Bath salts are just a category of designer drugs. The name comes from cases where the "medicines" were disguised as dead sea salts instead of medications. The bath salt, powders, crystals, or flakes often look like Epsom salts, however, differ chemically. Most bath salts contain potassium and sodium with other additives such as jojoba, aloe vera, green tea, and essential oils. These additives give the bath salt its distinctive scent.
The United States government is worried about bath salts misuse. Recently the government sent warning letters to retail stores asking them to cut the bath salt ingredients, and some have followed suit. They fear that the chemicals used to make the bath salts might cause hallucinations and increase paranoia. The warnings come at a time when many Americans are feeling the stress of financial uncertainty and are taking risks by experimenting with alternative medicines.
The synthetic marijuana component known as tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is believed to be the culprit in the bath salt trend. It mimics the effects of marijuana without the user feeling any of the strain or disorientation. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has placed it under Schedule II, the most dangerous form of the drug. This means that it has a high potential for abuse and addiction, and represents a continuing threat to society. Some argue that the United States government overviews the substance as a harmless enough drug, despite the fact that it has been shown to have significant health risks.
There is no evidence, however, that marijuana is even as addictive as alcohol or cocaine. Many users simply do not feel the same way when taking bath salts compared to when they use heroin or methamphetamines. It may be that the psychoactive chemicals are not present in doses high enough to elicit these feelings. The debate rages on, with some researchers trying to prove that bath salts can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and trigger sensations beyond the traditional itch and burn of a migraine. Others point to an addiction like any other drug, pointing to the constant use of alcohol or cigarettes, which can lead to cravings for something more intense.
When researching the history of the so-called "bath salt" craze, it appears that the first appearance of the substance was during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Users of the substance started gathering in emergency rooms in the United States, many of them HIV-positive. By injecting the essential oil of the camphor tree, they were able to relieve their nausea and counteract the pain of numerous sores that had begun to develop in their feet. At the time, it was unknown whether it was the essential oil or the bath salt that was causing all the problems, today it is generally accepted that both are to blame.
It's easy to understand how this magical substance could cause an outbreak of hives. First, it has a very strong smell, sort of like the smell of very fine sandalwood. When you rub it on your skin, you cannot help but notice a chemical reaction as your body tries to break it down. Some people have found it to be particularly effective after they wash their feet in running water, the salty smell works its way down the pores and into the tissue. People who use the bath salts often report that they feel a tingling sensation that sometimes produces a tickle in their hands. This tingling effect seems to fade away after a few minutes, however.
Unfortunately, the effects of bath salts from dead sea salt can also be hazardous. Designer drugs have become infamous for causing hallucinations, delusions, and even homicidal or suicidal thoughts. It has been discovered that bath salts can cause heart attacks and strokes. As if that wasn't bad enough, the synthetic drugs often contain trace amounts of mercury which can be extremely dangerous or life-threatening.
While there is no evidence that soaking in bath water with a trace amount of salt will actually lead to anything harmful, it is always a good idea to err on the side of caution. If you are going to do it anyway, try to choose a very natural product instead of something with strong artificial ingredients. Tea tree oil and lavender are two of the more potent natural alternatives.