A Functional Medicine Expert Explains Exactly Why Sea Salt Is So Healing

Functional Medicine Practitioner By William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional medicine expert who specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Cole is also the bestselling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.

Photo by Nadine Greeff

This beautiful planet we live on is covered by great seas, with depths so great, 95 percent still remains unexplored. Yes, we've only explored 5 percent of the ocean. And 96 percent of all the Earth’s water is contained within the ocean as saltwater. It is this sea salt that is one of the most essential nutrients to humans and planetary existence.

Every cell of your body contains salt. The salt of the sea contains sodium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, and all are the keys to thousands of intricate pathways that keep you alive. Sea salt has been revered for millennia. In ancient Rome and Ethiopia, people were often paid in salt, reportedly where the word "salary" originates.

Yes, sea salt is different from table salt.

Salt from our most pristine oceans is actually an amazing superfood that is nothing like your conventional table salt.

  • Hawaiian or Alaea Sea salt has a beautiful red color from volcanic rock.
  • Italian Sea salt is harvested off the Mediterranean Coast of Sicily.
  • The beautiful pink Himalayan sea salt is harvested from ancient seabeds, originally formed from marine fossil deposits over 250 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
  • Like a misty morning at sea, the grayish Celtic Sea salt is from Brittany, France, near the Celtic Sea, using an ancient method that preserves optimal nutrient density.

The benefits of sea salt are wide-ranging and go beyond just food flavoring:

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1. Skin rejuvenator.

Your skin is your body's largest organ, and sea salt has been shown to be extremely beneficial for healthy, glowing skin. The topical use of sea salt has been shown to improve hydration, barrier health, and decrease inflammation of the skin. One study found people with psoriasis who took three to four salt baths per week for three weeks showed almost complete relief from symptoms such as scaling, redness, and itching.

How you can use it: Hydrating Sea Salt Mask

Photo: Nadine Greeff


  • 2 teaspoons finely ground sea salt
  • 4 teaspoons Manuka honey


  1. Mix together sea salt and honey to form a paste.
  2. Apply to clean, dry skin like a face mask and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Soak washcloth in warm water and wring out extra water.
  4. Place above mask on your face for 30 seconds.
  5. Remove washcloth and use your fingers to exfoliate your skin while rinsing the mixture off with warm water and pat dry.
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2. Mineralizer.

Sea salt has a higher trace mineral content compared to refined table salt. Where the salt was harvested from can determine specific mineral content, but all have been shown to contain various amounts of important trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and sulfur.

Drinking your salt is an easy way to make sure you are getting in your essential minerals throughout the day. Sea salt tonics are one common tool I use with clients to help balance out cortisol levels in people with adrenal fatigue.

How you can use it: Exfoliating Body Scrub

Because of its coarser consistency salt is a great natural exfoliant to slough off old skin cells while also nourishing and softening it due to its mineral content.


  • ¼ cup salt
  • ½ cup olive oil or coconut oil
  • 10 drops essential oil of your choice


  1. Mix oil, salt, and essential oil together to create a paste.
  2. Apply to wet skin and scrub with hands or loofah.
  3. Rinse and pat dry.
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3. Detoxer.

Sea salt has a drawing quality, so indulging in a salt bath can be a great way to promote healthy detoxing while enhancing your skin's protective properties.

How you can use it: Relaxing Lavender Salt Bath

Photo: Nadine Greeff


  • 1 to 2 cups sea salt
  • lavender essential oil
  • a bathtub


  1. Add 1 to 2 cups of your desired sea salt and a few drops of lavender essential oil to a bath filled with warm water, and swish to dissolve the salt.
  2. Soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
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More Salt! (Well, not so fast.)

Yes, sea salt definitely has its pros, but with anything, balance is key because too much of a good thing is no good. While soaking in sea salt can help your body to detox, research is now showing that due to increased plastic pollution in our oceans, our salt now contains traces of toxic microplastics made up of pigments, amorphous carbon, and plastic polymers. Thankfully, the amount found is low enough that consuming salt in average amounts won't harm your health, but it is something to be aware of as ocean pollution continues to rise.

So how much should I use?

For years, we have been scared as a society and limit sodium. What does the research say? An average American consumes close to 3,700 milligrams of sodium each day. If you look at Japan, a country with one of the longest life expectancies, they consume close to 4,650 milligrams of sodium each day and have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to other countries.

Instead of fearing salt and sodium, adopt the Goldilocks Principle based on your circumstances: not too much, not too little, but just right. Research has shown the lowest risk of death for sodium excretion was between 4,000 and 5,990 milligrams per day. Excess sodium excretion of greater than 7,000 milligrams and a deficiency of less than 3,000 milligrams per day were both associated with a higher risk of stroke, heart attack, and death.

Salt recommendations can vary for each person based on age, health conditions, and gender, but an intake between 1.5 and 3.5 teaspoons a day is a good general recommendation for most people. The more active you are, the more you will want to consume since you are losing more of this key electrolyte through your sweat. Adding sea salt to your food is more than enough supplementation for an average healthy person.

If you're a coffee drinker, this must-read is all about salt and caffeine levels. Plus, the link between salt and weight loss is finally explained.

William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He...
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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a...
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