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Can we drink seawater?

Can we drink seawater?
19. 6. 2020

The basic lesson at school is that we cannot drink seawater because it causes dehydration. But history recalls many stories of castaways who survived on deserted islands for many long months, although they only had a few liters of fresh water. How is this possible? Simple - they discovered that diluted seawater is not only quite harmless, but actually beneficial. Incidentally, as respected medieval physician Paracelsus declared: “Everything is a poison. It is only a matter of the dose that determines whether a substance is poisonous or not.”

Can we drink seawater?

Seawater is 4 times saltier than our bodily fluids, which disrupts osmosis. In order for it not to be poisonous to the human organism, certain rules must be observed when drinking it. We can consume it in two ways:

  • Pure (i.e. hypertonic), which we only drink in small quantities that do not cause dehydration.
  • Diluted with fresh water in order to contain the same concentration of ions as our bodily fluids – dilute seawater 4 times (ratio of 1:3; 1 part seawater + 3 parts fresh water) to get isotonic seawater.

Seawater is a rich source of minerals and other wholesome elements, which offer a range of benefits for the human body. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that it cannot replace fresh water, and its consumption does not follow the same rules.

Isotonic vs Hypertonic Water

Isotonic = 4 times diluted seawater, which corresponds to the internal environment of the organism and does not place a burden on it. It is recommended to drink 1 l of isotonic seawater per day, obtained by mixing seawater with fresh water at a ratio of 1:3 (250 ml seawater + 750 ml fresh water). This daily dose can be consumed in several portions over the course of the day.

Hypertonic = undiluted seawater, which can only be consumed in small doses. It is used, e.g. to cleanse the organism, to rinse your mouth, or as nasal spray.

Difference between Salted Water and Seawater

You might think: “Why drink seawater if I can just add a few spoons of salt to tap water?”
Kitchen salt or edible salt, NaCl (sodium chloride), is found in nature in the form of a mineral known as halite. Kitchen salt is a pure inorganic compound, which does not offer as broad a spectrum of benefits as seawater.
Why not to drink water with salt?

  • Anybody who has ever tasted seawater, even accidentally, must admit that it is disgusting and entirely unsuitable for drinking in larger quantities. The same goes for water with salt. If we dilute seawater, its saltiness will be reduced and it will be consumable.
  • By dissolving pure sea salt in a glass of water, we will not get a beverage that contains the organic form of minerals (produced by plankton) and other compounds such as amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, etc. The free minerals are present in seawater until its evaporation, whereas this form is easier to absorb for the organism. After evaporation, the elements combine to create compounds, e.g. Na + Cl results in sodium chloride.
  • Seawater contains about 10% less sodium than refined salt. An important fact is the presence of all trace elements in seawater (78 minerals and trace elements in total), which are filtered out of purified salts. This means the body must procure them from its own supplies.
  • If we dilute purified sea salt, i.e. cleaned, white and dry (do not confuse this with genuine sea salt, which is grayish in color and humid), we obtain a solution with about 5-8 minerals. The remaining minerals are separated from the salt for industrial use.
  • If we dissolve refined table salt in water, we obtain a solution of sodium chloride with added iodine and other additives for structure and bleaching.
  • The processing industry removes 140 g of minerals from every 1 kg of salt for further industrial processing.
  • Interesting Note: Water covers 71% of our planet, of which 97% is seawater and 3% is fresh water. People only use 0.06% of these 3% of fresh water, whereas 70% of this fraction of a percent is used for irrigation, 20% for industry and 10% for household consumption.

Mineral Water vs Seawater

Mineral water or seawater? Which one contains more beneficial substances? Which one is better for the body? Both undoubtedly have plenty to offer. See for yourself.

In order for our body to function correctly, we must supply it with nutrients from which it draws the individual components. With food, the body receives not only vitamins, enzymes and fatty acids, but also minerals that contribute to a number of processes in the human body. Let’s be honest. Food does not contain as many minerals as it used to in the past, which is why all sorts of nutritional supplements are amply used with the aim of replenishing them. These include water with the appropriate composition.

Mineral Water

Mineral water is obtained from natural underground sources that are rich in various types of mineral substances. In Europe, this was long synonymous with a spa source. Owing to their beneficial effects, mineral waters were abundantly used in the spa industry in the form of baths, wraps, inhalation and internally. The chemical composition and physical characteristics determine which ailments the water will be suitable for. They help in treating gout, kidney stones, skin disorders, joint pain, diabetes, respiratory problems and many other illnesses.


Seawater contains a wide range of substances in organic form, which makes them more accessible and easier to process for the organism. In order to achieve the desired effect, the minerals should complement each other, ideally all at once, not one by one. Unlike mineral water, seawater contains 78 minerals and trace elements, as well as a whole range of other beneficial substances. It thus helps the human organism function properly.

Graph 1: Graphic depiction of share of ions in mineral water and seawater;

Data for Graph 1 - Mineral Water
Data for Graph 1 - Seawater

Graf zastoupení vybraných iontů v minerální a mořské vodě

Graph 2: Graphic depiction of content of selected ions in bodily fluids (plasma = liquid component of blood; interstitial fluid = fluid filling intercellular space; intracellular liquid = liquid in cells);

Data for Graph 2

Graf zastoupení vybraných iontů v tělesných tekutinách

Graph 3: Graphic depiction of content of selected ions in bodily fluids and 4 times diluted seawater

 Graf zastoupení vybraných iontů v tělesných tekutinách a 4× zředěné mořské vodě

In conclusion...

It is apparent from Graph No. 1 that seawater is richer in minerals with a positive oxidation state (Mg, Ca, Na, K), trace elements and other enriching substances and sulfuric anhydrides, compared to mineral waters.
It has been proven that the consumption of seawater improves the level of cholesterol and helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. It reduces blood pressure, fat and body weight. It can help treat diabetes, cataracts, ulcers and skin disorders, and protects the liver. Its curative potential has also been demonstrated in preventing cancer growth and treating osteoporosis.
Do you feel tired, have difficulty waking up in the morning and feel a lack of energy? Seawater can help you with these problems.
What’s more, the purity of underground water is threatened by human activity, and can be contaminated, e.g. by agriculture, industry or logging. The use of unsuitable fertilizer, pesticides or other chemical products can have undesirable health consequences for humans who primarily consume underground water.
There is enough seawater on Earth that is not so affected by human activity as to be unsuitable for consumption after undergoing basic purification processes. If we use it as recommended, it can help us not only to prevent diseases, but often to improve the progress of already existing ailments.

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