Salt has always been a welcome part of my diet. I grew up in a family that thrives on it and somehow our blood pressure is moderately under control.
But never did I think salt would be as important in my beauty and health routines as it is in my kitchen. From using it as an exfoliant to breathing it in, the salt fad started from the bottom of our tubs and has been sprinkled all throughout the health conscious world.
My grandma is the little old lady in the Frank’s Red Hot commercial when it comes to salt – she puts that sh*t on everything.
“People are more open to listening to their bodies,” says the owner of South Florida’s The Salt Suite, Jessica Helmer, on the rise of salt therapy. “People are noticing the side effects of their medications. I think people are looking for natural alternatives.”
The concept of salt therapy – or halotherapy – originated in the 1800s when salt cave miners never got sick, and the only plausible reason was because of their exposure to the climate. The dry, salty air is ideal for those with conditions including allergies and asthma, as well as helps with endurance and stamina, as it opens the lungs by creating an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory environment.
Don’t worry though – today’s salt therapy is much more chic than cave mining.
“It’s a room covered in salt,” says Helmer. “The room creates an antibacterial and sterile environment; salt is naturally an antibacterial. It’s a dry environment. The humidity is around 40 to 50 percent, which is a huge factor. And then we have a machine called a salt generator that grinds the salt into microscopic particles.”
When you show up to a therapy session (about 15 minutes early), you remove your shoes down to your socks or may be asked to put covers over your feet. Then, you enter the salt sanctuary. There, you’ll sit in a reclining chair and put on a pair of headphones.
Depending on where you go, you’ll have a different soundtrack. Sometimes you’ll listen to soothing music featuring alpha waves. Alpha waves interact with your brain waves and help induce a deeper relaxation and meditation. At other places, like The Salt Suite, you’re given a choice of spa music, guided meditation or breathing work.
All of this is great for those who are worn down by stress. “People usually get sick and their allergies act up when their bodies are under stress,” explains Helmer. “It’s a way to balance your lifestyle. With studying, it clears your head, helps you sleep better. You can do homework in there or study, if you wanted, but most people fall asleep.”
As you sit in the cool, dim room (definitely bring a sweater in case blankets aren’t available) and slip into a state of relaxation, you’ll really begin to notice the difference of the air. The air is not as “smooth” because of the microscopic particles of medical grade salt floating. This can cause your nasal passages and throat to get slightly dry from the salt in the air, so don’t be embarrassed if you cough. Simply step out for water out of respect for other visitors, if it becomes excessive.
Try breathing solely through your nose or mouth, then try inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Find what is most comfortable for you and enjoy the session, which will probably be around 50 minutes long.
Afterwards, you may feel dried out, but after rehydrating, you should notice a change either immediately or after acclimating. Your breathing may feel easier and your lungs cleaner, but results are different for everyone.
However, going to a salt sanctuary isn’t your only therapy option. Right at home, you can implement simple techniques.
Himalayan salt lamps are becoming more common in bedroom decor even as they fall under scrutiny. These lamps supposedly soak up the positive ions in the air and gently warm the salt to release negative ions to help you sleep better and expel mold and pet dander from the air.
Helmer says, “A positive ion would be your laptop, your TV, electronics and things like that. Negative ions are created by natural atmospheres. So, waves crashing at the ocean, waterfalls, mountain air. Those lamps are meant to create one of those environments.”
And don’t think we’re above salt baths. Epsom salt – which you can find right in the grocery store – in a warm bath is said to pull toxins from the body while soothing muscles. This is great for athletes who put their bodies through a lot of training and need time to restore, as well as those with skin conditions as it helps exfoliate and relieve inflammation.
So, whether allergy season is a year-round struggle or you’re looking for an escape to detox your mind and body, salt therapy is definitely worth a try.
Featured image by Alexis Paige