Salt rooms are trending - here's why

*The newest wellness trend, in America? Salt room therapy. Here’s everything you need to know about this ancient alternative medicine that’s been used for over a millennial. * Halotherapy is derived from the Greek word halos, meaning “salt”. The first account of salt therapy can be attributed to Poland and dates as far back as the 12th century - coincidentally, salt caves are very prevalent in Europe.

According to the Salt Therapy Association, dry salt therapy originates from the salt mines and caves of Europe and Russia, where workers who were exposed to the dry air microparticules reported less respiratory issues. In 1949, after several studies, German physician D. K. H. Spannahel claims that according to his observations, people hiding in salt caves and mines during WWII had significant respiratory health benefits. Halotherapy was officially born.

So does breathing in the mineral – as opposed to eating it- therapeutic? There has been no conclusive clinical proof in the US yet – however a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that inhaling hypertonic saline improved lung function in people with cystic fibrosis. The Salt Therapy Association lists all the clinical studies written about the subject thus far.

Whitney Smith, Assistant Spa Director at Spa Avania at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, claims that they were the first resort in Arizona to build a salt room: “We researched what was new and cutting edge, so we started exploring halotherapy. That’s how we decided a year ago we wanted to have a salt room here. I think we are also the only one in the VALLEY to have a salt room and a halogenerator”.

Typically, a salt room consists of pink Himalayan salt bricks in lieu of walls, and the floor is covered with salt. A typical session can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, where the patient is exposed to the benefits of Himalayan salt. Some choose to sit on a reclined chair and nap, while others choose to meditate. At Spa Avania, a guest can choose to have a single or couples session. Beats by Dre headphones, magazines and ipads are provided. The lights can be dimmed to their liking, and one can choose to wear a robe or to expose their skin to the mineral, by sporting a bathing suit.

Whitney continues: “Himalayan salt produces negative ions, think cell phones and computers. These devices produce positive ions, so they cancel out these ions. Because of all the electronics we have nowadays, there are too many positive ions in the air. The Himalayan salt blocks all that, as the negative ions latch onto those and kind of cancel each other out. What comes out of our halogenerator is pharmaceutical-grade salt so it creates that really fine, dry salt mist, which people will inhale during their salt therapy session. This dry mist acts as a sponge and traps all the excess mucus, any allergens and anything in your respiratory system that shouldn’t be there… Salt is great for the skin as well. Also, salt is renowned for its antibacterial benefits which is worthy of interest for any people who suffer from skin conditions: psoriasis, eczema, etc. The walls are obviously beautiful to look at, but these salt bricks provide some never-ending benefits!”.

Salt therapy’s most notable benefits are allergy & asthma relief, an improved respiratory system and the reduction of sinusitis symptoms, the mucus is broken down and coughed up. The high mineral content of salt also improves skin health.

Other benefits according to various testimonies online include natural detoxification, increased energy, stress reduction and improved immune function. Everybody is aware of how soft our skin is after swimming in the ocean, or how the saline air opens up passageways. Well here’s some good news, should you not have access to the ocean: according to various reports online, one halotherapy session is the equivalent of spending 2-3 days by the sea. Plus, there are no known side effects! Fear not: if eating too much salt is linked to high blood pressure, salt therapy and its microparticules strictly enter the respiratory system- not the kidneys, liver or stomach, thus this 100% natural treatment is safe even for children.

“There have been studies that show that sitting in for an hour doesn’t give you any additional benefits than 30 minutes, hence why we offer short sessions. People can book it as a single or as a couple session, they can listen to relaxing music, etc. They also have the possibility of adding foot reflexology to the session while they are in the room. There really aren’t any counter indications to halotherapy… There haven’t been any studies conducted on pregnant ladies, that being said, we always ask that question prior to the treatment” explains the Assistant Spa Director.

As for myself: a 30 minute session cleared my nasal passages of a year old chronic case of sinusitis, even though I had been using a saline solution and a Neti pot, on a daily basis, as per my doctor’s orders…

A 30 minute session retails for $50 per person at Spa Avania.