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Salt for Preventive Health in the Frugal Household

September 11, 2011

Credit: Margaret Boyles
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Salt of the earth, not worth its salt, take it with a grain of salt, salted away, salty language. Its frequent appearance in figures of speech only hints at the importance of salt in human history.

Salt once traded ounce for ounce for gold. The human requirement for dietary salt and the relative difficulty of producing it built and destroyed empires, determined trade routes and the location of cities, occasioned wars, and inspired revolutions.  Before the advent of pressure canning and freezing, salting/brining and drying were the only means of preserving food and eliminating total dependence on seasonal food production.

Aside from its use in seasoning food, ordinary table salt has dozens of uses in the frugal household. It will extinguish flames, kill weeds, extend the life of brooms, toothbrushes, and cut flowers, preserve colors in your wash, remove stains from coffee cups, help clean your oven, and more.

But this common household staple really shines in the domains of preventive health and hygiene.

I use non-iodized sea salt for these and other health practices.

  • Flushing sinuses* Although its use is ancient, modern medical research has shown that flushing the sinus passages with a saline solution can help prevent/relieve sinus infections, relieve post-nasal drip. Here’s how.
  • Cleaning teeth Try a mixture of salt and baking soda for your “toothpaste.“ Pulverize sea salt in a blender or crush it with a rolling pin, mix with an equal amount of baking soda, shake, and store in a small glass jar. Mix with a bit of water, and brush as usual. Both salt and baking soda have antimicrobial properties that kill many of the pathogenic bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
  • As a gargle, mouthwash, or breath sweetener* Mix a teaspoon of this mixture in a cup of warm water.
  • As an eyewash* Dissolve 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and used it as a wash for tire, irritated eyes.
  • Reducing under-eye puffiness Dissolve ½ teaspoon of salt in a cup of hot water; soak a wash cloth or cotton balls in the solution and apply on the puffy areas.
  • Reducing fatigue Soaking tired feet or your entire body in a warm salt-infused bath has a restorative effect.
  • Relieving the pain of insect stings Mix salt with a bit of water and apply to the sting immediately.    
  • Treating poison ivy Soaking the affected areas in hot saltwater helps relieve the itch and dry up the blisters
  • As an exfoliant Mix sea salt half and half with olive oil and rub gently over the body for an exfoliating, moisturizing scrub. Rinse with warm water. For the face, mix one part salt with one part honey.

* One caveat: Boil your tap water for a full minute first. Here’s one reason why. I'd sterilize my water for any solution I planned to use in my eyes, sinuses, or throat.


Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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