Ultimate Bath Salt Guide
sponsored by the
San Francisco Salt Company
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History of Bath Salt
History of Bath Salts

The history of bath salts takes us as far back as 2,700 BC, when the Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu, the earliest recorded pharmacology publication, was published in China. A large section of this volume is dedicated to an exploration of salt mining and usage. More than 40 varieties of salt are described in this ancient book, and along with a description of each salt type there are directions for usage and extraction.

Bath salts have quite a colorful history. For thousands of years, salt – both bath salt and table salt – has played a central role in economies around the world. The buying, selling, and trading of salt has been crucial in the development of cities and cultures in Europe and in Asia. In Greece, salt was often used as currency and traded for slaves – this is where the familiar phrase “not worth his salt” comes from. In Rome, soldiers were paid not with money, but with salt, hence the first usage of the word “salary”. Historically, salt has been an important source of income and wealth, making it one of the most coveted products in the world.

The history of bath salt is not confined to pure economics; bath salt has a history of being celebrated for its healing properties as well, and has long been used in medicine and treatment for common ailments. Hippocrates encouraged his followers to use salts for their healing properties, thus began the rise of bath salts (in the form of salt water, also known as sole or brine) as a form of medicine. In ancient times, warm salt water was used to treat sore muscles and even arthritis. Salt was also used in topical solutions to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, and freckles.

A Roman doctor by the name of Dioskurides published a 5-volume book called De Materia Medica, in which he details the healing properties and applications of more than 365 herbal and medicinal treatments. In his book, Dioskurides recommends salt as an effective treatment for various wounds, bites, and digestive problems.

Historically, bath salts have also been touted for their cosmetic benefits. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra soaked in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, which has the highest salt concentration of any body of water in the world.  Bath salts were known to soften and smooth the skin, while acting as a veritable “fountain of youth” by decreasing the appearance of fine lines.

In Rome, grand bath houses were built in which the elite could soak in communal baths. Bath houses were not only for rest and relaxation, they served as meeting places where people gathered to discuss business and pleasure. Ritualized bathing grew popular in Asia, and Japan opened resorts and spas with bathing as the key attraction.

Today, the history of bath salts extends into the present day, as we enjoy bathing more than ever. Modern spas and wellness centers offer salt water treatments and stores carry bath salts of every color, size, and fragrance. The history of bath salts is fascinating – and bath salts will continue to bring relaxation, health, and wellness to people around the world.