When you’re dealing with respiratory issues, it can be disheartening to know that the next breath you take will be a struggle. In fact, many people who have COPD or asthma tend to arrange their lives so that they don’t exert themselves too much, to keep labored breathing to a minimum. Salt room therapy has emerged as an alternative treatment to better respiratory wellness, and it's currently sweeping the country.
Salt room therapy, otherwise known as halotherapy, is quickly becoming an alternative for many people. For a long time, these sufferers had to rely on inconvenient machines and medication to help them breathe, but an ancient remedy has emerged that is giving some people hope.
Salt room therapy is also used to help alleviate other types of illnesses such as colds, the flu, skin conditions, depression, and more. But is this just another snake oil remedy that claims to cure everything? Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say about it.
What is Salt Room Therapy?
Salt room therapy takes place in a specialized room that allows users to breathe in fine salt particles. These particles come from a block of pure therapeutic grade Himalayan sea salt. First, they heat the salt to evaporate all of its moisture. This, proponents say, makes the particles' bactericidal, hydrophilic, and anti-inflammatory features even more powerful. Then they grind the salt up, producing tiny salt particles that patients will inhale.
Next, attendants cover the floor and walls of the salt room in the dry salt particles. As the users relax in comfortable chairs, they breathe in the particles. Some salt room therapy centers play soft music in the background to help the users relax, while others offer yoga in the rooms to encourage deeper breathing. The administrators can tailor the size and concentration of the particles to fit a user’s needs. This makes it a custom therapy that helps the practitioners focus on each client individually.
In addition to claiming to treat breathing disorders, some practitioners use salt room therapy to clear up skin conditions. In these cases, patients expose as much skin as possible so that the healing salts can penetrate it. The sessions typically last between 15 and 45 minutes.
What's the difference between a salt room and a salt bed?
A salt room contains multiple chairs and is a group activity. Users in the room may not know the others participating in the salt room therapy and won't have any privacy.
Salt beds are designed like tanning beds and give users complete privacy. They are ideal for those people who want to use salt room therapy for skin conditions because they can expose as much as their skin as they want in private.
The History of Salt Room Therapy
Salt room therapy is not new. In fact, it dates back to 1843. Feliks Boczkowski, who was a Polish physician, noticed that the people who worked in the salt mines did not suffer from respiratory illness or other lung diseases like other miners did. And then a decade later, another doctor from Germany noticed that his patients, who hid in salt mines to avoid the heavy bombing that occurred during World War II, experienced better health. He began to research the phenomenon, and the results from that research eventually led to modern-day salt room therapy.
In 1958, Professor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski began regular treatments of patients in the salt mines. Soon after that, physicians set up salt mine caves across Europe as official treatment centers to help people with respiratory problems. Then, in 1985, the medical community in Odessa, Russia, collaborated with salt cave experts and developed the first halotherapy device that crushed the salt and dispersed it into the air. The device duplicates what happens when miners crush salt in the caves as they excavate it. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this knowledge became known to the rest of the world, and the idea of salt mines leading to improved health spread around the globe.
Who Benefits from Salt Room Therapy?
Almost anyone can benefit from salt room therapy who wants to improve their respiratory system or is suffering from a skin condition. But experts warn that you should always check with your doctor before starting any salt room therapy program. In fact, one doctor says that salt room therapy may actually cause attacks in people with asthma.
The healing properties of salt
According to some experts, the healing power of salt is one of those things that sound too good to be true, but isn't. Christina Orecchio, a clinical nutritionist, says salt can help heal skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. She also claims it can help with depression by regulating melatonin and serotonin, and improve heart health by lowering blood pressure. Moreover, she believes it can help with diabetes. Finally, she says the salt alkalizes our bodies, which make it better able to function.
Proponents of salt room therapy claim it can help a variety of conditions. Most of them fall within three categories: respiratory illnesses, skin conditions, and general health issues. Let’s take a closer look at each one below.
The Conditions Salt Room Therapy Helps
Many have written about the benefits of salt therapy, and the list of conditions that people claim it can heal is long. Here is a list of significant conditions that salt room therapy advocates say it has the power to heal.
