What is it?
Yes, salt therapy sounds like a crazy holistic spa treatment, but salt therapy offers benefits similar to spending time in the salty sea air. Sea air is extremely healthy for you. The air has tiny droplets of seawater that contain salt, iodine, magnesium, and trace elements known as surf generated aerosols that stimulate immune reactions in the body. Halotherapy is a dry salt natural therapy that uses microparticles of salt dispersed into the air by a machine called a halogenerator to improve breathing and skin health. It is said to promote sounder sleep and improved physical fitness. A salt-cave provides a hypoallergenic and allergen-free environment that helps to strengthen the immune system.
This trendy new spa treatment says it is great for conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma, but what is salt therapy, and how does it work?
Why would people even consider sitting in a human-made salt cave surrounded by salt and having tiny particles fall onto their skin and get inhaled into their respiratory tract? It does sound a bit odd.
So, where did this whole idea of salt therapy start? Salt therapy isn’t all that new; the idea began back in 1843 when Dr. Feliks Boczkowski noticed that the workers in a Polish salt mine did not have any lung problems or respiratory issues. Other types of miners were typically plagued with.
About 100 years later, during World War II, a German named Karl Spannagel found improved health in those who hid in the salt caves to avoid the heavy bombing. Gradually, salt mines in Poland and Europe became sanatoriums that attracted visitors worldwide, and halotherapy became a new treatment. In Eastern Europe, this is a popular and well-established method to deal with respiratory problems, skin issues, and increase immunity, and improve overall health.
How does it work?
Pure sea salt contains 84 elements and trace elements found in the human body; the negatively charged ions in salt can even improve your mood. There are many theories about how the tiny salt particles you are inhaling during treatment kill off unhealthy microorganisms in the lungs. This natural treatment reduces inflammation and helps break down and remove mucus from the body; it is a natural disinfectant and so much more. According to Dr. Norman Edelman, a Senior Scientific advisor to the American Lung Association, the fine salt particles are inhaled into the airways and draw water into the airways helping to thin mucus and make it easier to cough up. Relieving the congestion and improving how patients with chronic lung conditions feel.
In 2016 a small study of Halotherapy as an asthma treatment for children with mild asthma had positive results. The treatment group showed a statistical improvement in the quality of life. Additional studies of larger groups with long term follow up could solidify the results. Spa experts tell us that the concentration of halotherapy particles ensures that salt inhalation is a very effective treatment for chronic breathing problems, seasonal allergies, and bronchitis. The concentration of salt particles is about 10 to 15 times what you would find at the seashore. This means that a 45-minute session would provide you with about the same benefit as spending three days by the sea. A holiday at the seashore is enjoyable but not always practical.
Skin conditions like eczema and rashes can also be improved with halotherapy. Dry salt is very absorbent and can penetrate into your skin and absorb the oils and minimize the bacteria that cause acne. Natural anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce outbreaks of psoriasis and eczema. This process will not dry out your skin as table salt would; sodium chloride is extremely dehydrating, but mineral salts have moisturizing properties that support the skin’s natural moisture balance and help normalize oil production. Minerals salts have strong rejuvenating properties; your cells need them to function properly and play an important role in cellular detoxification.
The number of people dealing with asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and COPD is increasing every single year. Did you know that 1 in 12 people in America suffers from asthma? About 56 billion dollars is spent annually on medical costs related to asthma. Allergies affect over 40 million Americans and the cost each year is 14.5 billion dollars. Let’s not forget about the 24 million people that live with COPD; they spend 37 billion dollars on treatment every year.
The number of people suffering from skin conditions is also on the rise. 7.5 million people in America have psoriasis, and they spend 1.2 billion dollars each year. Eczema is even more popular, with 35 million people spending 2.6 billion dollars annually to relieve their symptoms. The Salt Therapy Association credits these numbers with the growing popularity of salt therapy.
What to Expect
Originally treatments took place at the salt mines in Poland and Europe, but due to the growing popularity in Eastern Europe and Russia, artificial salt rooms that mimic the effect of natural salt caves were created. Today, over 650 facilities in the United States and Canada offer salt therapy, a huge increase compared to just a few years ago.
You have most likely seen chunky pink salt lamps at your yoga studio or local home decor stores. Himalayan salt’s healing powers are believed to be so beneficial that many spas are devoting entire rooms to salt cave therapy. The treatment essentially involves sitting in a room filled with rock salt and inhaling salty air that’s being pumped in by a halogenerator. This climate-controlled room has pretty pink salt blocks covering the ceiling, walls, and floor. It is fairly common to see salt lamps inside the salt cave or room; in fact, sometimes, you will find a cluster of salt lamps called a salt fireplace that emits a soothing glow.
Salt beds or booths offer the same benefit in a smaller, slightly different environment. In a salt room, only the skin not covered by clothing is in direct contact with the salt; in the salt booth’s privacy, more exposure to the salt means more benefit to the skin. This also means that you would need to spend less time in a salt bed than in a salt room or cave. Both therapeutic environments benefit the respiratory system equally well. The goal is to use salt’s natural antibacterial properties to cleanse your skin and respiratory system.
The relaxation and sinus-clearing benefits are amazing! Most sessions last about an hour. The experience is very calming, almost zenlike; there is low lighting, and guests relax in a comfortable lounge chair while listening to soothing music.
Enjoying the Benefits of Himalayan Salt therapy at home
Himalayan salt lamps are crystals carved from amber-colored rock salt. Space is hollowed out inside to put in a lightbulb, which creates a warm reddish colored glow. Besides looking pretty, these lamps are supposed to boost your mood, improve sleep, relieve allergy, and asthma symptoms as they help clean the air you breathe. They do this by attracting allergens and toxins to their surface and by releasing negative ions into the air. Beware of fake salt lamps! These are relatively common; they look nice but offer no additional health benefits. The real versions are quite fragile and give off a dim light; phony ones are bright and hard to break. So buyer beware.
Are you looking for a solution more like the one you might experience at a spa? You can actually purchase a halotherapy device for home use. These machines use a saline solution containing minuscule salt particles made from the proper rock salt required to create health benefits. This type of salt therapy is going to take a little longer than visiting a salt cave or bed, but you can do it while you sleep. Just turn on the machine and close your eyes.
Whichever method appeals to you, there is no denying that salt therapy can be effective, especially for respiratory illnesses. There are studies and scientific facts that back this up. The same cleansing and antibacterial properties that are beneficial to breathing can also help with clearing some skin conditions. I couldn’t find any scientific evidence that salt therapy can improve sleep; maybe you can try it out and see yourself.