If you pay attention to health and wellness trends, you may have been hearing more and more about salt caves in recent years. However, salt caves aren’t just a passing fad—salt therapy has been recognized for centuries for its healing and restorative power.
The History of Salt Caves
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, recommended salt inhalation for optimal health—perhaps because salt is a natural antiseptic and antifungal agent. It can kill some types of bacteria and fungi, which is why it has been used to preserve food for thousands of years.
Salt caves have a particularly long history in Eastern Europe. Medieval monks there noticed that the patients they treated tended to heal faster when they recuperated in natural salt caverns.
In the 1800s, Polish doctor Dr. Felix Bochkowsky published a book on the healing power of salt after observing that salt miners had better health than coal miners and even the general population, though they toiled underground doing backbreaking labor.
During the mid-20th century, Soviet scientists conducted studies of salt therapy (by then called halotherapy) for respiratory diseases, and by the 1960s, salt chambers were being constructed at state-run hospitals and sanitoriums. Later, hotels and spas in Eastern Europe embraced halotherapy as a restorative treatment. Today, salt caves are being rediscovered by a new generation of people interested in wellness and relaxation.
What Is a Salt Cave?
Salt caves can provide a range of health benefits, and luckily, you don’t need to travel far to reap them. Manmade salt caves offer the same benefits as natural ones—and perhaps more, since the environment can be controlled and only purified salt can be used. Constructed salt caves are becoming regular features at spas and wellness resorts.
A manmade salt cave reproduces the environment of a naturally occurring salt mine. The room is lined with crystal salt rocks and equipped with comfortable reclining chairs or similar furniture to relax in, with a rock lamp giving off a dim, peaceful glow. The floor may be covered in salt. Outside the cave, there is a machine that grinds salt into microparticles that disperse through the air in the cave, which is kept at a comfortable 70 degrees or so, at low humidity levels.
Himalayan salt is often used because it is believed to release negative electrons (ions) into the air; these ions are important in the body for fluid exchanges. Other research, not specific to Himalayan salt or salt caves, has found that negative ions in general can help regulate sleep patterns, reduce depression, and boost immune system function.
The following are just a few of the reasons you might consider a therapeutic salt cave treatment. Major health benefits include:
Relief from Mild Illnesses
While a salt cave is not a replacement for medical treatment, it can relieve some symptoms of illness. For instance, salt caves can offer temporary relief from unpleasant symptoms and discomfort associated with a range of mild respiratory conditions, including allergies, colds, asthma, and more.
It is the pulverized, vaporized salt in the air that provides relief from these symptoms—when pharmaceutical grade salt is inhaled, it interacts with the epithelial cells that line the nasal and sinus passageways. This can have a therapeutic effect on mucus membranes, reducing swelling and inflammation.
Dry salt therapy doesn’t merely offer relief from respiratory symptoms. It can also help treat conditions affecting the skin. Specifically, it can help people struggling with such conditions as rosacea, psoriasis, acne, and eczema, to name a few.
Stress isn’t merely unpleasant. Prolonged stress can lead to insomnia, depression, poor performance at work, and cardiovascular problems. Because heart disease is among the leading killers of adults in the developed world, you need to make sure you’re taking steps to reduce stress in your life.
This is another reason you may want to try a salt cave treatment. Sitting in a salt cave and breathing deeply is a relaxing, meditative experience. People often report feeling refreshed and rejuvenated afterwards.
How It Works
Studies have indicated that salt caves can offer many of these benefits in clearly measurable ways. For example, one recent study of children with asthma found that those who underwent salt cave therapy twice a week for seven weeks experienced greater improvement in their symptoms than children who did not. In addition, another study revealed that salt cave therapy can trigger anti-inflammatory effects in people struggling with chronic bronchial conditions. As salt caves become more widespread, future studies may confirm their usefulness to an even greater degree.
If you do try salt therapy, it’s important to keep in mind that salt can dry out the body. That’s why many experts recommend drinking plenty of fluids after spending time in a salt cave.
The best way to learn about the benefits of salt caves is to try them yourself—and because this treatment is becoming increasingly popular, odds are good you can find a salt cave relatively close to home. Give it a try—you’ll be happy you did!