Salt room therapy is best known for its ability to heal the lungs and respiratory problems. Years ago, doctors used to send their patients to the sea to breathe in the salty air, and salt room therapy operates under the same principle. When sitting in a salt room, you breathe in that salty air, and it cleanses your lungs. Salt is made up of negative ions. And salt room therapy proponents believe that inhaling the salt particles reduces inflammation in the airways and clears up mucus in the lungs.
This is thought to be the reason why salt room therapy helps so many people who suffer from respiratory illnesses.
How do they say it works? Well, proponents say the salt attracts pollutants and allergens in the respiratory tract and removes their buildup, just as our bodies do naturally. Its anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling and irritation and calm the entire system.
People claim salt room therapy helps with these respiratory illnesses:
When doctors first discovered the effects salt mines had on workers, they also saw an improvement in skin conditions. Many clinicians today agree, and that’s why some recommend salt room therapy for skin conditions. They say it works because while table salt is dehydrating, mineral salts are naturally moisturizing. The salt particles improve the body’s ability to attract and retain moisture. It does this, the theory claims, because the micro-salt particles coat the skin’s protective layer and encourage healing and repair by increasing the skin’s cellular activity.
And skin requires the minerals in the natural salts for proper cell function and detoxification.
In addition, proponents claim that the salt particles cause micro-circulation and cell membrane activity, which improves the health and appearance of the skin. The negative ions are released from the salt and come into contact with the skin and stimulate it. Some skin conditions, like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, can be caused by immune system malfunctions. But, according to the theory, the negative ions produced by the salt help strengthen it, leading to clearer skin. The negative ions also increase the production of collagen fibers in the skin, which leads to rejuvenation.
Here are some of the skin conditions that proponents claim salt room therapy can help:
General health conditions
In addition to respiratory illnesses and skin conditions, salt room therapy experts claim the procedure helps with other general ailments, too. They say salt affects the body’s cellular activity and energy, as well as our blood sugar levels. Salt is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial, and is a natural disinfectant.
Because of these attributes, salt room therapy experts say salt therapy can help with the following:
What about salt lamps?
Along with the salt room therapy craze, people are turning to salt lamps as a way of getting salt therapy in an at-home environment. The maker carves a hollow piece from the hunk of salt to make room for a light bulb. And although sellers say the lamps produce negative ions, some experts disagree.
They say that in order for the heat to release negative ions, the lamp would have to reach about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which is impossible with a single light bulb. So while the lamps make a pretty decoration for your home, the science just doesn’t back up the claims that salt lamps are good for your health.
Is salt therapy safe for children?
According to the people who run and manage salt room therapy centers, it is perfectly safe for children. Kids spend a lot of their time in school or playing with friends, both of which are great ways to pick up viruses. But according to salt room experts, spending time in a therapy room could prevent the viruses from forming in the first place. We always recommend checking with your pediatrician before taking your child into a salt room.
Is salt therapy safe for pregnant women?
Proponents of salt room therapy say that pregnant women can benefit from salt rooms because it will help boost their immune system and better prepare them for a healthy pregnancy. Again, we suggest talking to your doctor before participating in the therapy.
Does Salt Room Therapy Really Work?
The truth is, no one has decisively determined whether salt room therapy can do all that its proponents say it does. The theories are that salt particles reduce inflammation, decrease built-up mucus, and destroy bacteria. These theories make sense on paper. And if they're true, salt room therapy is an excellent alternative to drugs and COPD machines. But so far, the science hasn’t backed it up.
But let’s be honest: A therapy that has been in existence for decades deserves some consideration. And some of the experts agree. Senior scientific adviser to the ALA (American Lung Association), Dr. Norman Edelman, says he believes salt therapy may be more than just a placebo effect. He says it’s possible that salt therapy offers relief to those who suffer from lung disease. Explaining it further, he says "When fine salt particles are inhaled, they will fall on the airway linings and draw water into the airway, thinning the mucus and making it easier to raise, thus making people feel better," he said. He goes on to say, "Also, these environments are allergen-free and thus good for people with allergies affecting their lungs."
And if home remedies using salt are any indication, salt room therapy just might be valid. For example, anyone who has ever used bath salts in the tub understands just how refreshing they can be. And Epsom salts have long been recognized to be great at removing impurities.
What about you? Have you ever participated in salt room therapy? Did you have a good experience or a bad one? We’d love to hear more about your experiences with salt room therapy below!