Science Confirms Absorption of Minerals During Soaking

Relaxing in winter at Iron Mountain Hot Springs

Science Confirms Absorption of Minerals During Soaking

Research in the growing field of balneotherapy, using mineral water soaks to treat diseases, suggests that useful minerals in the water can be absorbed by the skin, challenging earlier assumptions. A review of more than 120 books and scholarly articles by Stephen C. Mitchell and Rosemary Waring of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, published last year in the journal Xenobiotica, found evidence of ions crossing the skin barrier. The article, “Sulphate Absorption Across Biological Membranes,” focused on compounds that include sulfates, an arrangement of one sulfur and four oxygen atoms, such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts).

“Much of the work was done in Eastern Europe, probably because they use hot mineral springs a lot,” Waring said in an email. “I was surprised to find that there is a fair amount of rather scattered information on cations and anions crossing the skin barrier, but I think it really does happen.”

Earlier, Waring and Mitchell with other collaborators conducted an experiment that demonstrated increases in magnesium and sulfate levels after soaking in Epsom salts. Nineteen healthy volunteers, ten men and nine women between ages 24 and 64, soaked in Epsom salt baths at 122°F to 131°F on seven consecutive days for 12 minutes. Blood and urine samples showed that the magnesium had been absorbed and, in people with sufficient magnesium, was being excreted. Sulfate levels also rose. The researchers concluded that soaking two to three times a week in 500 to 600 grams of Epsom salts would provide maximum benefit.

In another experiment, using human skin at 98.6°F, Waring and Mitchell found that sulfates rapidly penetrated the skin barrier but magnesium did not. Other experiments by Mitchell convinced him that magnesium crosses dermally and is stored as a protein complex in the skin, where it is slowly released. In one test where two older patients wore patches of solid magnesium sulfate, blood and urine samples revealed elevated levels. The volunteers also remarked that their rheumatic pains had disappeared.

While more research is needed, early results offer the possibility that soaking in hot mineral springs can offer the healing, relaxing, and energizing benefits of minerals important for human health. The science confirms the personal reports of many people who report an overall increase in physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing as a result of their soaking sessions.

Hot springs immersion therapy, otherwise known as balneology, provides many documented wellness benefits. The 16 soaking pools at Iron Mountain Hot Springs contain 14 health-benefiting dissolved minerals. Learn more by visiting Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

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Gene Stowe

Gene Stowe was a reporter for The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer for 13 years and head of the writing program at Trinity School at Greenlawn, a four-time U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School in South Bend, Ind., for 10 years before he became a full-time freelance writer in 2008. His first book, Inherit the Land: Jim Crow Meets Miss Maggie’s Will, was published in 2006. He lives in Monroe, N.C.