The Dead Sea has been an extremely popular tourist destination since the days of the ancient Egyptians and its waters are renowned for their therapeutic effects. While the salt is not edible, due to its extremely high mineral content and very bitter taste, the salt and mud from the Dead Sea are wonderful when used externally to treat a variety of conditions.
The waters from the Dead Sea are unique in that they are 27% salt, while normal sea water is only 3% salt. Not only are they some of the saltiest waters in the world, but they contain an astounding variety of minerals. Sodium chloride accounts for about 80-85% of the salt content of normal sea water and it is 97% of the salt content in refined table salt. But sodium chloride is only about 12-18% of the salt content in the Dead Sea. The balance of the salts in the Dead Sea are chloride and bromide (230,400 mg/L), magnesium (45,900 mg/L), calcium (17,600 mg/L) and potassium (7,800 mg/L).
Many ailments have been treated through the years by bathing in the Dead Sea, or in waters with Dead Sea salts, or by applying Dead Sea mud to the skin. Many studies have likewise been conducted on the efficacy of these treatments. One such study was performed by a Dr. I. Machtey in 1982, on 103 patients suffering from osteoarthritis and tendinitis. Patients were treated with baths consisting of 7.5%, 2% or 0.5% Dead Sea salt concentrations, and after the first week of treatment, the patients with the two higher concentrations of salts (7.5% and 2%) were already reporting improved mobility and decreased analgesic usage. By the studies end three weeks later, 80% of the patients reported less pain, 70% reported improved mobility and 60% had decreased their use of analgesics.
In a similar study of Dead Sea salt baths on psoriasis patients, Dr. J. Arndt treated fifty patients for a month with 3-4 salt baths per week. Patients with a 10% salt bath concentration showed signs of improvement after the first week, and Dr. Arndt noted that the use of Dead Sea salts was also not associated with any side effects.
In other studies, research demonstrated relief from skin disorders such as acne and psoriasis through the use of Dead Sea salt baths, and that the high concentration of magnesium in Dead Sea salt was instrumental in improving skin hydration and reducing inflammation. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends Dead Sea salts and mud as an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Machtey, Dr. I. 1982, Dead Sea Balneotherapy in Osteoarthritis, Proc. International Seminar on Treatment of Rheumatic Diseases.
Arndt, Dr. J 1982, Salt from the Promised Land Helps Psoriasis Patients, Arztliche Praxis, 34 (48).
Ma’or, Zeev et. Al “Antimicrobial properties of Dead Sea black mineral mud”, International Journal of Dermatology, May 2006.
Proksch, Ehrhard MD, PhD et al. “Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin”, International Journal of Dermatology, February 2005.