Have you ever gone to a salt room or a Salt Cave? Have you tried a salt booth or a salt cabin? These are facilities that simulate the natural microclimate environment of a natural salt cave. So are they really beneficial for health and wellness?  Salt therapy is a form of Speleotherapy, (cave therapy), that has been around for a long time.

Speleotherapy is very popular in Eastern Europe.  One can visit a natural salt cave for respiratory and skin issues (Lazarescu, Simionca, Hoteteu and Mirescu, 2014; Oprita, Pandrea, Dinu, and Aignatoaie, 2010) because the natural salt cave generates a microclimate where the salt aerosol is considered to be the medium providing non-medicinal therapeutic relief (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov, 1997; Chervinskaya and Zilber, 1995).  In the mid-1800s, by accident, a Polish physician, Feliks Bochkowsky, discovered that his patients who worked in a salt cave or salt mine did not suffer from respiratory issues nor lung diseases as those patients who worked in coal mines (Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2014; Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).  His discovery led him to create a research and clinical resort salt spa in the Velichka salt mines in 1843 (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).  Since then other salt mines throughout Eastern Europe and Russia and artificial salt caves have been built in abandoned salt mines or carved into salt strata on the landscape for a variety of salt therapies (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).  Many years later, a German doctor during WWII, Karl H. Spannagel, observed health improvements or the curing of asthma and bronchitis in many of his patients who hid in the local salt caves to shelter from the intense bombing.  His discovery led to the creation of studies focusing on the respiratory tract and associated diseases (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).

Today there are many artificial salt rooms, chambers and caves located throughout Poland and Germany and many are opening in the United Kingdom and the United States (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).  The Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019, identifies those seeking halotherapy treatments as people who suffer from skin conditions, have respiratory issues, or are interested in their overall general health and wellness (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019).

Speleotherapy has become the catalyst for today’s halotherapy found in simulated salt cave facilities (Lazarescu, Simionca, Munteanu, Rizea, Iliuta, Dumitrascu and Dumitrescu, 2014; Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov, 1997).  Both Speleotherapy and halotherapy are evolving into important forms of drug-free therapy (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov, 1997) for respiratory and skin conditions.

How does Halotherapy Work?

Halotherapy is a form of salt aerosol therapy which involves inhaling microscopic particles of pharmaceutical grade sodium chloride (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997) dispersed by a halogenerator while in a simulated salt cave, salt room or salt chamber (Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2014; Chervinskaya, 2006).  There are two types of halotherapy.  One is dry halotherapy.  Dry salt therapy involves speleotherapy which, as mentioned above, is below the Earth’s surface in cave formations; and, halotherapy which is used in salt cave simulated man-made environments. These man-made environments include salt chambers, salt beds, salt rooms, and imitation salt caves. In these simulated salt cave environments, a halogenerator is used that grinds pure sodium chloride (salt) into microscopic size particles so that they can be emitted into the air (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019; Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2013; Chervinskaya, 2006).  The salt is put in a little hopper that feeds salt into a grinder. The grinder crushes the salt into specific size particles.  These particles are then blown by a fan into the room, cave or booth in order to push the microscopic salt particles into the air.

A halogenerator can be adjusted to release specific size salt particles to address certain health problems such as breathing issues and skin related issues (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019; Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2014; Chervinskaya, 2006).  According to the Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019, when salt is totally dry it is “super absorbent” and possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Using a halogenerator enables the salt to be adjusted to address specific health issues. For example, the higher concentration of salt blown into the air of the room or cave would be beneficial for people suffering from skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019; Chervinskaya, 2006).

Wet salt therapy on the other hand, involves using salt in a saline form. This would include using a nebulizer, a Neti Pot, salt scrubs, bath salts, gargling with salt water, etc. (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019).

Benefits of Halotherapy to Health and Wellness:

Sodium chloride is an important part of the physiology of the body, assisting in maintaining balance and good health (Colino, 2017). Salt aerosol removes dust and allergens from the dry air that possesses a strong affinity for water or hydrophilic, the ability to kill bacteria or bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties (Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc,, 2014) strengthening the immune system (Chervinskaya, 2006).   Fine salt particles are inhaled into the airway lining.  As the salt particles fall on the lining of the airway it draws water into the airway. This thins the mucus lodged in the airway making it easier for one to cough up phlegm and feel better (Chervinskaya, 2006).  This may be a good form of therapy for people who are suffering with allergies and respiratory conditions that impact their lungs (Chervinskaya, Alexandrov and Konovalov 1997).

Health benefits range from providing relief from respiratory issues that include asthma, bronchitis, colds, sinusitis, as well as other respiratory conditions. (Colino; Oprita Pandrea, Dinu and Aignatoaie, 2010; Chervinskaya and Zilber, 1995).   When saline is present in the lungs the lungs are better able to eliminate toxins that are inhaled. The body goes through a process of ion exchange that removes the impurities from the body. Salt is also known to have properties that are also antifungal.  All the beneficial health properties enable the body to fight germs.  It is also thought by some researchers that halotherapy promotes a strong immune system and can enable the body to protect itself from colds and flus and other illnesses that are contagious (Colino, 2017).

