Epsom Salt Laxative

Epsom salt laxative - magnesium sulfate

Epsom salt is the common name for the mineral magnesium sulfate, which is a naturally occuring mineral. It has two common, primary uses. One, it is taken (ingested) as a natural laxative. Two, it is added to bath water before taking a bath as it has been reported to soften the skin. Its laxative properties are of interest to us in this article.

According to the Epsom Salt Council, epsom salt is not only safe to ingest but also approved by the FDA for use as a laxative. Of course consultation with a physician, as with taking all medications, is still necessary.

Osmotic Laxative

Epsom salt laxative belongs to a class of treatments known as the osmotic laxatives. They exert their effect through attracting water - a property known as hydrophilia. If you have ever poured water onto a pile of salt, you know that the salt will absorb the water to form a slurry. This action is the same going on in the digestive tract with magnesium sulfate - it draws moisture in from the surrounding tissues and food matter to bulk up the contents.

How it works

Presumably with greater bulk and increased softness, the intestinal contents have an easier time moving out. There are a number of other osmotic laxatives on the market. Two other magnesium-based ones are milk of magnesia and magnesium citrate. Like sodium chloride, common table salt, these are minerals with a crystalline structure. As such they are known as saline osmotic laxatives. But salines and salts are not the only kind, as polyethylene glycol (PEG) is another popular laxative that acts through osmotic withdrawal of water.

Where to get it

Magnesium sulfate and epsom salt laxative should be available at pharmacies and drug stores. However, be aware that it comes in different formulations and the standards for each formulation may be different. For example, the epsom salts used for taking baths and softening skin could be of reduced purity because our tough skin protects us against impurities. But the kind that is ingested for laxative use should be of higher standards with no possibility of harmful impurities.


As with most laxatives, abdominal cramping, bloating or pain are signs that there is something wrong and the medication should either be stopped or not started in the first place. Your physician will be able to make the more informed decision with respect to your medical history and situation. Moreover, epsom salt laxatives and other mineral-based medications stress the kidney which has to process the increased chemicals. People with kidney problems should be very very cautious. In any event, consultation with a physician is a must before starting any sort of treatment regimen.

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© Copyright 2015 Natural Laxatives
Disclaimer: Information given on this site is not medical advice. If you have a medical problem or suffer from a serious medical condition, you should talk to a doctor. Information found here is a compilation of information found in other sources available over the internet and in publicly available journals. The author expressedly states here he is not a medical professional.

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