An increasing number of spas have installed salt caves in recent years. Featuring walls and ceilings encrusted with natural salt (often Himalayan), and fashioned to resemble cozy caves, the rooms typically feature soothing lighting and comfortable seating or massage tables. Some additionally boast floor “pebbles” and ceiling “stalactites” of salt.

Salt Therapy History

In the 19th century, European salt mine workers were found to have healthier-than-average respiratory systems. Doctors took note. Before long, therapeutic grottoes were carved into these salt-rich formations, and patients with respiratory illnesses were sent to salt caves to recover.

Today, many Europeans actually have their visits to salt cave facilities medically insured. In the U.S., spas are on the forefront of introducing salt cave benefits to the general public.

Why it Works

Unlike table salt, Himalayan salt has not been chemically altered and is rich in minerals. Researchers have determined that its famous “drawing” powers attracts moisture into the respiratory system. This action thins mucus — a culprit in many health problems.

For this reason, salt caves may at least temporarily relieve symptoms of a range of ailments, including asthma, chronic sinusitis and cystic fibrosis.

Additional Benefits

Proponents of salt caves theorize that visitors feel so much better after a cave session in part because of the negative ions in natural salt, which help filter air pollutants. Treatments may even boost serotonin levels, resulting in better moods and higher energy.

In addition, visitors absorb salt’s high mineral content. Mineral deficiency is associated with dental and skin issues. Mineral absorption may explain why people with psoriasis, for example, find relief from salt caves — along with the salt’s aforementioned ability to attract moisture to skin cells.

Proceed With Caution

If you have asthma or other breathing issues, make your first salt cave experience a brief one, and talk to your doctor first. Some people may find that salt particles irritate, rather than soothe, their lungs.