Pass the Salt

Why more people are turning to the everyday ingredient for healing.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Why more people are turning to the everyday ingredient for healing.

My Reading Room

Arrive oceanside and the first thing everybody does? Inhale. Intuitively, we all breathe in deeply, filling our lungs with that salty, briny air. It not only smells great but it's good for you. Whether you’re aware of this, subconsciously your body is compelling you to expand your lungs and absorb that salt.

For anyone who’s ever felt better after a series of deep breaths of ocean air, you’ve just experienced a small dose of halotherapy. Derived from the Greek root, halo- meaning salt, halotherapy is as old as salt itself. There are references to medieval monks who treated the ill by taking them to salt caves; Eastern European salt miners in the 1800s who exhibited extraordinarily robust health during times difficult for most, and even Hippocrates who prescribed the inhalation of saltwater as convalescence treatment.

While variations of salt therapy have been practised for millennia, Poland is generally recognised as the birthplace of modern halotherapy, with its rich history of salt caves and thermal mineral spas that date back to the early 1800s. Tarita Salt Spa and Wellness in the centre of Krakow is popular among both locals and tourists. Offering a combination of living history and alternative medicine, Tarita is increasingly becoming a holiday destination.

Salt is naturally anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antibacterial, helping to boost the immune system and relieve the symptoms of many respiratory ailments including asthma, fibromyalgia, allergies, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even cystic fibrosis. Externally, it can also help with skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and even post-surgical healing.

As salt is breathed in, it passes through the sinuses and respiratory system, absorbing excess moisture, loosening mucus and killing bacteria. At Tarita, aerosolised dry salt that’s prepared in a special ‘halogenerator’ saturates the air with micronised salt particles. The effect is hardly discernible as guests relax in lounge chairs listening to music, reading and even nap in this grand, dramatic space. Halotherapy is considered low-risk and safe enough for pregnant women and babies. Tarita has a special play area for children, but instead of sand they play in salt.

The health benefits of halotherapy now have even athletes taking notice. Because of salt’s ability to clean the airways, lung capacity and breathing efficiency are increased. This is gold for anyone trying to improve physical performance – naturally. Better oxygen intake can increase energy levels, decrease cramps and recovery time that can give athletes a winning edge.

Regardless of your state of health, halotherapy is largely considered an effective treatment to complement an overall wellness programme. At the Serenity The Art of Wellbeing at Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve, Portugal, they offer a Himalayan salt sauna that is part of a robust spa programme, Thermal Oasis. The sauna itself is lined with blocks of Himalayan salt and heated to 80ºC, the optimal temperature for opening the pores and allowing all 84 minerals to absorb into the skin. In addition to the salt sauna, Thermal Oasis includes a steam room, a Kneipp pool, a hydrotherapy pool, a herbal sauna, experience showers, ice fountain, outdoor Jacuzzi and indoor and outdoor relaxation areas. “It’s truly an experience that rebalances the mind, body and soul,” says Maria d’Orey, spa and fitness director for Serenity The Art of Wellbeing.

A modern benefit of halotherapy that medieval monks, 19th-century miners and ancient Greek philosophers could never have predicted is the application of salt therapy to neutralise the effects of our digital obsession. “Research has shown that Himalayan salt crystals have a particular kinetic energy emitting natural occurring negative ions that are proven to reduce stress and fatigue while supporting a better sense of well-being,” says Angee Smithee, area director of spas, Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale, Arizona. We are constantly bombarded with positive ions from electromagnetic radiation emitted from our mobiles, TVs and laptops. In the same way antioxidants neutralise free radicals, the negative ions in salt, administered through halotherapy, can attach to the positive ions and neutralise them before they have a chance to physically harm us.

“You don’t need to have a medical condition to benefit from salt therapy,” says Smithee. “We’re exposed on a daily basis to general pollutants, airborne diseases, bacteria, allergens and other irritants. Halotherapy will cleanse and detox the lungs as well as invigorate the whole body. It benefits adults, children, athletes and even animals.”

“Halotherapy will cleanse and detox the lungs as well as invigorate the whole body”

~Angee Smithee
My Reading Room
My Reading Room

THIS PAGE: Tarita Salt Spa and Wellness offers halotherapy that uses aerosolised dry salt; Serenity The Art of Wellbeing’s salt sauna is lined with blocks of Himalayan salt. OPPOSITE PAGE: Serenity The Art of Wellbeing’s Thermal Oasis programme combines haltherapy and hydrotherapy to maximise benefits.