Allergy, Eczema, Asthma, Skin Conditions | March 10, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
A gentle and non-invasive therapy, salt therapy is gaining popularity in Australia, USA, Europe, and Canada.
Salt therapy, also called halotherapy (‘halo’ in Greek means salt), is an alternative treatment consisting of inhalation of small salt particles in a controlled environment, with the aim of providing relief for respiratory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as improving skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.
Salt therapy is thought to originate in the salt caves of Eastern Europe dating back hundreds of years. Treatment in natural salt caves was popular in Eastern Europe to help relieve symptoms of chest conditions. The treatment was called speleotherapy (from speleo, cave in Greek). It was first described in 1843 by a Polish doctor, Dr Felix Boczkowski, who noticed that miners who worked in salt mines did not suffer from respiratory conditions that at the time were common to miners working in other types of mines.
The therapeutic effects were attributed to the unique environment inside the mines and the caves: stable air temperature, moderate to high humidity, the presence of minerals in the air including sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium, and a lack of pollution and allergens in the air.
Salt therapy is meant to artificially simulate the natural environment of the salt caves in above ground salt rooms at treatment centres. The first salt rooms were built in Russia in the 1990s.
The air in these specially designed salt chambers is purified of dust and allergens, and is kept at a controlled temperature of 18 - 22 °C with a constant humidity (between 50%–60%).
A salt generator, called halogenerator, usually disperses filtered air saturated with salt particles into the room. The patient sits in a comfortable armchair and relaxes while breathing in the small salt particles in the air. Quiet music may be played in the background. The therapy varies between treatment centres and the patient’s condition and age; it may consist of 10-25 treatments of 30-60 minutes each.
Salt is the main source of the mineral sodium in the diet. Sodium is vital in salt amounts for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction and for maintaining of fluid and electrolyte balance.
Prior to refrigeration, salt was used for food preservation and became a symbol for purity and integrity (“salt of the earth”).
Salt has been a part of medicine for centuries due to its antibacterial properties. In ancient Greece, a mixture of salt and honey was applied to skin lesions, drinking salty water was recommended for digestive problems, and inhalation of steam from salt water was used for respiratory diseases. Salt water gargling is still recommended these days to ease sore throat and for oral health.
Historically, sea air has been regarded as having healing powers, and doctors used to recommend their patients to go by the ocean for many different illnesses.
The main effect of salt inhalation on the respiratory system is to eliminate mucus by drawing water into the airways (a kind of a respiratory drainage), causing the mucus to dilute and dissolve.
As for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, owners of salt therapy rooms claim that exposing the skin to dry salt can help relieve irritated, dry, red, itchy, and flaky skin.
Many studies have shown that bathing in mineral-rich water such as Dead Sea water has healing properties for the skin. Certain minerals in the water, in particular sodium and magnesium, have been shown to penetrate the skin, improve skin barrier function and reduce inflammation.
Soaking in Epsom bath salts, commonly sold in pharmacies and health food stores, is popular for relaxation, for muscles and joints aches, and for psoriasis, eczema, and other skin conditions.
Lung Foundation Australia and Asthma Australia do not recommend salt therapy, stating that there is there is no science to support its benefits. In addition, there are no clear guidelines as to what the salt concentration should be, and it is not known what the optimum duration and number of treatments should be. On the other hand, some clinic owners claim that the effect is similar to how invigorated you feel after spending time near the ocean, and that one hour in the salt cave is said to equal about a day at the beach. Many users of salt therapy have noticed many short-term improvements in their condition, although it is unclear whether the treatment is effective over the long term.
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