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Magnesium sulfate is a common mineral pharmaceutical preparation of magnesium, commonly known as Epsom salt, used both externally and internally. Magnesium sulfate is highly water-soluble and solubility is inhibited with lipids typically used in lotions. Lotions often employ the use of emulsions or suspensions to include both oil and water-soluble ingredients. Hence, magnesium sulfate in a lotion may not be as freely available to migrate to the skin nor to be absorbed through the skin, hence both studies may properly suggest absorption or lack thereof as a function of the carrier (in a water solution vs. in an oil emulsion/suspension). Temperature and concentration gradients may also be contributing factors to absorption.
Epsom salt is used as bath salts and for isolation tanks. Magnesium sulfate is the main preparation of intravenous magnesium.
In gardening and other agriculture, magnesium sulfate is used to correct a magnesium or sulfur deficiency in soil; magnesium is an essential element in the chlorophyll molecule, and sulfur is another important micronutrient. It is most commonly applied to potted plants, or to magnesium-hungry crops, such as potatoes, roses, tomatoes, lemon trees, carrots, and peppers. The advantage of magnesium sulfate over other magnesium soil amendments (such as dolomitic lime) is its high solubility, which also allows the option of foliar feeding. Solutions of magnesium sulfate are also nearly neutral, compared with alkaline salts of magnesium as found in limestone; therefore, the use of magnesium sulfate as a magnesium source for soil does not significantly change the soil pH.
Magnesium sulfate is used as a brewing salt in beer production to adjust the ion content of the brewing water and enhance enzyme action in the mash or promote a desired flavor profile in the beer.
It may also be used as a coagulant for making tofu.
Anhydrous magnesium sulfate is commonly used as a desiccant in organic synthesis due to its affinity for water. During work-up, an organic phase is saturated with anhydrous magnesium sulfate until it no longer forms clumps. The hydrated solid is then removed with filtration or decantation. Other inorganic sulfate salts such as sodium sulfate and calcium sulfate may also be used in the same way.
Magnesium sulfate heptahydrate is also used to maintain the magnesium concentration in marine aquaria which contain large amounts of stony corals, as it is slowly depleted in their calcification process. In a magnesium-deficient marine aquarium, calcium and alkalinity concentrations are very difficult to control because not enough magnesium is present to stabilize these ions in the saltwater and prevent their spontaneous precipitation into calcium carbonate.