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Promising or Placebo? Halo Salt Therapy: Resurgence of a Salt Cave Spa Treatment

A spa day. We all need one. It's meant to relax and revitalize the body and mind, but what about the lungs? A new trend increasingly found at modern spas is halotherapy, or salt therapy—breathable salt particles intended to improve breathing. There has been news buzzing with the supposed benefits of salt therapy or halotherapy for lung conditions like COPD and asthma. But what exactly is salt therapy, and is it helpful or harmful?

Turns out, salt therapy isn't new at all. Back in 1843, a Polish physician by the name of Feliks Boczkowski noticed that salt mine workers did not experience respiratory issues or lung disease vs other miners. Almost a hundred years later, a German named Karl Hermann Spannagel noticed that his patients' health improved after hiding out in the salt caves while avoiding heavy bombing during WWII. The news of the benefits of salt therapy spread across Eastern Europe where you can find many locations offering these giant salt rooms today, from Poland to Germany to the UK. It's even catching on in the States at Korean bathhouses where you can sit back, relax and breathe in the salty air while in a room made entirely out of giant slabs of Himalayan sea salt.

So how does it work? Well, the scientific community isn't really sure. There are a lot of theories on the how, from the tiny salt particles being inhaled killing off microorganisms in the lungs to reducing inflammation and decreasing mucus, or a mixture of these hypothesis.

Dr. Norman Edelman, Senior Scientific Advisor to the American Lung Association, suggests that potentially, it could be more than just a placebo effect. Most people with obstructive lung disease such as asthma or COPD cough sputum (a thick mixture of saliva and mucus), and trying to bring it up can be distressing. (Think about the last time you had bronchitis, for instance.) Dr. Edelman suggests that it's possible that salt therapy offers relief to these symptoms.

"When fine salt particles are inhaled, they will fall on the airway linings and draw water into the airway, thinning the mucus and making it easier to raise, thus making people feel better," said Dr. Edelman. "Also, these environments are allergen-free and thus good for people with allergies affecting their lungs."

At this point, there are no evidence-based findings to create guidelines for patients and clinicians about treatments such as salt therapy, which begs the question—should people be using a therapy without current medical guidance? There is also the question of how well maintained the rooms are since warm rooms could provide ideal conditions for the growth of bacteria. The bottom line: salt therapy should definitely be discussed with your doctor.

Related Topic: Health & Wellness

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Submitted by Salty Sue at: April 6, 2019
In response to "Resurgence of a Salt Cave Spa Treatment", you mention in closing that there could be concern for potential bacterial particulates in a salt treatment room, perhaps creating the ideal climate for the growth of bacteria. In my salt rooms that would be a totally inaccurate suggestion. I have the lab results and tests to prove otherwise. My rooms have shown to contain the most, purest cleanest air on land. I would invite you to come and experience it for yourself.
Submitted by alanmowle at: November 30, 2018
Very persuasive story, but wait for clinical evidence. Mention to your Doctor next time you visit.
Submitted by Karenmeys at: April 13, 2017
My husband was diagnosed several years ago with emphysema. He was able to quit smoking and we stayed on top of any illness. He has been hospitalized with pneumonia every year. His breathing has been getting worse but oxygen levels stay in the 97 to 98 range except when he's in hospital. For a year now he has been passing out. It is only for 1 to 3 minutes and was only when he would start coughing. The doctor changed his medications around but he passes out when breathing a bit hard. Also his feet swell up and are numb all the time. He then started using a cane. i searched for alternative treatment before i was introduced to Health herbal clinic by a friend here in the United states she told me they have successful herbal treatment to Emphysema and other lungs diseases. I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave a positive response, so i immediately purchased the Emphysema herbal formula for my husband and he commenced usage, its totally unexplainable how all the symptoms totally dissapeared, his cough was gone and he no longer experience shortness of breath(dyspnea), contact this herbal clinic via their email healthherbalclinic@ gmail. com Or website www. healthherbalclinic. weebly. com. Herbs are truly gift from God
Submitted by Anonymous at: August 22, 2016
I own one of the oldest Salt Rooms in North America. We base our practice on the guidelines set by Russian pulmonologists who have over 30 years of clinical experience with Halotherapy. Definitely tell your western-trained MD that you are doing Halotherapy but definitely keep in mind that your MD is simply not qualified to give an educated answer on the subject and will likely reject halotherapy for all the wrong reasons. There are exceptions, but I've seen too many clients scared away from the most promising respiratory therapy available. Halotherapy seems odd at first, but not a single credible reason to not do it exists.
Submitted by Travel girl at: June 13, 2016
My allergies are pretty bad and when they get bad then my sinuses get even worst to a point that I feel sick and have a hard time breathing. I've been doing salt therapy and it helps me a lot. In fact, the people that I ran into at salt caves who have asthma, inner sticial lung disease, sinus issues, migraines, bronchitis have had awesome results! The asthma goers are no longer dependent on their steroid based inhalers !! For me, I prefer to do natural and holistic rather than pharm. I hope my comment helps someone out there.
Submitted by foxygrama at: June 12, 2016
I have had Emphysema for approx 16 years now. It has gotten progressively worse and I have trouble breathing almost 24/7. No treatments have helped now. I also had Stem Therapy which ended up a scam. Also went for the Salt Therapy for a few months. I would like any help and or information on what I might be able to do to help myself breathe. Living this way is not fun nor fulfilling. Thanks
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