Epsom salts are used in a variety of bath and health products. Many people wonder though, where does Epsom salt come from?
Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate.
This is a chemical compound that contains sulfur, oxygen, and magnesium. When found naturally, the compound is known as the mineral epsomite or Epsom salt.
Origins of Epsomite
Epsom is a town in Surrey which is located about 13 miles south of London. The town is where Epsom salts first gain their name.
The town’s market is built on a pond and has existed since the Middle Ages. The water is full of minerals and Epsom salts are extracted from these waters.
In the 17th century, a local farmer noted that his animals would not drink from the water in the town. He tried the water himself and was the first person to experience the effects of the salts.
Believing that the waters were a type of medicine, this farmer documented as Henry Wicker began promoting the water for its therapeutic properties.
Although animals would not drink the water, Wicker noticed that when animals waded in the water, their wounds would heal more quickly.
People began to travel to Epsom to drink the water. People saw this as being a type of medicine and believed that it affected them in therapeutic ways.
They sought it out for gout treatment and the natural purging effects.
Drinking Epsom salt-containing water will have a laxative effect which was considered therapeutic at the time. By the last part of the century, enough people were traveling to the area that it became known as a spa town.
Development over Time
Although people understood that the water contained other compounds, Epsom salt did not officially gain its name until 1695.
This was when a scientist known as Nehemiah Grew gave the slats their name. He also tried to manufacture the salt to sell but the wells in the area began to dry up and the town’s reputation as a destination began to decline in the 1700s.
Although the salt was dissolved in the water, people found that Epsom salt could be extracted in a non-liquid form by boiling down the mineral waters.
This allowed them to carry a stable product with them when leaving the town and it could then be dissolved in water again. Anyone who has ever purchased Epsom salts usually finds it in a crystal type form that dissolves easily in water.
Finding Epsom Salt Today
Although the town of Epsom gave the salt its name, this is not the only place where it can be found. Magnesium sulfate is also located naturally in a variety of mines and limestone caves.
The water from the wells is limited but the salts themselves can be found naturally or created as well. Today, it is not as common to drink Epsom salts but many people enjoy adding them to bathwater or other therapeutic products.
This is a short overview of where Epsom salts originated and how they’ve been used over time.