Salt Therapy – from History to Modern Approaches
by Livia Tiba – Classical Homeopath
The origins of salt therapy lie in Eastern and Central Europe and can be traced back to the mid 19th Century, when a Polish health official, Dr. Felix Boczkowski, noticed that the workers of salt mines never became ill with any lung diseases.
Since that time, many salt sanatoriums were carved out in salt mountains all across Eastern and Central Europe (the Carpathians), hundreds of feet bellow the surface, specifically for asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies.
The treatment of respiratory diseases by inhalation of fine rock salt particles and negative ions of sodium chloride, in salt caves or salt mines, is called Speleotherapy.
Speleotherapy has been recognized as an effective complementary treatment for patients with various forms of chronic pulmonary diseases and is covered by the Health Ministry in many European countries.
In a typical treatment, a patient will reside in a salt cave for up to 8 hours per day, breathing in the fine salt particles and negative ions of salt (sodium chloride). A complete treatment consists in at least 4 hours per day, for 10-12 days and repeat 2 or 3 times a year.
Speleotherapy makes a great demand on patients’ time. The salt mines are not conveniently located for most people and the total cost includes travel and accommodation – it can get very expensive.
Respiratory diseases worldwide – Statistics:
On-going increasing pollution is causing a direct proportional increase in the number of persons with respiratory disorders, especially children.
Chronic respiratory disease, such as Asthma, COPD and Allergic Rhinitis, are now major burdens of disease worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, asthma is now a serious public health problem with near 300 million sufferers worldwide; Also, under the umbrella of COPD – that includes all chronic lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema – over 210 million sufferers worldwide, with predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
Salt Therapy – Modern Approaches
Based on statistics, it is evident that there is a great need for improved methods of salt therapy, which are both convenient to use and effective.
The first approach comes from Russia, where much of the research on salt therapy has been done and where Halotherapy was developed, in the 1980s.
In areas where salt mines were not available, special rooms (halo chambers or salt rooms) have been constructed to reproduce the salt mines environment.
During halotherapy, patients sit and relax in small groups or individually, in small salt rooms that are lined with salt and fine particles are spread in the air. Each session is about one hour long. For lasting results, people have to have 12-14 consecutive sessions, 3 or 4 times a year, at an average cost of $30/session.
Artificial salt rooms are still not generally available for most people and are expensive, so that there has been a need for more convenient and easily available apparatus.
In 2002, a portable, hand-held device, named salt inhaler or salt pipe was invented in Europe and started to be marketed worldwide. Containing natural rock salt, the salt inhaler can deliver the salt aerosol by breathing through the mouth and exhaling through the nose. Since then, many different models of salt pipes or salt inhalers have been developed worldwide.
Offering short time exposure and direct involvement of the user, these hand-held devices are recommended alone only in mild respiratory conditions, or complementary to the longer exposure devices or salt rooms.
In 2008, the next in home salt therapy device – the ultrasonic salinizer Saltair – was developed in Canada, by Halosense Inc, trying to fulfill the need for a more convenient, inexpensive and effective device.
Saltair device uses saline solution made with natural rock salt to replicate the seashore or speleotherapy aerosol, right in the comfort of your home.
The device is able to deliver salt aerosol with particles under 2 microns, majority under 1 micron. These particles are released into the indoor air and freely breathe during the night, offering 7-8 hours daily exposure, so important in chronic respiratory diseases. The longer exposure, the better results are achieved, so using the device during the day as well or using other complementary salt therapy products is highly recommended.
A word about SALT
Sodium chloride, also known as salt, rock salt or mineral halite, is an ionic compound with the formula NaCl. Sodium chloride is the salt most responsible for the salinity of the ocean and is part of our fluids, such as blood, sweat and tears.
Salt is vital for our health. Right now, you have around 250 grams of salt – about a cupful – working for keeping you alive. Without enough of it, muscles will not contract, blood will not circulate, food will not digest, and the heart will not beat.
The two elements of salt – sodium and chloride – play a variety of very important and crucial roles in our bodies as maintaining the balance of our fluids, which carry oxygen and nutrients.
Salt is also known having bactericide, anti inflammatory, mucolytic and hydrophilic properties. In our respiratory system, salt is helping in killing bacteria, reducing inflammation, breaking down the mucus and humidifying the respiratory mucosa.
Long term exposure using home salt therapy devices showed benefits as:
– Improves the quality of the patient’s life, by breathing easier and diminishes the rate of annual hospitalizations and symptomatic medication
– has no risk, is affordable and adapted to the living space
– quality of sleep is evidently improved
– nasal obstruction and sneezing are evidently improved
– Headache in sinusitis is improved
– Sputum is much easily eliminated and breathing is highly improved
– Less colds / flu occurrence or much easily overcome
– Desensitization of the respiratory mucosa to specific allergens and triggers, with at least 2 years salt therapy exposure
There are many clinical studies for salt therapy / halotherapy / speleotherapy published on PubMed.gov – U.S. National Library of Medicine, from the National Institutes of Health and in Speleotherapy International Symposium.
What these clinical studies state?
• Halotherapy resulted in improvements of clinical state in most of the patients with various types of respiratory diseases. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10161255)
• Halotherapy was found effective in the treatment of acute purulent maxillary sinusitis without puncture. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13677023)
• The addition of halotherapy promoted correction of the disorders and improvement of chronic bronchitis course. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11210350)
• Halotherapy proved to be a highly effective method in patients with chronic bronchitis – promotes more rapid liquidation of clinical manifestations of disease, improves indices of vent function of lungs, increases tolerance to physical load… (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10439712)
• Halotherapy is recommended for use in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases with hypertension or coronary heart disease. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9424823)
NB: The author grants reprint permission to opt-in publications and websites so long as the copyright and by-line are included intact and the article is not used in spam.