Salt Therapy: How Does it Work?

Salt cave.

From preserving food, to a form of currency, to treatment for various ailments, salt has been used for various purposes for centuries. As far back as 20 million years ago, a shallow sea covered Europe and Russia. As the sea retreated, salt deposits were left between 10 and 300 meters below. We know that the earliest civilizations formed near salt deposits. Rome built roads to more easily transport the valuable compound. The phrase ‘worth their weight in salt’ comes from Roman soldiers receiving payment in salt. Those who study religions know that the Bible uses salt as a metaphor for sustaining life.

Do you have respiratory or skin issues ? In 1843, Polish physician Dr. Feliks Boczkowski discovered that one type of miner rarely became sick and did not suffer the normal respiratory issues associated with working in mines. Furthermore, the workers physically looked younger than their years. What did this group have in common?  They all worked in the Wieliczka salt mine. Dr. Boczkowski began treating respiratory patients in the mine, sending them underground for sessions while workers mined salt, creating fine particles that were inhaled by patients. By 1958, Wieliczka salt mine became a speleotherapy health resort. Speleotherapy refers to a cave like microclimate where small salt particles are inhaled. By 1976, Russian doctors and scientists created a machine, called a halogenerator, that crushes salt into tiny particles and sends them into the air as a dry aerosol. Halo is the Greek word for salt, thus the name halogenerator.

So, how does salt therapy work in the modern world? Today, clients enter a room that has a cool dry climate and relax in comfortable clothing reclined in a cushy chair as a modern halogenerator crushes pharmaceutical grade salt into pieces one to five microns in size. For perspective, 80% of the pieces are smaller than two microns and that is 30 times finer than a human hair. The fine salt particles penetrate deeply into the respiratory tract and through the layers of the skin. As Dr. R. Richard Leinhardt, an ENT facial plastic surgeon in New York City and a first responder to 9/11 shares in a US News article, “It follows with sodium chloride being an integral part of the body’s physiology and dealing with homeostasis and health. Saline in the lungs is key to eliminating toxins that we either inhale or otherwise come into contact with, and salt allows the body to excrete impurities through ion exchange”1. Dr. Oz further described the process on a February 2014 show segment. Dr. Oz described how salt therapy thins mucus allowing cilia, the hair like fiber of the lungs, to move more freely, moving mucus with bacteria and toxins out of the respiratory tract2.

Salt therapy helps the respiratory tract, how does it improve the immune system? In a US News article, Dr. Joseph Marino, medical director of Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital in New York states, “the efficacy of halotherapy [may] be related to an immunologic effect by elevating T lymphocytes, which are one of our germ fighters.” Theoretically, this could translate into better immune function and greater protection from colds, flu and other contagious illnesses”1.

What about skin- how does salt therapy help? Halotherapy works on superficial and deeper skin layers increasing activity and improving the skin’s protective properties. This provides healing as well as cosmetic effects:

  • normalizes pH
  • stimulates “restorative and regenerative processes in the epidermis and derma resulting in increases in skin rigidity”
  • “Improves microcirculation cellular membrane activity”
  • “Enhances skin regeneration and elasticity”
  • “Reduces wrinkles and edema”
Four clients relaxing as they breath easy during a salt session.

Accomplishing all of this, the study noted that salt therapy poses insignificant risks3.

The next time that you want to improve your breathing, decrease the likelihood of catching whatever bug or virus is going around, or you simply want improve skin tone, then consider the all-natural benefits of salt therapy. Afterall, for centuries, our ancestors turned to salt for many benefits.

  1. The Sweet (and Therapeutic) Truth About Salt Caves, US News and World Report, 2017
  2. Oz Show, About Salt Therapy, February 10, 2014
  3. Halotherapy – Benefits and Risks, Evgeniya Vladeva and Liliya Panajotova, Department of Physiotherapy Rehabilitation, Thalassotherapy and Occupational Diseases, Faculty of Public Health, Medical University of Varna, 2018

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