Soothing a sunburn & other uses of Epsom salt

This week I learned a new phrase and a new use for an old-fashioned home remedy.

“Thunder sun” describes the rosy glow seen on lots of formerly winter-white skin after the weekend’s postcard-perfect Thunder Over Louisville. As in, “You might want to wear a hat to next year’s air show to keep from getting so much Thunder sun.”

My daughter, who overdid it a bit, has been slathering on lotion and aloe. She even tried vinegar and Epsom salt — two tips passed along by sunburn veterans. The vinegar seemed to cool down the sunburn, but left her smelling like a fresh-dipped Easter egg. A soak in an Epsom salt bath was more soothing.

I knew Epsom salt was good for sore feet, but that’s all I knew about it. A quick review of the Epsom Salt Council’s website explained what this age-old product is and what it can do.

Maybe your grandmother had a carton of Epsom salt in with the Mercurochrome, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and Band-aids. That pretty much summed up the first-aid kit back then. You might decide to add Epsom salt to your first-aid supplies after learning some of its uses.

Epsom salt is made up of the naturally occurring minerals magnesium and sulfate, which your body needs to help regulate such things as blood pressure and heart health. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 68 percent of adults in the U.S. consume less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium, and 19 percent consume less than half of the RDA.

Soaking in a solution of Epsom salt is a safe, easy way to increase the body’s levels of magnesium and sulfate, proponents say. (Other ways are by eating a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables, whole grains and fiber, or through mineral supplements.)

Olympic athletes and weekend warriors alike swear by the benefits of a good Epsom salt soak — either just the feet or the entire body. My husband has been complaining about an ache down the side of his leg ever since the spring thaw allowed him to kick up his bicycle mileage. I joked that it’s his mean streak, but perhaps he just needs to go soak in the salts.

The Epsom Salt Council lists a bevy of health-related uses for their namesake compound. Among them:

  • Soothing skin irritated by poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac
  • Exfoliating dry, rough skin
  • Drying out blackheads and other blemishes
  • Calming bee stings and mosquito bites
  • Cleaning and brightening teeth
  • Relieving constipation
  • Flushing toxins from the body
  • Releasing embedded splinters
  • Softening skin
  • Volumizing hair

If you have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or kidney disease, consult with your physician before using Epsom salt in any way other than on the skin.