressure on the skin, which draws foreign bodies toward the surface. Dissolve about 1 cup of Epsom salt in a tub of water and soak the affected area.
*Bee stings. Espsom salt helps draw the stinger to the surface of the skin. Lift out using tweezers, then apply a compress of an Epsom salt-and-water solution to reduce swelling.
*Sunburn. A cool bath with two cups of Epsom salt reduces pain and has mild anti-inflammatory properties.
* Skin exfoliation. Blend Epsom salt with enough baby oil or facial cleansing cream to create a paste. Gently rub it on your face for deep pore cleansing, or use it on heels, elbows and other rough areas. Rinse and pat dry.
*Garden help. Epsom salt can help house plants, roses, peppers and tomatoes, and lawns, trees and shrubs. About the only plant that doesn't like it is sage. Click here for suggestions on using it in your spring garden.
In other health news:
As mothers age, they prefer daughters to husband. A study published last week in the journal of Scientific Reports, suggests that as women age, they shift their focus of intimacy from their husbands to adult daughters - even as their husbands continue to retain their wives as their closest confidantes, ABC News reports.
No proof gum disease causes heart disease. While numerous studies have linked gum disease with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, there is no proof that bad gums actually cause heart disease, an American Heart Association committee said after reviewing 500 journal articles and studies. Plus, claims that dental treatment may prevent heart attacks or stroke are unwarranted, msnbc.com reports.
For diabetes and back pain, go for cheap, older treatments. The American College of Physicians is urging patients with newly diagnosed diabetes and back pain not to opt for the latest-and-supposedly-greatest treatments, but start out with the tried-and-true generic drugs and basic tests, NPR.org reports.
Photo credit: yourselfcentre.wordpress.com