There’s a wonderful world of alternative therapies out there just waiting to be discovered. This month, we shine a light on halotherapy
You may think that salt is just for seasoning, but this mineral actually has a wide range of benefits away from the dining room table. Halotherapy, which is also known as salt therapy (halo is the Greek word for salt), simply involves breathing in salty air. While this may sound a little strange, it has actually been used as a treatment since Greek and Roman times when Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, praised its uses and people bathed in warm salt water to relax and to heal various skin complaints.
In 1843, further benefits of this mineral were recognised by science when Polish physician Felix Boczkowski studied men working in salt mines and found that they rarely suffered from respiratory problems, due to the fact that they were unintentionally inhaling the rock. This led to the first halotherapy therapeutic spa being developed in the country and it has been popular in eastern Europe ever since.
Nowadays the word has spread, and spas around the world offer this therapy as a treatment for everything from allergies and eczema to asthma and cystic fibrosis – and even if you don’t suffer from such conditions, there are still advantages to be had. Halotherapy improves skin issues such as acne and psoriasis as the pure mineral salts have natural moisturising properties which support your skin’s barrier function. There’s yet more good news, as salt produces negative ions which have been shown to reduce stress, headaches and depression, as well as helping you sleep better. You may wonder why a trip to the coast wouldn’t have the same effect, but the concentration of particles in halotherapy is about 10 to 15 times that which is found by the sea, meaning that a 45-minute session is the equivalent of three days at the beach.
While many spas offer halotherapy, you could also try it at a dedicated speleotherapy centre, such as The Salt Cave (saltcave.co.uk), which has various locations across the UK.
Salt steam rooms can be a single facility in a small spa, or part of a thermal suite in a larger spa. These are heated to a milder temperature than a sauna, meaning that you can spend a longer time in the room and won’t need to leave to cool down. Salty air is pumped into the area, so all you need to do is simply lie back, relax and breathe in the therapeutic steam. You may experience some small side effects, such as a cough (as the salt loosens mucus from your lungs) – and remember to rinse your swimsuit after your visit is over as the salt could make the colour fade.
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