Hemorrhoids, also called piles, occur when the veins in the rectum and anus become swollen. They form on either the inside or the outside of your anal canal. Symptoms include itching around the anus, rectal bleeding, pain, and discomfort.
Fortunately, hemorrhoid symptoms often improve on their own or with at-home treatments. Occasionally, some patients may need medical procedures like hemorrhoidectomy to remove internal and external hemorrhoids.
But before going for surgical procedures to remove hemorrhoids, you might want to try some natural at-home remedies. Two examples of at-home remedies with some proven success are applying an Epsom salt paste or taking an Epsom salt bath.
Here's everything you need to know about Epsom salt baths and hemorrhoids.
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Epsom salt, also called magnesium sulfate, is a chemical compound composed of sulfur, magnesium, and oxygen. This chemical compound was originally discovered in Epsom town, in Surrey, England, hence the name Epsom salt.
You should not confuse Epsom salt with table salt; although both are salts, they are completely different. While Epsom salt resembles table salt in appearance, it has a bitter and unpalatable taste. Many users dissolve the compound in water and soak their bodies in the bath to relieve certain conditions like insomnia, stress, and fibromyalgia.
We can attribute most of Epsom salt's benefits to its magnesium. When dissolved in water, Epsom salt releases magnesium and sulfate ions. The skin is believed to absorb these particles, enriching your body with magnesium and sulfates.
Epsom salt is available in grocery stores and pharmacies.
A warm water soak cleans and calms symptomatic hemorrhoids even without Epsom salt. However, adding Epsom salt to the warm water may minimize inflammation and pain. The Epsom salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate, which may soothe inflammation around your anus. Moreover, the reduction of inflammation may result in less pain and swelling.
You can use an Epsom salt bath for hemorrhoids in three ways: use a sitz bath or add Epsom salt to warm water in your bathtub, or use it in the form of a compressor as a paste.
Here are the different ways to prepare and use Epsom salt for piles.
A sitz bath is a small tub that fits on your toilet seat. If you don't want a full bath, you can soak only your genitals and anal area in the sitz bath.
Here's how to prepare and use Epsom salt for piles in a sitz bath;
Add enough warm water to your sitz bath. The amount will vary depending on the size of your sitz bath. Ensure the water won't overflow the basin when you soak. Also, ensure the water is warm enough to dissolve the Epsom salt but not too hot to scald you.
Add ½ a cup of Epsom salt per gallon of warm water in your sitz bath.
Soak your anal area in the sitz bath for about 20 minutes.
Rinse yourself and the sitz bath. Instead of scrubbing, pat dries the anal area to prevent further irritation.
The process will be the same for a bath tab except for the quantities of water and Epsom salt.
Here's the process:
Fill your bathtub with about 5 inches of water—warm enough to dissolve the Epsom salt but not too hot to burn your skin.
Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to the warm water in your bathtub.
Soak your body in the bathtub for about 20 minutes.
Rinse yourself and the bathtub. Pat dry the anal area to prevent irritation.
If possible, try to take an Epsom salt bath at least thrice a day or after you have a bowel movement. After the soak, you should experience some relaxation and relief.
If you don’t want to take an Epsom salt bath, you can try using the compound as a paste. The Epsom paste is applied directly to the affected area. You’ll need some glycerine and Epsom salt to make the paste.
Here’s how it works:
Add 4 tablespoons of Epsom salt and 4-5 drops of glycerine.
Mix it well until it forms a paste.
Put the paste on a gauze pad and apply it directly to the affected area. Hold the pad in place for about 20 minutes.
Use warm water and a soft cloth to wash off the paste.
Repeat the process every 5-6 hours until the pain calms.
Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-made Epsom salt paste available at various online stores.
If Epsom baths aren't your thing, and you don’t want to use the compound as a paste, you can use it as a compress.
To make this, mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom with 2 tablespoons of glycerine, and mix well to dissolve the salt.
Dip a soft washcloth into the mixture and press it onto your anal area. Do this until you experience some pain and itching relief.
Epsom salt is generally safe when used correctly. However, incorrect use can cause risks and side effects—often when consumed by mouth.
If ingested, the magnesium sulfate in Epsom salt may produce a laxative effect, causing diarrhea, bloating, or upset stomach.
Moreover, too much oral consumption of Epsom salt can cause magnesium overdose. As a result, the victim may experience extreme side effects like heart problems, paralysis, coma, and even death. Furthermore, you may develop a skin rash or contact dermatitis from using Epsom salt.
An Epsom salt bath isn't the only way to get relief from hemorrhoids at home. You can try other home remedies depending on your type of hemorrhoid and preference. Here are some common options to consider:
Creams and ointments: for hemorrhoids, you may apply creams and ointments for temporary relief. These topicals ease itching, mild pain, and burning.
Suppositories: this is solid medicine preparation to be inserted into your rectum. Suppositories work best for mild hemorrhoids to relieve swelling and burning.
Helpful diet and lifestyle changes: this includes increasing water and fiber intake as well as exercising and avoiding sitting and straining too long on the toilet.
There are various options for treating hemorrhoids at home. For instance, Epsom baths can help relieve pain, itching, and inflammation from hemorrhoids. Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfate, which can soothe the skin.
You can use Epsom salt in a sitz bath or bathtub, as a paste, or in the form of compression. However, the compound comes with some risks, especially if taken by mouth and in large quantities. There are other hemorrhoid home remedies that you can try, including creams and ointments, suppositories, and diet and lifestyle changes.
Yes. Epsom salt contains magnesium and sulfate, which are absorbed into the skin around your anus and can offer relief from hemorrhoids. Furthermore, the warm water would lower the sphincter pressure, easing the pressure upon the hemorrhoids and, thus, the pain.
About 5-10 minutes of soaking in Epsom salt are enough to offer temporary relief for hemorrhoids.
Yes. You should rinse yourself and the bathtub after an Epsom salt bath. Pat dry the anal area to prevent further irritation.
Natural remedies for hemorrhoids | Harvard Health Publishing
Sulphate absorption across biological membranes | Semantic Scholar
Epsom salt for piles: Natural treatment for hemorrhoids | Pristyn Care