Soaking away your aches and pains in an invigorating bath is one of life’s great pleasures. But when you reach for the bath salts, do you really know how effective they are? And what’s the difference between them?
In this article, we’ll look at the different varieties of bath salts and see how they compare. By the end, you’ll have a good idea which combination is more likely to offer you the health benefits you’re looking for.
Magnesium chloride is a type of salt collected from salt lakes such as the Dead Sea, a huge salt lake located between Israel and Jordan. It is sometimes referred to as “magnesium flakes” and used as a bath salt.
As the name suggests, Dead Sea bath flakes are derived from salts collected from the Dead Sea.
The salts used for Dead Sea bath flakes are not the same as the salt you would use in cooking or seasoning food. Dead Sea salts are lower in sodium and contain a total of 21 minerals including magnesium, potassium, calcium and sulphur.
Magnesium flakes comprise magnesium chloride, while Dead Sea bath flakes contain magnesium and a combination of other minerals such as the ones mentioned above (potassium, calcium and sulphur, amongst others).
To enjoy a higher concentration of magnesium, you can add magnesium chloride to Dead Sea bath flakes. This way, you can harness the powerful benefits of all the minerals in these products while boosting the restorative qualities of magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to the healthy functioning of the human body, playing a number of key roles.
It helps the body to perform hundreds of important functions, including:
These are just some of the scientifically evidenced benefits of magnesium. Other research has found evidence that magnesium could prevent migraines, reduce insulin resistance and improve premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.
Epsom salts get their name from Epsom, Surrey in the United Kingdom where they were originally found, although the ones you see in shops today tend to be manufactured.
They don’t actually contain salts but crystals of magnesium sulphate. As with magnesium chloride and Dead Sea bath flakes, the magnesium content in Epsom salts is believed to be released in bath water to soothe aches and pains.
A study (5) found that bathing in a solution of Dead Sea bath flakes hydrated the skin, soothed inflammation and improved the skin’s ability to form a protective barrier. It concluded that this was likely to be attributable to the high magnesium content.
Another study (6) looked at 18 people with the skin condition psoriasis who undertook a treatment programme that included bathing in the mineral-rich Dead Sea. It found an 88% reduction in the areas affected by psoriasis and severity of the skin condition and a marked improvement in their quality of life.
A study (7) looked at the effect of a magnesium chloride spray applied to the skin of patients with fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain and fatigue. The severity of the subjects’ symptoms and their quality of life were measured two weeks into the trial and at its end, after four weeks. At both points, an improvement was noted.
There have been no clinical trials to test the effects of Epsom salts.
It’s clear from scientific research that both magnesium chloride and Dead Sea bath flakes have a proven beneficial effect on the human body.
In the absence of equivalent evidence to say the same about Epsom salts, it’s hard to put them on an equal footing.
We’ve seen that magnesium chloride and Dead Sea bath flakes both offer a valuable source of magnesium. When used together, you could say that this power is enhanced and the combination is an effective way to reap the benefits of this valuable mineral for a healthy mind and body.
1. Tarleton E, Littenberg B, 2015. ‘Magnesium intake and depression in adults’, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 28(2):249-56.
2. Dae Jung Kim D, Xun P, Liu K, Loria C, Yokota K, Jacobs D, He K, 2010. ‘Magnesium intake in relation to systemic inflammation, insulin resistance, and the incidence of diabetes’, Diabetes Care, 33(12):2604-10.
3. Guerrero-Romero F, Rodríguez-Morán M, 2008. ‘The effect of lowering blood pressure by magnesium supplementation in diabetic hypertensive adults with low serum magnesium levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial’, Journal of Human Hypertension, 23(4):245-51.
4. Nielsen F, Johnson L, Zeng H, 2010. ‘Magnesium supplementation improves indicators of low magnesium status and inflammatory stress in adults older than 51 years with poor quality sleep’, Magnesium Research, 23(4):158-68.
5. Proksch E, Nissen H, Bremgartner M, Urquhart C, 2005. ‘Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin’, International Journal of Dermatology, 44(2):151-7.
6. Emmanuel T, Lybæk D, Johansen C, Iversen L, 2020. ‘Effect of Dead Sea Climatotherapy on Psoriasis; A Prospective Cohort Study’, Frontiers in Medicine, Mar 18;7:83.
7. Engen D, McAllister S, Whipple M, Cha S, Dion L, Vincent A, Bauer B, Wahner-Roedler D, 2015. ‘Effects of transdermal magnesium chloride on quality of life for patients with fibromyalgia: a feasibility study’, Journal of Integrative Medicine, 13(5):306-13.