Salt therapy – All you need to know

Salt therapy is getting a lot of attention lately – and potentially for good reason. Spending time in a salt cave is said to have skin and respiratory benefits, and it may help with stress and anxiety, too.
Hearing of a therapy that could benefit both body and mind is sometimes all it takes to pique our interest, so of course we're feeling compelled to dig a bit deeper into salt therapy. Especially since we could all use a bit of help in the stress department these days. Skeptical yet still interested, we are desperate to know: does salt therapy actually have healing benefits? And if, so how does this all work? Here’s what we learned after reaching out to some experts.

What is salt therapy?
More formally known as halotherapy, salt therapy is a treatment that’s said to benefit the body in all sorts of ways through inhaling salty air. Typically, you can accomplish this by sitting in a salt cave or spa where salty air is dispersed through a machine called a halogenerator.
The halogenerator breaks down pharmaceutical grade sodium chloride into microscopic particles. The results are unproven, mind you, but in theory here's how it's supposed to work: When inhaled, these minuscule salt particles are practically invisible, being only one or two microns in size, and so act as a [bronchodilator] making breathing easier and improving lung function.

The benefits of salt therapy
The science of salt therapy is definitely limited at this point. In fact, many medical experts are quick to highlight that there are no evidence-based findings to support most benefits associated with salt therapy. But this doesn't necessarily mean they don't recommend salt therapy or that they find it unsafe.
The exact mechanism is unknown, and most studies are anecdotal and based on patient perception of symptoms. That said, we know it helps with many forms of respiratory inflammation, and therefore will enable individuals to take fuller, deeper breaths.
Deep breathing helps with anxiety through stimulating the vagus nerve, which is known for activating the parasympathetic nervous system that helps us relax. Deep breathing also increases alpha wave brain activity, which is associated with calmness and alertness. So, there's hope salt therapy can help us feel a bit less anxious.

Is it safe to try salt therapy at home?
There aren't evidence-based benefits for Himalayan salt lamps, air salinizers, or other home salt therapy methods, but it's still safe to use halotherapy at home in most instances. The therapy is helpful in reducing inflammation and clearing mucus, thereby opening your airway passages.

Who shouldn't try salt therapy?
Salt therapy is not recommended for people with contagious diseases, open wounds, severe hypertension, chronic kidney disease, fever, mental disorders, or active tuberculosis. It can be safe for people with asthma and some other pulmonary conditions, but there are no medical or scientific guidelines for halotherapy. Halotherapy also is not recommended for people with late-stage lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Practicing salt therapy at home
If you're thinking of trying salt therapy at home, here are three different methods you may want to consider:

1. Light some Himalayan salt lamps
Himalayan salt lamps are a relatively affordable option. Though Himalayan salt lamps only produce beneficial negative ions when heated to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can't achieve in your home. That said, this could still be a good option if you're in search of something aesthetically pleasing that's relaxing to look at.

2. Treat yourself to an air salinizer
An air salinizer releases tiny salt particles in the air in an attempt to mimic the environment of a salt cave. This is most-likely not as effective as a halogenerator. It is used for a simpler home treatment. Be sure the air salinizer uses sodium chloride (preferably pharmaceutical grade).

3. Build an at-home salt therapy booth
Installing an at-home salt therapy booth that uses a halogenerator is the only way to get the benefits offered by a commercial salt cave, our experts tell us. A room full of Himalayan salt bricks or panels won't necessarily do the trick.
The booths need to be air-tight and have the necessary ventilation, humidity level controls and purification systems to ensure effectiveness and safety. Being coated with salt on your skin or clothing is not a sign that the home salt therapy booth is necessarily offering respiratory treatments. That merely shows that the size of the salt particles are too large to get deep into the lungs and bronchial passages. The salt on the skin though is terrific for skin health.