The History of Salt Therapy

Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine

Salt has been around since the dawn of time, and its an essential ingredient to all living creatures and to our planet earth. Throughout human history salt has played an important and varied role as a form of currency, in religious rituals, as a preservative, and for health and wellness. Most folks are familiar with how salt has been used over centuries in baths, as a saline solution, in Nettie pots, for gargling, and many other applications for cleaning and exfoliating the skin.

Today, dry salt therapy (Halotherapy) is being embraced across the United States as a modern modality that has its roots in the ancient salt mines of Eastern Europe.

There, In the mid 1800’s, physicians noticed that the salt miners, who worked long hours deep underground mining and grinding salt, were healthier compared to the rest of the population. The doctors theorized that the small salt dust particles that were being inhaled and landing on the miner’s skin had some sort of beneficial health properties. They eventually discovered that when salt is extremely dry it has unique properties unlike wet, or even moist, salt experienced near the ocean. Soon medical clinics were being established deep underground to care for patients that would benefit from this dry salt therapy.

In the mid 1900’s the Russians began working on a technology to bring the effects of dry salt therapy above ground to help those that didn’t have the luxury of living near a salt mine. A group of scientists and researchers in Odessa developed the first halogenerator (halo for salt), which is a device that crushes and grinds dry salt into micronized particles and disperses that salt into a room. Thus, Halotherapy was born and soon spread throughout Eastern Europe where today there are thousands and thousands of facilities—from resort spas and fitness centers, to daycare centers and clinics, to hospitals.

Dry salt therapy is a natural and complimentary method for providing wellness. When pure, dry sodium chloride (NaCl) is crushed into micronized particles and then dispersed into a room, it can be inhaled into the respiratory system. The dry salt acts like a sponge as it travels down the respiratory tract where it absorbs and reduces excess mucus and foreign elements. The dry salt is antimicrobial so it will neutralize and destroy viruses and bacteria in the lungs and on the skin. Lastly, dry salt is also anti-inflammatory so it helps open up restricted airways providing relief for those with asthma, COPD, bronchitis, sinusitis, colds, and many other respiratory conditions.

While halotherapy often provides great benefit for those with various respiratory problems, so too can salt’s unique properties promote healthy skin care. When the skin is exposed, the micronized salt particles enter the epidermal layers and draw out excess fluid and oils, kill bacteria, as well as increase skin cell microcirculation. It also helps with maintaining skin rigidity. Halotherapy has been known to reduce swelling and inflammation and help relieve conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and even acne.

Currently in the United States, people primarily visit a facility that provides salt therapy either as an add-on to an existing business, or a new business that is solely focused on providing salt therapy. Facilities across the country are bringing salt therapy to their clients and patients such as day spas, resort and destination spas, wellness centers, high-end hotels, massage and yoga centers, and alternative health care practitioners. People pay for a single salt therapy session, multiple sessions, memberships and possible other service offerings.

The primary benefit of being in a salt room is being exposed to the salt particles provided by the high-tech, computerized halogenerator. The room is designed in a particular way as to allow for proper air circulation, humidity, and temperature control. The décor elements for a salt room are very diverse and range from contemporary spa-like motifs with elaborate back-lighted walls, to European style rock salt designs, to primitive caves. The important thing to know however is that no matter how elaborate and spectacular the décor, if there is no halogenerator, there is no beneficial halotherapy.

A typical dry salt therapy session lasts up to 45 minutes and is scheduled at particular times throughout the day to accommodate multiple people in groups of 4 to 8. There are some facilities that offer private room settings as well as those that offer individual, private and customized salt therapy sessions that can deliver effective salt therapy in as little as 15 minutes. Fees for salt therapy sessions are usually based on local demographics and markets and range from $30 to $80 per session depending on adult, kids, senior fees, discounts, group or private, offers, packages, etc.

Today professional athletes, (including elite race horses) are using dry salt therapy for respiratory hygiene and to support faster recovery time; yoga facilities and massage therapists are incorporating dry salt therapy as part of their sessions, and other facilities are conducting Mindfulness and Guided Meditation along with Reiki, Qigong and other activities inside of salt rooms.

There are dozens and dozens of research articles that have been published around the world in known, respected medical journals that support and validate the efficacy of halotherapy. There are thousands and thousands of people going to salt rooms on a daily basis, and the results speak for themselves. Several years ago the Salt Therapy Association was formed in the United States to support the industry and create standards which include the further research of halotherapy. As most Americans regrettably understand, the United States is a slow adopter of new or foreign modalities and technologies, even long-established and proven ones. This is especially so within the medical community influenced by lobbyists and big pharmaceutical companies.

As America catches up to the rest of the world in regards to halotherapy, people are becoming more and more aware of the valuable, and 100% natural, benefit of salt therapy. Unlike drugs, which often come with a plethora of side effects, dry salt therapy can provide individuals from young to old, a safe, effective, and alternative adjunct to their wellness.