Halotherapy: Healing with Salt

Perhaps you’ve heard people say they are going to the beach to take advantage of the “good salt air.” When we have a cold, sinusitis, or allergies, use of a saline solution is often recommended to help clear the nasal passages. In a way, these are forms of halotherapy, or salt therapy, an ancient therapeutic approach that is still used today around the world for a variety of ailments, most of which involve respiratory issues, allergies, and dermatological conditions.

One of the more modern documented appreciations of the health powers of salt therapy came from Feliks Boczkowski, a Polish doctor who in 1843 noted that men who worked in the salt mines didn’t experience the respiratory problems that befell other miners. Interest in halotherapy has spread worldwide and is now offered in specialized clinics as well as spas, but it also can be done at home.

How does halotherapy work?

Since the time of Hippocrates, people have recognized that salt water has healing powers. Today, we know that unrefined rock salt has antimicrobial and antibacterial characteristics and that inhaling the particles from the air and steam can provide great benefits.

Read about 4 reasons you need a Himalayan salt lamp in your home

According to Dr. Norman Edelman, Senior Scientific Advisor to the American Lung Association, salt therapy may help individuals who have asthma, common cold, congestive obstructive pulmonary disease, or other obstructive lung problems by helping rid the body of sputum. He refers to salt caves or salt therapy rooms, which are locations composed entirely or nearly entirely of salt. “When fine salt particles are inhaled, they will fall on the airway linings and draw water into the airway, thinning the mucous 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."

One good example of the power of halotherapy is its use for people with asthma. Asthma is a common, serious, and growing problem, especially among children. Use of halotherapy in asthmatic kids has been explored in numerous studies, including one from Israel in 2017. Twenty-nine kids aged 5 to 13 with mild asthma and who were not receiving anti-inflammatory medication were assigned to either a salt room with a halogenerator (which helps circulate salt through the air) or one without a halogenerator (controls). All of the children underwent 14 treatment sessions over a seven-week period.

Briefly, a halogenerator is a specialized nebulizer that grinds pharmaceutical grade (99.99% pure) dry sodium chloride into aerosol particles. The halogenerator delivers clean, dry air that is saturated with these sodium chloride particles into the therapy room. The microprocessor in the halogenerator regulates the temperature, humidity, and mass concentration of the aerosol, which can be altered to meet the medical needs of the person being treated.

The kids in the treatment group experienced a significant improvement in bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) but those in the control group showed no improvement. Children in the treatment group also showed statistical improvement in many quality of life factors. The authors concluded that use of a salt room with a halogenerator “may have some beneficial effects in mild asthmatic children.”

Read about 8 tips for natural allergy relief

A different use for halotherapy has been demonstrated in a study of the use of salt therapy in people with cystic fibrosis, a serious, often fatal disease that affects the lungs. The authors noted that “inhalation of hypertonic saline produces a sustained acceleration of mucus clearance and improved lung function. This treatment may protect the lungs from insults that reduce mucus clearance and produce lung disease.”

How to benefit from halotherapy

Outside of the home, halotherapy is typically available at salt caves (aka, halochambers) offered at clinics or spas. These treatments can be quite pricy, but there are less expensive and more convenient alternatives in the form of devices that use ultrasonic frequency vibrations to transform salt into micro particles and emit them into your indoor environment.

Salt has a high concentration of negative ions, and they are able to adhere to the positively charged particles, such as dust, viruses, and bacteria and help eliminate them. Use of ultrasonic halotherapy products may help you effectively manage allergies, ear infections, acne, skin disorders (e.g., eczema, rashes), and even help improve sleep.

Other halotherapy products include portable salt “booths” you can install in your home, salt inhalers (aka, salt pipes), and personal salt generators. As always, consult your healthcare provider before starting any halotherapy either at a facility or at home.

American Lung Association. Promising or placebo? Halo salt therapy: resurgence of a salt cave spa treatment. 2016 June 9
Bar-Yoseph R et al. Halotherapy as asthma treatment in children: a randomized, controlled, prospective pilot study. Pediatric Pulmonology 2017 May; 52(5): 580-87
Elkins MR et al. A controlled trial of long-term inhaled hypertonic saline in patients with cystic fibrosis. New England Journal of Medicine 2006; 354:229-40

By Deborah Mitchell| July 07, 2017
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. Currently she lives in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her at deborahmitchellbooks.com.

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