The many uses of Epsom salts

Magnesium sulphate has a wide range of medicinal uses for humans, from easing inflammation to acting as a laxative. And it’s no less useful on horses, says Kim Dyson.

Multi-purpose Epsom salts

As a horse owner, one of my favourite home remedies is Epsom salt – it’s right up there with apple cider vinegar and raw honey. The scientific name is magnesium sulphate. The compound was first extracted from mineral springs in the town of Epsom, in the UK, hence the common name.

Magnesium and sulphate are transdermal. This means that they are absorbed into the skin.

It has been shown that magnesium reduces inflammation, improves nerve and muscle function and helps to prevent arteries hardening. Sulphates speed up the absorption of nutrients into the cells and detoxify the body efficiently.

If you have been on a long, hard ride, or have taken a tumble, Epsom salts can help. Add two cups to your bath and enjoy a long soak; this will soothe a sore, bruised body and help to calm your nerves.

You can also mix a handful of Epsom salt with a little warm water and wash your face with this, gently massaging it at the same time. This helps remove blackheads, prevent acne and leave your skin feeling rejuvenated.

For your horse
Epsom salts can also be used to ease joint pain in a horse. Soak its legs in a bucket of warm water to which you have added one cup of magnesium sulphate. This will help reduce the appearance of windgalls and the inflammation around a strained tendon or ligament. Older, arthritic horses will benefit from a 25-minute leg soak.

Does your horse suffer from dandruff? Try an Epsom salts scrub. Mix handfuls of Epsom salts with a small amount of water and gently massage your horse in circular motions, then rinse off. This will leave its body feeling soft and the blood flow will be temporarily increased in the areas massaged. This will flush toxins and bring nutrients with the new blood flow.

Other equine uses include:

Insect bites: Mix six tablespoons of Epsom salt with three cups of warm water, wet a facecloth and hold it over the affected area. If the bites swell into welts, add a tablespoon of nettle root and one of rosemary to the mix. This will help soothe the bites even further.

Wounds: For puncture wounds or abscesses, make a magnesium sulphate poultice. If the hoof is infected, place it in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salt for 30 to 40 minutes. Make a bran mash poultice and bandage the affected area to draw out the foreign bodies. If the area is difficult to bandage, mix equal parts Zam- buk ointment with Epsom salts and apply to the wound.

Repellent: Mix half a cup of Epsom salts with four cups of water and some lavender and citronella oil in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture around the stables, home and garden to repel insects without the use of chemicals.

Laxative: Magnesium sulphate has a laxative effect. In the old days, it was common practice to give a horse bran mash once a week. Some people believe this is harsh on the body, but others swear by it. A bran mash is three cups of bran, 100g Epsom salts, one tablespoon of raw honey and 120mℓ apple cider vinegar added to enough warm water to make the mixture moist, but not runny.  You can also add a handful of the normal concentrate. But bear in mind horses should eat concentrates according to their energy requirement. If they are not working, they should be given the minimum amount of concentrate and the maximum amount of roughage.

Fabric softener: At this time of the year, I wash all my horse blankets and rugs. Epsom salts are an effective fabric softener. Mix four cups with 20 drops of cedar oil, and add a quarter cup of this to the water you rinse the rugs with. This will make the rugs soft and also help to repel insects.

Conditioner: Magnesium sulphate makes an excellent deep conditioner that adds volume and removes grease from manes and tails. Mix equal parts of organic hair conditioner and Epsom salts and apply liberally. Allow to soak in for 20 minutes, then rinse clean.

Kim Dyson breeds Arabians and Lusitanos, and has 22 years’ experience in holistic equine and human body work.