Wait, aren’t massive amounts of salt supposed to be bad for us?
Not so, say the advocates of halotherapy, or the use of salt for therapeutic purposes. The most popular form of salt therapy has been popping up in major US cities across the country in recent years: salt rooms.
Partaking in salt therapy means sitting in a dimly lit room for about half an hour, surrounded by salt from floor to ceiling, breathing in the dry, saline air. The walls are fortified with salt bricks, while the floor is filled with a more granular, sand-like version of the mineral. Most rooms are covered in bricks of salt that are heavily-laden with other minerals which add color, like Himalayan pink salt.
“The pink salt emits more negative ions than, say, sea salt,” says Marta Dulaba from Breathe Salt Rooms in New York. “There are more minerals, so that’s why we use that salt on the floor and for lighting.” The negative ions emitted by the salt lamps are believed to help visitors relax, and may lead to improved sleep habits.
The benefits of salt therapy relate mostly to the respiratory system and skin conditions, as well as inflammation issues: “It’s naturally antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal,” says Dulaba. “It actually opens up passageways so it’s great for people with asthma and allergies, and it does help to break up any mucus stuck inside your respiratory system as well.”
So where did this salt therapy trend begin? Think Eastern Europe, and think a long, long time ago. The first use of salt as a therapeutic device (in the form of mineral baths) in Poland was recorded in the twelfth century. Later, salt mines became the focal point.
“There was one person that discovered that people who were working in different salt mines were never getting sick, and they started opening up salt rooms in hospitals throughout Europe, in places like Russia, Ukraine, and Poland,” says Dulaba.
Now, while this rich European history might mean that salt therapy isn’t as new as its recent rise on our wellness radars would suggest, the fact that the health movement is finally making its way over to the west spells good news for everyone – especially people in big cities. This is because people living in major metropolitan areas have even more to gain from clearing out their breathing tubes, as pollutants and irritants in the air can cause allergy-like symptoms.
Intrigued? The people over at Breathe Salt Rooms recommend a weekly visit because the therapeutic effects grow through continued use.
So don’t be salty, just go sit in a salty room.