You’ve probably heard before about doctors sending patients to recover near the sea, where they could soak up sunshine and breathe in the salty air. Why is that, and does it really work?
Salt therapy – also called halotherapy or speleotherapy – involves breathing in fine salt particles. Although the sea air does contain salt, dry salt (found in salt caves and salt inhalers) is considered a more potent form of halotherapy.
I first heard about halotherapy after my mom backpacked through Poland, bringing back with her one-of-a-kind watercolor paintings and the fascinating story of a healing salt mine in Wieliczka.
The Weiliczka mine was made famous in the 1800’s by Dr. Felix Bochkowsky. He noticed that – unlike coal miners who suffered adverse effects from their work – salt miners had better-than-average respiratory function and more youthful looking skin. (STA)
Dr. Bochkowsky believed their robust health came from breathing in the dry salty air, so he converted part of the mine into a health resort. His project was put on hold due to world events, but it was revived later on after a doctor found that his patients health improved while hiding in salt caves during WW2.
In this post we’ll look at some of the research that supports salt therapy, and I’ll share an easy way to get its benefits at home.
How does halotherapy (salt therapy) work?
According to Dr. Alex Eingorn, salt therapy works in two ways. First, Himalayan salt emits negative ions, and “injured and diseased cells are electron-deficient, so submitting the body to an electron-rich environment benefits and heals cells by absorption.” (Lewis) If negative ions sounds like a “woo” term to you, check out this article on WebMD about their benefits.
Second, he says that “salt in its microcrystalline form has antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral effects on the epithelial cells (one of the body’s most important for protection and secretion). The salt helps your cells consolidate inflammation and mucus, so your body can get rid of it.”
5 Himalayan Salt Inhaler Benefits
1. Immune Support & Decreased Inflammation – In addition to being anti-inflammatory, salt therapy helps to calm immune system oversensitivity (IgE responses), says The Lung Institute.
2. Helps The Body Clear Mucus/ Sinus Support – According to Dr. Norman Edelman, Senior Scientific Advisor to the American Lung Association, “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 [clear], thus making people feel better,” he said. (ALA)
3. Stress Relief & Mood Support – As Dr. Eingorn mentioned above, Himalayan salt emits negative ions, which according to WebMD “are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Think mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to . . . relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.”
4. Detoxification – In my vapor rub recipe I talk about the purpose of congestion, which is to trap pathogens and put them out of the body. By thinning mucous so that the body can eliminate it, salt therapy assists the body in removing irritants and pathogens more efficiently.
5. Deeper Sleep – Salt therapy helps with sleep in two ways. First, it calms our stress response. Stress produces cortisol, which inhibits the flow of cortisol (aka the sleep hormone). By resetting the stress response, the body is able to produce melatonin at the right time. (Blue light also inhibits melatonin production, which is why I wear these blue blocking glasses at night)
Another way salt inhalers can support a restful night is to ease respiratory issues that sometimes prevent sleep.
Can I use essential oils with my salt inhaler?
Halotherapy works best when the salt is very dry, so adding essential oils is not recommended. Essential oils may also gradually break down the salt, making the inhaler less effective over time.
What other ways can salt be used therapeutically?
The neti pot is a bit challenging for my kids, so they use a Nasopure “Nicer Neti” bottle when they are congested.
Where To Find A Himalayan Salt Inhaler
I use this one and like it a lot. Because you’re placing the tip against your mouth, it’s best not to share an inhaler.
Video + Instructions: How To Use A Himalayan Salt Inhaler
First, add the salt to the inhaler per the instructions that came with the one you purchased.
To use, hold the inhaler to your mouth and inhale deeply, then exhale through your nose. If desired take another breath through the inhaler, or you can alternate regular breaths with inhaler breaths. Most people use their inhaler for 10-20 minutes per day. Some people break that time up into five minute increments, while others do it all at once while watching a show or reading.