Salt therapy, also known as speleotherapy and halotherapy, can be traced back to 1845, when Polish physician Dr. Felix Boczkowski discovered that salt miners rarely, if ever, suffered from respiratory diseases. This was ultimately attributed to their inhalation of salt, and it eventually resulted in salt mountains being carved out hundreds of feet underground, called “salt sanatoriums,” throughout Central and Eastern Europe. In the 150 years since, the modality has been used regularly—even registered as part of the medical systems in Romania and Russia—as people recognized the benefits of breathing dry, salt-infused air. Although fairly new to the U.S. and Canada, halotherapy is becoming increasingly popular as part of a holistic wellness regimen—and spas are taking note.
There are numerous reasons to implement halotherapy, as salt contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, mucolytic and hydrophilic properties, especially pertaining to the respiratory system, helping to break down mucus and humidify the body’s respiratory mucosa. Salt is also vital for good health; in fact, the body contains about a cupful at all times. Salt helps maintain the body’s fluid balance to distribute oxygen and nutrients, allowing muscles to contract; maintaining circulation, energy and blood sugar levels; affecting cell activity; helping to digest food; and supporting a healthy heart.
The inhalation of fine salt rock and negative sodium chloride ions, aka speleotherapy or cave therapy, is especially recommended for clients with asthma, lung diseases and allergies. A complete treatment would require breathing in sodium chloride for at least four hours a day for 10 to 12 days, and repeating this two to three times a year.
Goldie Bonnell, international training manager for ESPA in the Americas, has more than 25 years of experience in the skincare and wellness industries. She has designed programs and client treatments for numerous spas and is a featured speaker at industry trade shows.