What is Epsom Salt?
Epsom salt is very different from the everyday table salt. Though they look similar, Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate. It is frequently available at local pharmacies, health store and online.
The Benefits of Epsom Salt Sitz Bath
Epsom salt has been known to do wonders for the skin and the reason for this is likely to be linked to Magnesium. It is an essential mineral vital to good health and is found in the body’s cells and tissues. You can raise magnesium levels gently by just taking a Sitz bath with Epsom salts!
The benefits of Magnesium include:
- Optimizing oxygen use
- Relieving tension and stress
- Improving sleep
- Helping muscles and nerves to function properly
- Regulating enzyme activities
- Relieving muscle discomfort
Whereas for the Sulfate ion the benefits are relieving join discomfort, improving the absorption of nutrients and flushing out toxins from our bodies.
For centuries it is believed that Epsom salt has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Hence Epsom bath soak has been used to treat various medical conditions.
Such medical conditions include:
- Hemorrhoids - reducing swelling, inflammation and relieving pain
- Postpartum care - alleviating pain after childbirth, promoting wound healing
- Vaginal itchiness - reducing itchiness/discomfort, combating infection
- Vaginal yeast infection- reducing itchiness/discomfort, combating infection
- Menstrual issues - regulating menses, relieving cramps
- Menopausal symptoms – reducing dryness
- Skin problem - reducing dryness and itch
- Fertility - improving chances of successful conception
A Guide to Customize Your Own Sitz Bath Soak with Essential Oils
A sitz bath is a shallow basin that fit over the rim of your toilet. It allows you to soak just the genital and anal areas.
To start preparing the sitz bath soak:
- Add enough hot or warm water to the basin without overflowing. The water should not be scalding.
- Dissolve 1-2 cups of Epsom salt into the Sitz bath.
- Add 5-10 drops of essential oil of your choice to the water.
- Sit and soak for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse the tub.
- Pat dry the genital and anal areas. Do not scrub.
- This can be repeated up to three times a day.
- Follow this routine three times per week as needed.
Essential oils of natural herbs are powerful tools. Besides the benefits of Epsom salts listed above, these essences give that extra boost and can be tailored to your very own needs.
So how do we pick and choose the correct essential oils to do the magic?
The Beneficial Effects of Essential Oil Soaks with Epsom Sitz Bath
Hemorrhoids occur due to swollen veins around the rectum and anus. It is commonly caused by constipation, but conditions like pregnancy and obesity can aggravate it. Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding during and after bowel movements, painful irritation and swelling around the anus.
Essential oils such as those made from Yarrow, Chamomile, Calendula and Aloe Vera have anti-inflammatory properties which are helpful in treating hemorrhoids. Combining the benefits of Epsom salts they act together to reduce the swelling of the blood vessels, relax the muscles and soothe the irritated skin. Their haemostatic effect also helps to limit the rectal bleeding.
Now let’s take a look at how these four essential oils further contribute to treating feminine ailments.
Yarrow is a medicinal plant that treats many female conditions. It is considered to be one of the most versatile herbs in this field.
1 - It regulates the menstrual cycle. As a good haemostatic, Yarrow soak is indicated in those with long or heavy menstrual cycle. It helps to control prolonged menstrual bleeding. It is optional to add in a touch of St. John’s wort into the soak.
2 - It treats dysmenorrhoea (menstrual pain) by relaxing the muscles, alleviating the cramps and by balancing the hormones.
3 - It is useful for postpartum care by reducing symptoms due to:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Constipation - Hemorrhoids
- Perineal pain, soreness and swelling
- Traumatic tears due to childbirth
- Vaginal bleeding
4 - Vaginal itch and infection are relieved with Yarrow washes or Sitz baths.
5 - Yarrow is effective against vaginal candidiasis and other bacterial infections. Its antiseptic properties help stop the proliferation of fungus and restore equilibrium of the vagina.
6 - It relieves postmenopausal symptoms by calming the muscles and reducing dryness.
7 - For those who with uterine prolapse(sliding down of the uterus from its normal position due to laxity of pelvic muscles), Yarrow Sitz baths will relieve the soreness of the prolapsed.
8 - Yarrow is often used to treat infertility because it helps to treat amenorrhea (absence of period) by triggering the menstruation.
9 - Contraindications:
Yarrow is not recommended for pregnant women because it can lead to an underweight baby.
Chamomile is an herb from the daisy family which has a long history of medicinal use dating back to ancient Rome and Egypt. Its yellow and white flower head is used to make teas, infusions and bath soaks as well as the famous blue chamomile oil. Containing flavonoids and terpenoids, chamomile works by inhibiting inflammation and increasing circulation. This also reduces symptoms like itching and pain.
Chamomile’s powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties are well known, so it is frequently used to combat vaginal yeast infection. Candida albicans, a fungus, causes abnormal vaginal discharge, itch, pain and soreness in the genital area. It can also cause painful sexual intercourse and/or urinary pain. Fortunately Chamomile essential oil has been found to demonstrate strong fungicidal activity against Candida, so adding this to the sitz bath soak is an effective option.
