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With cold and flu season underway, doctors say you should try soaking in Epsom salt before you reach for an expensive over-the-counter drug. This naturally-occurring mineral will ease muscle aches and help you get a good night’s rest, so you can recover faster. Some doctors say it will even speed healing by detoxifying your body and increasing your white blood cell count.
“You want to get in front of an illness,” says Dr. Theresa Ramsey, cofounder of the Center for Natural Healing in Arizona and author of Healing 101: A Guide to Creating the Foundation for Complete Wellness. “As soon as you know you’re coming down with an illness and can soak in Epsom salt, the better it will work.”
Ramsey says soaking in Epsom salt helps spur a process called vasodilation, which increases white blood cell production and helps the body fight illnesses quicker.
You can get Epsom salt – actually magnesium sulfate – for just a few bucks at your local pharmacy or supermarket, and doctors say soaking in it can help ease aches, calming the body as it fights the symptoms of a cold or flu.
“It has an alkalizing effect, which gives your immune system a boost,” says Lisa Tsakos-Trepanier, a registered nutritionist, who writes a monthly column for Tribune Media and is a regular contributor to NaturallySavvy.com.
Soaking in Epsom salt could be especially useful for people fighting H1N1, which often causes severe body aches, says Dr. Margaret Philhower, a naturopathic doctor who has a private practice in Oregon and writes for www.naturopathicexperts.com.
“Magnesium is a fantastic way to help relax the muscles and flush the lactic acid out of them,” Philhower says.
Philhower recommends adding at least 4 cups of Epsom salt per bath to helps improve circulation and reduce the length of the symptoms. “Getting a virus is the body’s way to force us to detoxify, and an Epsom salt bath is one of our favorite recommendations for a gentle detoxing.”
People should consult their doctors for serious or persisting conditions. If your temperature tops 104 degrees, or if you have a history of febrile seizure, you may also want to check with your doctor before soaking in a warm bath.
Note: For human use, the Epsom Salt Council recommends only Epsom salt with the USP designation.