What Is Difference Between Epsom Salts and Table Salt?

Different Salt in a wooden spoon
A variety of different table and epsom salts. (Image: sasimoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Different types of salt aren't created equal. Table salt, for example, is edible and it's used to flavor a variety of foods, but Epsom salt isn't for eating, and it isn't actually true salt. Epsom salts are often used to soothe overworked muscles or as part of cosmetic treatments, such as facials, but they don't actually contain any sodium.

Epsom Salt 101

Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulphur, sometimes called sulfate, and is often called magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral that helps keep muscles, nerves and the heart working properly. The sulfate helps flush toxins from the body, and produces proteins in joints and brain tissue, according to the Epsom Salt Council. Epsom salts got the first part of their name because they were first discovered in Epsom, England, and the second part because they resemble large pieces of salt.

Common Uses and Considerations for Epsom Salt

The most common uses of Epsom salts is to promote a bowel movement when taken orally and to ease sore muscles by adding the salts to a warm bath. Epsom salts are also used to help remove splinters or bee stingers, to ease the pain associated with a sunburn and to exfoliate the skin, according to Rosemary Waring, a faculty member in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, in England. You shouldn't ingest Epsom salt without doctor approval. While Epsom salts do act as a laxative, the exact amount you need can vary, and your doctor will recommend the appropriate amount for you. Consuming too much Epsom salt can be life-threatening, according to Drugs.com. Tell your doctor about any medical conditions and medications you're taking because certain ones can react with Epsom salts.

Table Salt 101

Table salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Sodium promotes normal nerve and muscle function and also helps maintain a normal fluid balance in the body. Chloride also helps your body maintain a proper fluid balance, according to MedlinePlus. The average American gets more sodium and more chloride than he actually needs, the vast majority of it from table salt, as well as foods that contain large amounts of salt such as canned soup, frozen meals and processed foods. Table salt is often fortified with iodine, a trace mineral that helps promote normal thyroid function.

Common Uses and Considerations for Table Salt

Table salt is used to add flavor to foods. It's often added to home cooked foods, but it's present in large amounts in many packaged, restaurant and fast foods. The danger with too much sodium, as well as too much chloride, is that both can raise blood pressure. High blood pressure can raise your risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, which gives you the sodium and chloride your body needs, but lowers the risk of health problems.

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