Salt Caves: A Relaxing Way to Improve Your Skin + Respiratory Health
Himalayan salt has been popular for quite a while. We sprinkle this pink, mineral-rich salt on our food and sleep and work next to Himalayan salt lamps, which emit a glowy pink light and claim to purify the air and promote better health.
Those are just two examples of how you can take advantage of Himalayan salt’s healthy properties. But did you know that you can also sit in a room made entirely of Himalayan salt? It’s true. These rooms are called salt caves, and they’re a lot more than just a trendy spa experience.
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What the heck is a salt cave?
A “salt cave” might sound a bit strange — like something you only encounter in far off exotic destinations — but they’re actually popping up in spas and wellness centers all over the country. That said, salt caves aren’t a new phenomenon. In fact, they originated in the 1800s when a polish doctor noted that salt mine workers had better respiratory health than other types of miners. Salt caves are extremely popular in Eastern Europe and now, they are becoming more popular in the U.S.
The benefits of salt caves, which we’ll talk about a little further on in this article, are thanks to the minerals found in salt. Salt caves create an environment where you actually breathe salt particles and minerals into your lungs. It’s also thought that the topical exposure to minerals you get in a salt cave can benefit you as well.
What is the research on salt caves?
If you’re reading the above and your first question is “What does the research say?”, I’m glad you asked! Research has been done on salt caves and although the studies are pretty old (mostly from the 1950s and 1960s) it does reveal some interesting benefits. For example:
1. Improved respiratory health
We’ve all been thinking a lot about respiratory health this year and studies have shown that salt caves have anti-inflammatory properties that can lower inflammation in the lungs and improve issues like asthma. (1)
2. Improved skin health
Studies have shown that salt therapy may help people with inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. For example, one study showed that taking four salt baths per week led to almost complete relief from symptoms of psoriasis in 3 weeks. (2)
3. Improved mood
There’s isn’t much research on this benefit, but it’s thought that the negative ions in salt caves can boost levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is known as the happiness chemical and can improve mood and anxiety levels.
These studies are preliminary, so there’s still a lot more to learn about the long-term uses of sea salt — but they do suggest some interesting benefits. Salt therapy is also extremely safe, so if you’re interested in trying it out there doesn’t seem to be any harm!
Are there different types of salt caves?
Salt caves may provide some interesting benefits but how do they work? According to the Salt Therapy Association (3), there are two types of salt therapy. The first is speleotherapy, which is when you enter a natural cave environment below the Earth’s surface. With speleotherapy, you can take advantage of the cave’s climate conditions and salt air. The second type is halotherapy, which involves a man-made environment that uses special equipment to disperse dry salt aerosol throughout the room.
Halotherapy, which is what we’re confusing in this article, can be broken down into “active” and “passive” salt caves. Active salt caves use a halogenerator to disperse salt particles in the air throughout the room. Passive salt caves don’t disperse any salt particles and instead, the floors, walls, and ceiling of the room is simply covered with Himalayan or Dead Sea salt. And while passive salt caves are still technically considered “halotherapy”, attempting to recreate the natural cave environment found in speleotherapy is extremely difficult and it will never be quite the same.
At the end of the day, salt caves are an interesting therapy that’s been used for decades in certain parts of the world. And while it’s no silver bullet for perfect skin or overall health, it is something that may be worth trying out for general health and wellness.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
- Lăzărescu H, Simionca I, Hoteteu M, Mirescu L. Speleotherapy - modern bio-medical perspectives. J Med Life. 2014;7 Spec No. 2(Spec Iss 2):76-79.
- Proksch E, Nissen HP, Bremgartner M, Urquhart C. Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin. Int J Dermatol. 2005 Feb;44(2):151-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2005.02079.x. PMID: 15689218.
- Salt Therapy Members Directory - Find Salt Therapy Members - Salt Therapy Association. Salt Therapy Association. https://www.salttherapyassociation.org/. Accessed November 19, 2020.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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