Natural remedies are very popular these days, but they are more than just a fad. Many are rooted in ancient practices. Halotherapy is a natural remedy with a rich history that extends from medieval times to the present day.

Utilizing the Healing Power of Salt

Salt is a crystalline mineral that occurs naturally around the world. Common salt is mostly made up of sodium chloride and in large quantities can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but in small amounts, it is an essential nutrient that is vital to our health. 

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Salt also contains several microelements like iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, selenium, and copper. These microelements also possess health benefits and are essential to life. Salt is so valuable that it was once used to barter and as currency; traded pound for pound with gold.

The Importance of Iodine

It's well known that a lack of iodine can lead to the development of a goiter: a large growth or swelling at the base of the front side of the neck. However, iodine is used by the thyroid gland to help control growth, repair damaged cells, and support a healthy metabolism.

The goiter is just a physical sign of an iodine deficiency, which can lead to unexpected weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and difficulty learning and remembering information. That is why table salt in the United States is iodized salt: a mixture of different salts of the element iodine.

The Risk of Deficiencies and the Benefits Of Microelements

consulting a doctor

Iodine deficiency is a leading preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disabilities, but is almost nonexistent in the United States due to the use of table salt. Other microelements, like selenium, are extracted and prized for their ability to halt the aging of the skin. They are used in spas and resorts around the world. Halotherapy is re-emerging as a natural way to treat a variety of ailments.

The History Behind Halotherapy

In Ancient Greece, salt-based remedies were valued for their expectorant abilities: the ability to cause a person to cough up mucus and thus accelerate the healing process. Hippocrates (460 BC) recommended the inhalation of steam from salt-water to relieve respiratory systems and during the medieval era, monks often crushed stalactites, then took the sick down into salt caves to breathe in the air saturated with salt.

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For many years, the only way to receive the benefits of breathing in the salty air was to venture into underground salt caves. To this day many of the most world-renowned spas and resorts are located in natural salt caves across Europe and Eastern Europe, but in 1987 a new technique was created in Russia: Salt Rooms.

Salt Rooms

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Salt rooms allowed for the creation of man-made salt caves, rooms, and chambers. This made halotherapy more accessible, giving everyone access to salt's unique properties including:

  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Mucolytic effects - ability to loosen excessive mucus to increase its removal from the body
  • Removal of airborne pollen
  • Reduction of immune system oversensitivity - hypersensitivity or intolerance including allergies and autoimmunity; when your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue.

What Is Halotherapy?

Halotherapy is a holistic, drug-free therapy used to alleviate respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and allergies. It involves breathing salty air. The salt can be administered two different ways, but always consists of salt grounded into microparticles.

The Dry Method

Salt Cave

This method eliminates humidity and is done in a man-made salt cave that maintains a temperature of 68?F (20?C) or lower. For 30 to 45 minutes, a halogenerator grinds the salt into microscopic particles that fill the room. When inhaled, the salt is meant to absorb irritants and toxins from the respiratory system, break up mucus, reduce inflammation and clear airways. The salt is also meant to purify the skin by absorbing bacteria and impurities of the skin. Those who use Himalayan salt lamps know that salt may produce negative ions. This is said to lead to the production of serotonin.

Serotonin and the Importance of Moderation

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Serotonin is a chemical produced by the nerve cells and impacts every part of your body. It helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety, improve moods, and improve sleeping patterns. It is also aids in healing wounds. It is thought to lead to feelings of happiness and normal levels of serotonin can lead to feeling calm and focused. There are several benefits to serotonin, but like salt, it is not meant to be used in excess. It is beneficial for you to maintain normal levels of serotonin, just like salt should be used in trace amounts.

The Wet Method

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Halotherapy can also include mixing salt and water. The wet method can be done at home and includes:

  • Gargling and/or drinking salt water
  • Bathing in salt water
  • Inhaling steam from salt water
  • Flotation tanks filled with salt water
  • Nasal irrigation

Flotation Tanks

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A flotation tank is a therapy treatment designed to soothe and heal the body. Also known as a "sensory deprivation chamber," the flotation tank allow you to enter a meditative state of relaxation while you float in 6-12 inches of water that is about body temperature for 60 - 90 minutes. The water has over 800 pounds of medical grade Epsom salt, ensuring everyone can float and relax in a tank that is soundproof and completely dark.

Nasal Irrigation

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If you have ever been swimming in the ocean, you have experienced nasal irrigation unintentionally. Breathing in cold seawater can be startling and unpleasant, but if your sinuses were clogged you would experience relief. That is what lead to nasal irrigation. Long ago, in India, a method was developed to allow practitioners to breathe in warm seawater to relieve allergy symptoms. This practice would flush out the naval cavities. The process involved using salt water, and a vessel designed to deliver steam into the nasal cavities through one nostril and out the other; known as a neti pot. The treatment was aimed at providing relief from congestion, irritation, and headaches associated with sinus congestion and eliminating the need for antibiotics.

What Are the Benefits of Halotherapy?

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The benefits include:

  • Relief from asthma, chronic bronchitis, and allergies
  • Relief from smoking-related symptoms - coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Treatment or cure for skin conditions - psoriasis, eczema, and acne
  • Treatment for depression and anxiety
  • Safe alternative to strong drugs
  • Safe alternative for infants and women who are pregnant
  • Reduced stress, calming
  • Reduced number of headaches associated with sinus congestion and stress
  • Detoxifying benefits that support the immune, nervous, and lymphatic systems
  • Increased levels of energy and better sleep

Is Halotherapy Right for You?

There are many benefits to using halotherapy. It is considered a safe way to clear nasal cavities and relieve some allergy symptoms. However, it is considered an alternative treatment. As a treatment for more serious respiratory problems; further research is needed.

The Need for Medical Guidelines

A study was conducted in 2007 for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While the study found that participants had fewer symptoms and using halotherapy improved their quality of life, the Lung Institute decided not to recommend using the therapy due to a lack of medical guidelines. Medical guidelines establish the rules and guidelines regarding diagnosis, management, and treatment of specific ailments. These statements are meant to ensure optimize the patient's care and provide an assessment of the benefits and potential concerns of alternative care options.

Why Halotherapy Is Considered an Alternative Treatment?

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The amount of salt and the method used varies greatly from one spa or wellness clinic to another. This makes it more difficult to document the benefits and/or risks associated with halotherapy. The results are not documented for further study or analysis; they are based solely on personal experience making any data gathered anecdotal and inconclusive.

While halotherapy is meant to reduce inflammation and clear airways to treat asthma, some experienced irritation and felt constricted. This increased coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Others have reported getting headaches during halotherapy sessions. This could be to the lack of regulations and training. Halotherapy is usually performed at a spa or wellness clinic rather than by a trained medical professional. If a problem arises, the staff may not have the training needed to handle an emergency.

Conclusion

Halotherapy is an alternative and natural way to relieve some respiratory symptoms. It also has added benefits due to the inclusion of microelements that have the power to assist in weight loss, regulating your mood, and improving the health and look of your skin. Nonetheless, it is an alternative treatment. It is not meant to replace any medicines or treatments your doctor has recommended. Some doctors may consider it a complementary therapy that can be used with the prescribed medicine.

Further studies are needed to prove that halotherapy is an effective solution. For now, it is a relaxing spa treatment, with a long history of assisting in clearing airways for easier breathing. As a therapy for depression or respiratory problems, you should consult your doctor to see if halotherapy would be an effective option.

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