Did you know that hemorrhoids are extremely common and can affect any member of the general population? Research shows that pregnant women are most at-risk, but other members of society are also likely to get at least one hemorrhoid in their lifetime.
As such, various treatment ideas have been proposed, including the idea of an Epsom salt bath for hemorrhoids. The question is, does this actually work?
Does Epsom salt help with hemorrhoids?
There is evidence to suggest that Epsom salt helps with hemorrhoids and an Epsom salt bath is even recommended as a treatment in this journal from 2022.
Why is this supposed to help?
Epsom salt is unlike regular table salt as it is made from magnesium sulfate rather than sodium chloride. For eons, it has been used as a “natural” treatment option for a range of issues. Primarily, athletes are known to take baths in Epsom salts to relieve muscle cramps and muscular pain/discomfort.
So, how does it help with hemorrhoids?
The main theory is that the salt breaks down into magnesium sulfate in the bath, and this works to soothe inflammation around your body. Because you are exposed to the water, the particles can make their way into your anus, directly targeting the hemorrhoids. Consequently, the reduction in inflammation leads to less swelling and pain.
While there have been studies looking at the role of magnesium sulfate and inflammation in other parts of the body, we currently do not have a lot of research specifically looking at hemorrhoids. For now, there is more of an observational link whereby many patients have expressed relief when taking Epsom salt baths.
How to use Epsom salt for hemorrhoids?
There are two different ways you can use this salt to treat hemorrhoids and see some pain relief. We’ve already mentioned one, but here are the two options:
Epsom salt bath
We have touched upon this a few times, but it’s probably the most popular way of treating hemorrhoids at home as you don’t require much equipment and it’s cheap to do.
Start by getting some Epsom salt – it is available online or in most grocery stores. Ensure you get Epsom salt with magnesium sulfate as regular table salt won’t have any effect.
From here, you can choose to have a normal bath or a sitz bath. The latter is a small basin that you can place on your toilet or in your bath to just soak your anus/genital area. Many people opt to use this after bowel movements as it gives relief without the hassle of running a full bath.
Once you have decided which one to use, follow these simple steps:
- Fill your bath or basin with warm water – it must be warm enough for the salt to dissolve, but not too hot that it scalds you
- Add Epsom salt – two cups is recommended for bathtubs, but a cup or less is fine for a sitz bath
- Soak your anus in the water for up to 20 minutes
- Rinse off and pat yourself dry
You should experience some relaxation and relief after this, and you can have as many Epsom salt baths as you like per day or week.
Epsom salt paste
Alternatively, you can make a paste by combining Epsom salt with glycerin. Vegetable glycerin is the best to use, and you can also find this online or at your local grocery store as it is commonly used in cooking.
The paste is created as follows:
- Add equal quantities of Epsom salt and glycerin to a bowl
- Mix together until a paste is formed
- Apply the paste to a clean pad and place it on your anus
- Hold it in place, allowing the paste to soak in for up to 20 minutes
- Remove and repeat the process again in around 5 hours
You could also replace vegetable glycerin with aloe vera gel for a more soothing effect.
Can an Epsom salt bath make your hemorrhoids worse?
While this treatment is effective, it can make your problem worse.
However, this only happens if you make one key mistake when running your bath. When the water is too hot, it will exacerbate your hemorrhoids. The excess heat can cause your hemorrhoids to become more inflamed and swell up even larger than before.
Consequently, this is why your bath needs to be warm or lukewarm at the most. It should be easy for you to sit in right away. If you have to carefully ease yourself in because it’s hot, then it is too hot!
What else can you do to treat hemorrhoids?
You can find other ways of treating hemorrhoids, though studies show that many people with piles don’t require any treatment at all. Instead, switching up dietary preferences and making healthier lifestyle choices can have a significant impact. Eating a high-fiber diet will make your bowel movements easier and less stressful, which negates one of the key causes of hemorrhoids – excessive straining when going to the toilet.
Topical treatments also exist, such as hemorrhoid cream that eases swelling and irritation. Witch hazel is another topical option, though this works by numbing the area to reduce symptoms. Most topical treatments will only ease symptoms and reduce swelling temporarily – for long-term fixes you need to change your lifestyle habits or seek more invasive treatment options.
When to see a doctor?
See a doctor if your hemorrhoids are causing lots of pain and disrupting your daily life. Likewise, if you experience excessive bleeding from your hemorrhoid, you should call a doctor right away as you may have a complication.
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An Epsom salt bath for hemorrhoids is a viable home treatment to relax the anal muscles and reduce inflammation. This can be done multiple times per day and is recommended after bowel movements. Alternatively, Epsom salt paste can be used to treat the issue as well. Be sure to see a doctor if your symptoms worsen or you see no relief after treating the hemorrhoids for two weeks.
- Parvez Sheikh, Catherine Régnier, Fabienne Goron, and Ghislaine Salmat, The prevalence, characteristics and treatment of hemorrhoidal disease: results of an international web-based survey, Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research 2020 9:17, 1219-1232. Available from: https://doi.org/10.2217/cer-2020-0159
- Pullen, Richard L. Jr. EdD, MSN, RN, CMSRN, CNE-CL, CNE, ANEF. Hemorrhoidal disease: What nurses need to know. Nursing: May 2022 – Volume 52 – Issue 5 – p 19-24 doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1097/01.NURSE.0000827128.26047.32
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 24083, Magnesium sulfate. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Magnesium-sulfate.
- Irina Burd, Kelsey Breen, Alexander Friedman, Jinghua Chai, Michal A. Elovitz, Magnesium sulfate reduces inflammation-associated brain injury in fetal mice, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 202, Issue 3, 2010, Pages 292.e1-292.e9, ISSN 0002-9378, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2010.01.022
- Sitz Bath, WebMD. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/sitz-bath
- Is Glycerin Good for Your Skin & Face? Healthline. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/glycerin-for-face
- Hollingshead JRF, Phillips RKSHaemorrhoids: modern diagnosis and treatmentPostgraduate Medical Journal 2016;92:4-8. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/postgradmedj-2015-133328