Sunday, June 5, 2005

Apple #76: Epsom Salts


I got a sliver in my palm, and somebody suggested I soak my hand in warm water and Epsom salts. I haven't seen Epsom salts much at all in recent years. In fact, the last time I really remember seeing them in action was when my brother once upon a time stepped on a rusty nail while crossing a baseball diamond barefoot, and the nail went just about through his foot. Afterwards, he soaked his foot in a big pan of milky-looking water while my mom quietly had a conniption fit in the background.

Anyway, the recent mention of Epsom salts got me wondering, what are they exactly?
  • Chemically speaking, Epsom salts are hydrated magnesium sulfate.
  • This compound occurs naturally, dissolved in sea water, and also in mineral waters, especially those from Epsom, England (where the salts get their name), and in a few other mineral springs in Europe.
  • Soaking in warm water and Epsom salts supposedly draws toxins -- and splinters -- from your body, reduces swelling, relaxes muscles, and soothes the nervous system. However, if you have high blood pressure, or heart or kidney problems, it is recommended that you don't soak in Epsom salts.
  • You can also use them as an exfoliant -- a way to scrub off the old skin cells -- or in a compress to take the sting out of insect bites.
  • You can use them to make your hair less oily, to make your own hair spray, or, when mixed with conditioner, as a hair volumizer.
  • Amazingly enough to me, Epsom salts can be ingested, and used as laxatives! All that stuff like Metamucil, Ex-Lax, Dulcolax, Correctal, all that stuff is technically Epsom salts. Or I guess, magnesium sulfate in one form or another.
  • You can also use the salts, I think in the form of an injection, to inhibit contractions in premature labor, and to reduce the effect of poisons that have been swallowed (especially when combined with potassium iodide, they can help eliminate lead from the system). They are used to help lung function in people with asthma, and they are becoming an increasingly popular way to treat heart palpitations, especially ones that result from overdoses of antidepressants.
  • Outside of medicine, Epsom salts are used to stiffen and give cotton fabrics more weight, and as a fixing agent in fabric dyeing.
  • In agriculture, they are used for topdressing (covering or fertilizing) clover hay.
  • You can also use Epsom salts in your garden, to help fertilize your vegetables or your lawn.

Epsom salts in crystal form

Epsom salts from the drug store


So, that sliver I had in my palm? I got some salts, dissolved them in warm water, and soaked my hand until the water turned cool. The sliver hadn't moved a bit. So much for drawing out splinters, or even softening the skin enough that the splinter would be easily accessible.

I got it out the best way I know, poking the skin away very carefully with a needle, until I could push it out with the needle's tip. Then I poured hydrogen peroxide on the spot. Done.

Ask Yahoo, What are the medicinal benefits of soaking in epsom salts?, 13 Wonderful Ways to Use Epsom Salts, Epsom salts drug information
CureZone, What are Epsom salts?
1911 Love to Know Encyclopedia, Epsom salts
There's also the Epsom Salt Industry Council, but this website didn't work when I checked it.

1 comment:

  1. I did the warm epsom salt thing with warm water and was able to squeeze the area around the thorn and push it out underwater. It was extremely cool to watch this thing shoot out when it had been in my finger for two days.

    Hope this helps someone else fix their paw.


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