From salt stones and salt caves to salt rooms outfitted with walls made from pink Himalayan salt, halotherapy (“halo” means “salt” in Greek) has become very popular—and for good reason. Halotherapy is said to be good for skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis and for chronic respiratory conditions including asthma and allergies. What’s more, it’s easy. You just sit, relax and inhale. All the while, you are breathing in mineral-filled microparticles that penetrate deep into the lungs. Non-inhaled salt particles are absorbed into the skin.
According to Ann Brown, the founder and CEO of Saltability, part of the seemingly sudden increase in interest in salt therapy is a result of COVID. As spas looked to add touchless services during the pandemic, salt rooms were a logical answer. Brown says that during the past few years, many spas have transitioned treatment rooms into salt suites. Even after the pandemic, these rooms serve as a steady revenue source, even with the challenges of staff shortages.
Brown also notes that the pandemic encouraged those who could afford it to bring more wellness into their homes. That’s why the demand for home halotherapy has been off the charts, even though home halotherapy booths can cost upwards of $20,000. For those with smaller budgets, there are salt lamps, but Brown says those are more aesthetically appealing than helpful for health.
The Salt of the Earth
As you drive by your local strip mall and notice the addition of a salt cave (there are even franchised salt salons now), or when you visit your favorite spa’s new salt room, you may wonder about the science of it all.
Even though it’s suddenly trending, halotherapy has been around for a long time. Ancient healers recommended salt inhalation for the respiratory system and other health issues. Scientific recognition of the power of dry salt therapy dates to the mid-19th century, when a physician in Poland observed that the respiratory health of workers in a nearby salt mine was much better than that of people who didn’t hang out underground.
After that, salt cave therapy, or speleotherapy, became a thing in central Europe. Then, around 50 years ago, the first halogenerator was developed, allowing the indoor replication of the benefits of the atmosphere of salt mines.
A halogenerator is a device that converts pharmaceutical salt into microparticles. Those particles are dispersed into a salt room, where clients breathe in the benefits. While salt rooms are infused with pharmaceutical salt, salt walls are usually made from authentic Himalayan salt. Brown says the real stuff contains more than 50 naturally occurring minerals, including magnesium, potassium and calcium. Resonating at the earth’s frequency, Himalayan salt seems to be a panacea, according to true believers, who tout its benefits, including:
- Supports a healthy respiratory system and sinuses
- Boosts bone health and prevents muscle cramps
- Improves circulation
- Improves the immune system
- Relieves anxiety and addresses insomnia
- Rejuvenates the skin
New Salt Outlets
According to Brown, halotherapy is moving beyond dedicated salt rooms and caves. For example, several spas she has worked with have updated their cedar-paneled saunas by pulling out the wood and adding Himalayan salt panels. Salt is also being incorporated in other spa treatments. For example, instead of lava hot stones, some spas are using Himalayan massage stones, which are heated and used to stimulate circulation, relax the body, lower blood pressure, soothe sore muscles and remove toxins. Salt tables are another innovation. They provide relaxation seekers the opportunity to rest directly on warmed salt, amplifying whatever treatment they are receiving.