The origin of salt therapy, known as halotherapy, dates back to the mid-19th century when it was used to relieve asthma, lung disease and allergies. This natural, non-invasive treatment is still used today to enhance health and well-being.
Inhaling the healing properties of salt can sometimes make halotherapy (‘halo’ is Greek for ‘salt’) a natural and healthy alternative to mainstream medicine. We are not talking about the heavily refined table salt here, but natural salt formed in salt caves that contains antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
In 1843, the Polish physician Dr Felix Botchkowski, noticed that salt miners at Wieliczka Salt Mine never suffered from lung diseases. In addition to having healthy lungs, the miners had supple skin, wounds healed quickly and colds were rare. Once the medical profession became aware of these benefits, patients with respiratory problems were successfully treated in salt caves. In 1958 the Wieliczka Salt Mine opened up the first salt health resort to the public. Thereafter healing salt caves were set up across Europe and today we have salt therapy rooms in South Africa.
HOW HALOTHERAPY WORKS
In a man-made salt cave, or chamber, halo-generators, or dry salt aerosol generators, are used to distribute ground-up salt particles into the air – this is the treatment officially known as halotherapy. The salt chambers have a soothing atmosphere, complete with low lighting, gentle, meditative music, and a comfortable temperature.
It is thought that halotherapy helps the cilia (hair-like projections that line the main airways of the lungs) to clear mucus and bacteria from the lungs as well as reducing inflammation and allergies of the airways. The treatment also kills bacteria and can even reach the deepest part of the lung, those tiny air sacs at the end of the smallest airways (the alveoli). The dry saline absorbs fluid from the mucosa lining the airways, helping to alleviate tightening of the chest and wheezing.
Athletes use halotherapy to reduce exercise induced inflammation of the lungs after a hard workout. Oxygen flow is also increased, which means the athlete can return to training sooner.
Note: During therapy, strenuous coughing occurs to expel mucus and relieve congestion, which raises blood pressure. If, therefore, you have high blood pressure, consult your health practitioner before embarking on a course of halotherapy.
Respiratory conditions treated with salt therapy:
- colds and flu
- emphysema sinusitis
- cystic fibrosis
Smooth and healthy skin
Those finely ground-up particles of natural salt that are distributed in the salt cave have both therapeutic and cosmetic benefits for your skin. When congestion and inflammation in the respiratory system are relieved, the level of oxygen in the circulatory system is increased, which benefits the skin’s subcutaneous layer. The salt encourages a healthy balance of good bacteria in the skin as well as balancing pH levels, thereby increasing elasticity and even improving hair health.
Skin conditions treated with halotherapy:
- fungal skin and nails
- allergic reactions
There is a certain chemistry behind halotherapy that ensures a sense of relaxation not only on a physical level but also on an emotional one. Salt is rich in negative ions – mood-boosting molecules which increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and induce a feeling of relaxation. Added to this is the peaceful design of the salt chamber where daily worries can be shrugged off.
HALOTHERAPY FOR CHILDREN
As a non-invasive complementary therapy, halotherapy is safe and effective for children. The little ones are totally unaware they are being ‘medicated’ as they passively inhale the healing micro-particles of salt in chambers specially adapted for them with toys and age-appropriate activities.
Halotherapy is a relatively new concept in our country. It is best understood as a therapy that may offer an alternative to conventional drugs, reducing the use of antibiotics, corticoids and steroids. Some patients may merely report a sense of relaxation while others report major benefits and a distinct improvement in quality of life.
SALT THERAPY ROOMS AROUND SOUTH AFRICA:
- Amani Spa, Johannesburg Tel: 011 245 8088 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.amanispas.co.za
- The Salt Cave, Johannesburg Tel: 0861SALTCAVE (0861 725 822) Email: email@example.com www.saltcave.co.za
- The Salt Grotto, Cape Town Tel: 021 930 2445 / 079 522 4641 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.saltgrotto.co.za