Halotherapy is also believed to have positive effects on skin conditions benefiting people who suffer from acne, rashes, psoriasis and eczema.  Halotherapy is beneficial for skin conditions because it normalizes the Ph levels and enables the skin to rejuvenate itself (Chervinskaya, 2006).  Skin cell protective properties increase when salt aerosol is deposited on the skin (Chervinskaya, 2006; Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019).

In addition to health benefits, halotherapy assists athletes by increasing their lung capacity (Catalina, Catalin, and Ion, 2012).  According to the study by Stirbu, Stirbu and Ion (2012), results include increases in respiratory capacity, more efficient breathing, a stronger cardiovascular system, and an increase in oxygen in the blood (4145).

Be Educated and Aware About Differences in Halotherapy Facilities

Not all salt rooms and salt caves are the same. They will either be active or passive. An active salt room or salt cave uses a halogenerator which, as described above, grinds salt into fine particles that can be blown out into the atmosphere and inhaled into the lungs (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019; Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2013).

Passive salt rooms and salt caves do not use a halogenerator. They are more for the ambience and the relaxation of sitting in a temperature-controlled room surrounded by salt and an atmosphere that helps you to relax (Salt Therapy Association, accessed 6/15/2019; Zajac, Bojar, Helbin, Klarzyk, and Owoc, 2013).  Both active and passive simulated salt cave facilities provide benefits for health and wellness.

Conclusion:

Visit a salt room, cave or a facility with a salt booth or salt chamber.  Our lives are so busy and we are exposed to various types of stress and environmental pollution.  A visit to a halotherapy facility provides a place to unwind and relax and breathe in healthy air.  Regardless of whether you have any of the health issues mentioned above, a visit to a salt room, cave, booth or chamber can be rewarding and pleasant that you will want to experience it more than once.  Is it not worth the cost and time to achieve better health?

References:

Catalina, Stirbu; Catalin, Stirbu and Ion, Sandu.  2012.  Impact Assessment of Saline Aerosols on Exercise Capacity of Athletes.  Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences.  46: 4141-4145.

Chervinskaya, A.V.  2006.  Prospects of Halotherapy in Sanatorium and Spa Dermatology and Cosmetology.  Resort Bulletin. N.3(36): 74-75.

Chervinskaya, Alina V. and Zilber, Nora A.  1995.  Halotherapy for Treatment of Respiratory Diseases.  Journal of Aerosol Medicine.  V. 8, n. 3: 221-232.

Chervinskaya, A.V., Alexandrov, A.N., Konovalov, S.I.  1997. Halotherapy:  History and Experience of Clinical Application.  Medical Journal “Folia Otorhinolaryngologiae et Pathologie Respiratoriae”.  v. 3, n. 1-2:84-88. (Russ.)

Colino, Stacey.  The Sweet (and Therapeutic) Truth About Salt Caves. US News and World Report. Sept. 13, 2017.  Accessed: 6/19/19.  https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2017-09-13/the-sweet-and-therapeutic-truth-about-salt-caves.

Lazarescu, H., Simionca, I., Hoteteu, M., Mirescu, L.  2014. Speleotherapy – Modern Bio-Medical Perspectives.  Journal of Medicine and Life.  v.7.  Special Issue 2.  76-79.

Lazarescu, H., Simionca, I., Hoteteu, Munteanu, A., Rizea, I., Iliuta, A., Dumitrascu, D., and Dumitrescu, E.  2014.  Surveys on Therapeutic Effects of “Halotherapy Chamber with Artificial Salt-Mine Environment” on Patients with Certain Chronic Allergenic Respiratory Pathologies and Infectious-Inflammatory Pathologies.  Journal of Medicine and Life.  7(Spec. Iss. 2): 83-87.

Oprita, B., Pandrea, C., Dinu, B., Aignatoaie, B.  2010.  Saltmed – The Therapy with Sodium Chloride Dry Aerosols.  Therapeutics, Pharmacology and Clinical Toxicology.  September 2010.  v. XIV, n. 3: 201-204.

Salt Therapy Association.  https://www.salttherapyassociation.org/industry-business/salt-therapy-as-a-business/  Accessed 6/15/2019.

Zajac, Joanna; Bojar, Iwona; Helbin, Jadwiga; Kolarzyk, Emilia; and Owoc, Alfred.  2014.  Salt Caves as Simulation of Natural Environment and Significance of Halotherapy. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine.  21(1): 124-127.

First appeared in Therapeutic Thymes Magazine, Fall 2019, Issue 12.  http://therapeuticthymes.com/