Calendula otherwise known as English Garden marigold or Scotch marigold is a plant that has been used historically for promoting wound healing and especially for postpartum tears. Its remarkable anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties make it ideal to be used in bath soak for relieving symptoms due to bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infection.
Calendula has also been used in Sitz bath soak to control a condition called lichen sclerosus, also known as the white spot disease. This is a rare skin condition characterized by white, patchy skin most often affecting the vulva, the foreskin or the skin surrounding the anus. Most experts believe it is caused by an overactive immune system. Calendula bath soaks help to control the pain and the skin irritation.
Aloe Vera is used in ayurvedic medicine to help relieve skin problems such as eczema, acne and psoriasis. Its potent anti-inflammatory, astringent, antibacterial and antiseptic properties make it the best skin healing aid in hemorrhoids treatment, vaginal soreness, vaginal vaginosis and fungal infection. Soaking for 30 minutes per session is advisable.
However, some may have an allergic reaction to aloe vera, especially those who are sensitive to garlic or onions. Check for allergic reaction first by performing a spot test: dot a drop of the essential oil infusion onto the forearm. Signs of sensitivity can include redness, itch or swelling.
What to watch out for when using Sitz bath soaking therapy
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- The duration of hemorrhoid healing depends on the type of hemorrhoid. When mild, it can be controlled with Epsom salt plus essential oil bath soaks and resolved with lifestyle changes within a week or two. However in severe cases, usually those with prolonged soreness or those with constipation causing rectal bleeding or prolapsed hemorrhoids, it may take much longer.
- It is important to consult a doctor if there is sudden onset of intense pain. This may be the symptom of a thrombosed blood vessel which occurs when a blood clot forms in a hemorrhoid. You may notice there is a color change over the site with a bluish or purplish tinge. Seek medical help as soon as possible when this occurs. Given that this is an emergency, surgery may be warranted and treatment within the first 72 hours has a better outcome.
- Finally if there is no relief at all after two weeks of Sitz bath, it is better to consult a medical professional. They may be able to suggest any concurrent treatment or a procedure to remove the hemorrhoids.
- The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to modify your lifestyle and diet. Exercising frequently together with eating healthily helps to keep bowel movements regular and prevent constipation. You can start by eating fresh fruits, taking leafy vegetables, reducing intake of canned or preserved foods and drinking plenty of water. All these help to keep the digestive system functioning properly and prevent constipation. Exercise regularly and avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time can help to prevent hemorrhoids.
- Avoid using the Sitz bath soak when pregnant. The hot water together with the stimulating properties of the Epsom salt and essential oil mix may relax the uterine muscles or cause harm to the conception. If there is any intra uterine device inserted such as IUCD, hormonal implant or ring pessary, please consult your doctor first before starting on any Sitz bath soak therapy.
- After childbirth a woman experiences a lot of stress mentally and physically. Due to the process of natural vaginal delivery, there may be significant or even several perineal tears which could be painful with prolonged soreness for weeks after the event. Before starting a Sitz Bath soaking, it is best to ensure that the stitches are intact, if any, and that the wounds are clean with no purulent discharge. If pus is seen on the wounds, it is a sign of active infection.
1 - Here’s how to ensure that your postnatal perinea or genital wounds are clean:
2 - Inspect the wound area daily using a small mirror.
3 - Use a sterile cotton bud to gently clean the area and soak up any discharge.
4 - Sometimes there is clear serous discharge when the wound is healing.
5 - Should there be any thick discolored discharge noted which may be associated with a fishy or foul smell, you will need to consult your doctor to exclude an active skin infection.
6 - If there are no signs of infection you can cleanse the area using a very small amount of mild feminine wash and rinsing the area gently. This can be done three times a week alternating with the session days of Sitz bath soaking.
7 - Do not scrub or rub the wound area vigorously.
8 - Take plenty of fresh fruits and vegetable to increase the intake of Vitamin C which promotes wound healing.
9 - You can increase the efficacy of the bath soaks by blending the herbs for infusion.
- Bacterial vaginosis is a condition in which there is bacterial infection of the vagina. Vaginal fungal infection is caused by an overgrowth of fungus which results in soreness, itch and discharge. It has been postulated that hormonal imbalance, a shift in the acidity inside the vagina, sexual intercourse and recent urinary infection may have a role in both their causes. The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of all the essential oils mentioned in our article works to combat these infections by restoring the equilibrium and fighting against the germs. However if after two weeks of Sitz Bath soak therapy there is no improvement, you may have to inform your doctor or gynecologist and undergo a high vaginal swab to ensure there are no complications. A history of oral contraceptive use, hormonal treatment or implant may predispose a woman to prolonged or worsening symptoms. If severe, these issues may need to be resolved first before bath soaks can be effective.