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By Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Summer heat toasted my feet as if they were sausages on a sidewalk grill. Acting on a tip from a women's magazine, I went to the drugstore for quick relief. My shopping list included a large plastic basin for $2 and a carton of Epsom salt for $1.50.

At home, I filled the basin with warm water and a cup of Epsom salt, which contains magnesium and sulfates - two substances linked to good health. Twenty minutes later, my soles were softened, my spirit was refreshed and the inflammation was reduced. I became an instant fan of Epsom salt.

"It's one of the least expensive beauty products on the market," said Marsha Bialo, a celebrity manicurist. "It doesn't matter if you're a celebrity or an average person on a budget. Epsom salt has a multitude of uses."

Impressed, I hunted down more uses for Epsom salt. Here are some:

Therapeutic bath: My home spa routine includes a tub of hot water and Epsom salt. A few drops of essential oils - lavender, cedar or peppermint - provide a frugal aromatherapy session. The mixture of Epsom salt and essential oils exfoliates, softens and moisturizesskin. The beauty treatment is more than skin deep. Epsom salt delivers health benefits, according to the Epsom Salt Council. In addition to soothing strained muscles and reducing inflammation, the magnesium in Epsom salt helps the body shed toxins, relieve tension and lower blood pressure.

Facial tonic: Add Epsom salt crystals to face or body creams to create an exfoliating facial or body treatment. Apply with upward strokes and rinse off with warm water, followed by a splash of cold water. This do-it-yourself body scrub recipe enables you to get extra mileage from basic creams.

Bug bite remedy: A compress made from Epsom salt helps treat bug bites, bee stings and poison ivy. To reduce itching, the Salt Council recommends a compress recipe of 1 gallon of water and 2 cups of Epsom salt.

Bathroom scrub: Epsom salt can be used to scrub kitchen or bathroom tiles. SaltWorks, a sea salt company, recommends a 50-50 recipe of liquid dish detergent and Epsom salt to scrub tiles.