We’ve all done it.
We get to the beach and we take a deep, deep breath.
It’s a reflex. It’s instinctual.
The body knows to breathe this air in before the mind realizes it’s even out of the car.
Here’s what our bodies know and what our minds need to be reminded of:
Breathing dry, aerosolized salt air (tiny salt particles suspended in air) can provide broad health benefits. Allergies, chronic respiratory illnesses, skin disorders, infections and problems sleeping can all be improved by simply breathing while relaxing in the wonderful healing microclimate of a salt room.
Like many natural approaches to healing, salt room therapy is relatively new in the United States, but not so in the rest of the world. The therapeutic benefits of spending time in a salt room were rediscovered in Eastern Europe during the 19th century. Dr. Felix Bochkowsky was responsible for occupational health in Poland in the 1840s and as with all good public health experts he was trained to study his surroundings. Since his responsibilities also included the country’s mines he noticed that while metal and coal miners battled relentless, deadly respiratory ailments, the workers in salt mines were healthier. In fact, they were much healthier than most people in the community.
The story doesn’t start there though.
Speleotherapy, or treatments in natural salt caves, began in ancient times. From Neolithic Italy and the priest-healers of Greece to the Indian epic “Ramayana” and Hungarian manuscripts from the Middle Ages, we find reference after reference touting the benefits of time spent in natural salt cave microclimates. Speleotherapy is still common in parts of the world but in modern times and urban locations we more commonly refer to halotherapy or treatment in a simulated salt environment. These simulated microclimates are obviously more convenient especially when you consider that multiple sessions are best but I won’t talk anyone out of a trip to speleotherapy centers in Israel, Hungary or Russia.
The air in salt mines and simulated salt therapy rooms is permeated with negative ions, which help clear breathing passages and provide for a host of other effects. Studies have documented improvements in asthma, bronchitis, chronic ear-nose-throat conditions such as allergies and sinusitis and insomnia. Recent medical studies from Europe and Canada have shown that time spent in salt rooms can benefit other conditions such as snoring, colds, smoker’s cough and influenza. Salt room air is believed to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
Time spent in salt rooms benefits the skin as well. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The skin is the largest organ and shares with the lungs the important role of interfacing with the environment every second of every day. This exposes the skin to a constant barrage of toxins. A natural way to counteract this is to expose the skin to the healing power of salt room air on a consistent basis. Studies have shown that skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis and rashes can improve but normally dry, greasy or aging skin may benefit in appearance as well.
A series of sessions is required to maximize the benefits. I recommend starting with 10-12 sessions. Some patients expand their treatments to 30 or more sessions and others have gone so far as to install salt rooms in their own homes after having experienced the transformative power of this microclimate on so many aspects of their health and wellness.
When I consider the broad benefits and the fact that so many people suffer from ailments that improve in the salt room microclimate I find myself asking everyone I meet, from patients to friends and family to commit to learning more and trying salt room therapy. Read up on it. Start asking your friends and relatives about it. I’m sure you’ll find many have tried it already or are thinking about doing so. Stop by any of the Salt Chalet locations to take a tour and chat with our staff about it. We look forward to seeing you there.
Thom Lobe, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.P., is a distinguished pediatric surgeon, the founder and medical director of Beneveda Medical Group in Beverly Hills, and the medical director of Salt Chalet Encino, California. Throughout his career, Dr. Lobe has maintained a strong interest in complementary and alternative approaches to complex health problems. He developed one of the first instructional programs in the United States devoted to integrating complimentary medicine into the standard medical curriculum. He is a leading writer in the field, having written over 200 books, book chapters and peer-reviewed articles. His passion is to constantly learn more about the interplay between conventional, complementary and alternative medicine and to teach these principles of health, wellness and peak performance to healthcare professionals and people of all ages.