Salt has a long list of uses that stretches beyond food flavoring. Its therapeutic benefits were prized by ancient Greeks, who discovered that salt inhalation was an effective treatment for respiratory problems.
In 1843, a Polish physician named Feliks Boczkowski extolled the virtues of salt treatment after noticing that workers in salt mines had fewer respiratory problems than other miners. During World War II, a doctor named Karl Hermann Spannagel noticed that his patients’ health improved after hiding out in salt caves to avoid bombing. Salt rooms or salt caves have since proliferated across Europe and, in the past few years, in the United States.
Today, halotherapy, as salt therapy is known, has gained popularity as an alternative treatment for a variety of respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies. The Salt Room (10624 S. Eastern Ave. #6 in Henderson and 1958 Village Center Circle #7 in Summerlin) features rooms lined with blocks of Himalayan salt, as a halogenerator blows microparticles of pharmaceutical salt into the air. When inhaled, Himalayan salt emits negative ions that get absorbed by your body, which neutralizes positive ions that come from dust, pollen, electricity and other pollutants.
Salt is also known to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. As you breathe in the salt, it scrubs everything in your respiratory system, from your sinuses all the way to your ear canal, and gets deep into your lungs, loosening up mucus and reducing inflammation.
“People come here for many reasons, from asthma, allergies, COPD, emphysema, psoriasis and eczema to anything related to skin and respiratory inflammation,” says Ava Mucikyan, Founder of the Salt Room. “Salt has historically been a very healing commodity, even back in the day. A lot of people will say take a salt bath, it’ll help you decongest or it helps with sore muscles. It helps with skin conditions for inflammation and irritation. Doctors will say you just need to go to the ocean. … This is like the cheapest ticket to the beach. Forty-five minutes sitting in this room is equivalent to three days by the ocean.”
One concern people have about salt rooms is whether breathing in the salt could raise the sodium level in their blood, potentially dangerous for those with health conditions like hypertension. Mucikyan says there’s no cause for concern. “It’s almost like saying you can’t go to the ocean because you have high blood pressure. You’re just breathing in the salt air; you’re not eating it. Usually, when you hear ‘salt,’ [you think] it’s bad for you. It’s actually great for you, sitting inside a Himalayan salt cave. It’s basically being in a natural environment. Breathing in the salt air that’s pure pharmaceutical salt is beneficial in all kinds of ways, including boosting up the immune system.”
An added benefit of sitting in a salt cave is the opportunity to unplug from everyday life. There are no phones to look at, no emails to answer—just a quiet space where one can breathe deeply. To that end, the Salt Room also offers a variety of classes throughout the month including yoga and meditation, tea ceremonies, Reiki circles and other healing modalities.
Salt in Float Therapy
Float therapy is another method that uses salt as a therapeutic element to address a variety of ailments. IMR Float Therapy (10870 S. Eastern Ave. #103 in Henderson) offers sessions in cabins and open tanks filled with water set to normal human body temperature and at least 1,300 pounds of Epsom salt. It subscribes to the same idea that salt reduces inflammation and muscle soreness, making float therapy a popular choice among athletes. (Tom Brady has a float tank in his home.) The idea is to simply float for an hour with no effort—the salt in the water keeps you from sinking—in a room with no light or sound.
Float therapy, also known as REST, or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy, is complete sensory deprivation, and one of its biggest benefits is stress reduction. “It’s removing all the outside stimulus to your brain,” says Elliott Reed, owner of IMR. “Your body in the tank is completely weightless, so there’s zero stress on your spine. Your nervous system is more relaxed. Your brain isn’t firing, taking in all this sensory [input]. When you remove all of that, you can think clearer.”
Float therapy has been around since the 1950s, and its benefits on the mind and the body are still being studied. Dr. Justin Feinstein, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one of the leading researchers on the effects of floating. He has performed studies on veterans suffering from PTSD, along with comparative studies on the brain for those taking anti-anxiety medications and those using float therapy.
“He’s done two studies now that have been published that show that an hour in the tank can decrease stress and anxiety symptoms, and the results can last up to 20 to 48 hours, as opposed to, say, taking a pill, which could last four to eight hours. So it’s a healthier approach with longer results,” Reed says. “I know people who have insomnia who float regularly and it helps them sleep better at night. I have chronic neck pain myself and do regular float sessions. It basically takes away all the pain from my neck through regular float sessions.”
Beyond its physical benefits, float therapy supporters extol what it does for cognitive function. Once stress is removed, the mind has more space for creativity and focus. And just like sitting in a salt cave, floating for a period of time, without the distraction of the trappings of modern life, can help us access a part of our brain not available when we’re plugged in.
“Most of the time when you’re floating, you’re in that theta state. That’s when your theta brain waves are slowed down and you’re not awake, but you’re not asleep,” Reed says “That’s what happens in a meditative state. You’re restoring your brain from constantly having to do things throughout our daily lives.”
Try these Salt therapies at home
• Foot scrub: Soak your feet in a bucket of warm water and Epsom salt to remove dead skin and soften your feet. It’s a relaxing treatment after a long day.
• Neti pot or saline rinse: Salt and warm water rinses keep your sinuses clear, especially during allergy season.
• Teeth whitener: Mix one part salt and two parts baking soda to remove stains from teeth enamel.
• Mouthwash: Salt is a natural disinfectant. Mix a quarter cup of warm water with half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of baking soda for fresh breath.
• Eye de-puffer: Mix one teaspoon of salt with a cup of warm water, then soak a cotton round in the mixture and place on your eyes. Salt’s anti-inflammatory properties should reduce puffiness.
Author: Genevie Durano
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