It is hard not to love the salty crunch from large crystals of sea salt. But sea salt isn’t some hyped-up, exotic ingredient for the food elite. This “salt of the earth” is seasoning that anyone can use to make food delicious – just like regular salt, but with some added health benefits. Plus, sea salt works well for some skin and health problems, helping you from inside and out.
1. More Nutrients Than Processed Salt, All Its Benefits And Then Some
Sea salt, especially when it is organic and unrefined, will likely retain more of the nutrients it originally had than its more refined cousin table salt. These minerals may include magnesium and calcium as well as potassium, zinc, iron, and even iodine, all of which naturally occur in the salty waters of the ocean. Regular table salt mainly contains just sodium, a scant amount of calcium, and light traces of iron and zinc. Barring sodium, these do not, however, reach anywhere in the range of what could count toward daily recommended limits.1
The challenge, however, is finding a sea salt brand that genuinely contains these minerals. Unfortunately, much of the label information skips this mineral content information – indicative that it is either too low or has been leached off during some form of processing. This makes it hard to tell which sea salt is the real deal, with enough minerals to warrant the switch from regular salt. Many researchers also believe that sea salt, like table salt, mainly comprises sodium chloride and is not all that different.2 But there are studies into the health benefits of sea salt and mineral-rich Dead Sea salt in particular. But to really benefit from sea salt, you need to be sure to use something that’s actually got all the valuable minerals.
2. Keeps Electrolyte Balance Required For Many Vital Functions
Your body needs to keep its electrolytes in balance by getting a supply of essential minerals and elements like sodium, calcium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate – many of which sea salt is supposed to contain. As mentioned earlier, whether or not every or even most brands contain these is up for debate. Even if they don’t, salt itself will ply your system with sodium and chloride. So it makes sense to get it from sea salt, with at least some mineral content, than refined table salt.
But why are these electrolytes important? The electrolytes in your tissues, blood, body fluids, and urine ensure the normal functioning of your nerves, heart, brain, and muscles. They also help maintain the normal acid and base or pH level, besides regulating the water level in the body.3
3. Offers Therapeutic Benefits For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Adding sea salt to your bath may be beneficial if you suffer from joint pains and aches related to arthritis. Therapeutic baths using Dead Sea salts, in particular, have helped those with such ailments more than standard sodium chloride baths. Research credits the richer mineral content and anti-inflammatory properties of Dead Sea salt for these results.
In one study on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a Dead Sea salt bath, with water temperature at 35°C, for just 20 minutes a day for a 2-week period improved function, stiffness, and other parameters measuring their condition. The effects lasted as much as a month after the baths stopped.4
4. Fights Nasal Allergies, Infections, And Respiratory Problems
Nasal irrigation is a method employed in traditional medicine to flush any debris and mucus out of your nasal passages. This salt water rinse can also cut down any inflammation, helping fight off allergy- and infection-causing particles, bacteria, and viruses.
A saline solution that mimics the concentrations of salt in the body (an isotonic solution) is the most commonly recommended. About 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt (iodine free) can be added to a liter of clean sterile water. Some people do use higher salt concentrations but be warned that this comes with the risk of irritation and swelling due to the high salt in the rinse. Also, the device you are using, say the neti pot, must be absolutely free of contaminants so you do not introduce new microbes into the body. The water used must also be properly boiled or distilled.5
When Dead Sea salt is used in these solutions, it may help relieve symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis, an inflammatory condition that causes mucus buildup and swelling, even better than a normal hypertonic saline solution. Researchers in one study concluded that nasal spray or irrigation with this saline solution had anti-inflammatory effects. It was suggested as a good alternative to nasal steroids or other medications that may aggravate inflammation and even trigger excess mucus secretion.6
5. Eases Psoriasis Symptoms
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is linked to problems with the immune system. It results in sore and itchy thick, red skin marked with silvery scales.7 There is anecdotal evidence that undergoing balneotherapy or bath therapy using Dead Sea salt may help with psoriasis.
According to some spas offering the treatment, the combination of a salt water bath followed by phototherapy with UV rays works to clear almost all psoriasis of the skin in 25 to 30 sessions. The mineral content in the salt is believed to trap the hydration in your skin, making it softer and allowing the plaque typical of psoriasis to break down. The ultraviolet radiation post the salt soak can go into your skin better after the softening.8
6. Works As A Natural Exfoliant And Scrub
Sea salt has large crystals and, like sugar, can make a great scrub for exfoliating skin. Simply add it to your scrub to slough off dead skin cells. Table salt is no substitute because it is far too fine and soft to touch. Sea salt with its coarse grains is ideal for cleaning skin, leaving it smooth and soft – especially if you use mineral-rich salts like that from the Dead Sea. As you massage your skin with a good scrub, it helps exfoliate the skin, boosts circulation, and tones up skin tissue, giving it a healthy glow. Those with sensitive or sore skin may wish to avoid this as it could sting or be painful.9
To make your own scrub, simply add half a cup of plain organic coconut or olive oil to a cup of sea salt so that it makes a coarse scrub that isn’t too wet. This scrub works well for hands or the body. If using on the face, be gentle and remember to moisturize well afterward. A few drops of essential oil may be used for added benefits. For instance, a lemony oil can be refreshing while a drop of lavender oil can relax you. Use it sparingly – never more than twice a week – or you’ll end up with sore skin from all the scrubbing.
7. Counters Muscle Cramps, Dizziness, And Nausea Due To Hyponatremia
A rare condition, salt loss or hyponatremia could happen if you’ve been sweating severely as is the case during endurance training or marathons. It could also happen after a bad bout of acute gastroenteritis that has caused you to lose electrolytes because of diarrhea and vomiting. There are also chances of this from water intoxication, when you drink a lot of water but don’t compensate by also having a proportionate amount of mineral salts.
In general, the average diet should contain more than enough salt in it. If anything, the issue usually is of excessive sodium levels from very high salt intake. However, if you find yourself perspiring a lot or urinating frequently or if you’ve had a severe bout of vomiting or diarrhea, sodium levels can plummet to below the healthy 135–145 mEq/L levels. If that happens, you may experience muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. A sea salt solution is often recommended in such a situation. However, take this problem seriously – ignoring it may cause you to go into a state of shock and even result in coma or death. A hypertonic saline solution may even be given intravenously depending on how severe the problem is.10
8. Helps Soothe Acne-Prone Skin And Reduce Bumps
Balneotherapy can help those with acne. Certain sea salts and waters like those in the Dead Sea area are especially beneficial due to its sulfur content and antibacterial properties. In one instance, the number of comedones and pustules on patients with acne vulgaris reduced considerably after such a treatment. The saline water of the Dead Sea was also found to be more effective than traditional salt water.11
9. Cleanses And Detoxes Your Body
There’s nothing quite like a relaxing soak in the tub to relax and refresh you. Add some sea salt to your bath along with essential oils of your choice for even more benefits. The salt can help cleanse your body and detoxify the skin. Its exfoliant properties help get rid of dead skin cells and any excess oil that you may have applied to the body or added to the bath. Add a couple of drops of each essential oil to 2 cups of sea salt to make your bath salts.12 Just a handful of salt in a full bathtub should be fine. Enjoy a relaxing bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
10. Fights Dandruff-Like Seborrheic Dermatitis
Seborrheic dermatitis causes the scalp to be red and itchy, with flaky scales. Sea salt can be used in a scalp treatment for this problem, helping loosen existing flakes, boosting circulation, and absorbing excess moisture. It can also halt fungal growth. A sea salt water bath using Dead Sea salts can help ease inflammation, dry the skin, and suppress the growth of bacteria and yeast in the skin. Even a simple hypertonic salt solution is said to help ease the removal of scales.13
Caution: Sea Salt Has A Lot Of Sodium So Limit Intake
Just remember, while it has its benefits, sea salt contains a lot of sodium like any salt and must be consumed in limited quantities. Keep well within the daily limits of no more than a teaspoon a day (that’s about 2,300 mg) or under 1,500 mg a day if you have hypertension, are a senior, or have been advised to cut down sodium intake.14
Another thing to keep in mind with sea salt is that there is the risk of contamination with heavy metals like lead or mercury from the ocean.15 So look to buying a reliable brand.
A Little Goes A Long Way With Sea Salt
You have little to lose by having sea salt instead of refined table salt. Sea salt is often saltier to the palate, partly because the larger crystals pack more of a punch. This means you can use less to get the same flavor as table salt when seasoning a meal, thereby cutting sodium intake a little.16
|↑1||Salt, table.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑2, ↑16||Boon, Caitlin S., Christine L. Taylor, and Jane E. Henney, eds. Strategies to reduce sodium intake in the United States. National Academies Press, 2010.|
|↑3||Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Sukenik, S., L. Neumann, D. Buskila, A. Kleiner-Baumgarten, S. Zimlichman, and J. Horowitz. “Dead Sea bath salts for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.” Clinical and experimental rheumatology 8, no. 4 (1990): 353-357.|
|↑5||Nasal/Sinus Irrigation. American Rhinologic Society.|
|↑6||Friedman, Michael, Ramakrishnan Vidyasagar, and Ninos Joseph. “A randomized, prospective, double‐blind study on the efficacy of dead sea salt nasal irrigations.” The Laryngoscope 116, no. 6 (2006): 878-882.|
|↑7||About Psoriasis.National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑8||For some people with psoriasis, spa therapy is a clear choice.National Psoriasis Foundation.|
|↑9||Beck, Mark F. Theory & practice of therapeutic massage. Nelson Education, 2016.|
|↑10||Salt.Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|↑11||Nasermoaddeli, Ali, and Sadanobu Kagamimori. “Balneotherapy in medicine: a review.” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 10, no. 4 (2005): 171-179.|
|↑12||Dodt, Colleen K. The Essential Oils Book: Creating Personal Blends for Mind & Body. Storey Publishing, 1996.|
|↑13||Matz, Hagit, Edith Orion, and Ronni Wolf. “Balneotherapy in dermatology.” Dermatologic therapy 16, no. 2 (2003): 132-140.|
|↑14||Lowering Salt in Your Diet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑15||Artemis, Nadine. Holistic Dental Care: The Complete Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums. North Atlantic Books, 2013.|