JB writes: “Salt inhalation therapy is reported to provide natural relief for allergies, asthma, and respiration conditions. A friend of mine had good results using a dry salt inhaler, and I have read many positive anecdotal reports about this. Is this a new age therapy?”
This therapy dates back to ancient times, and has been popular in Europe since the discovery of salt caves and underground caverns where a particular kind of salt crystal left behind by retreating glaciers can be found. Anecdotal evidence found that people who spent two or three hours in these underground caverns each day experienced relief from their respiratory troubles. Simulated “salt caves” sprang up all over Europe where this therapy, called halotherapy, became quite popular. It has only recently caught on in the U.S. where it is considered to be a complimentary therapy – meaning it is used in conjunction with other medical approaches.
According to this article appearing in The Guardian, “The supposed medical benefit comes from breathing in sodium chloride aerosol . . . . This mixes milled salt with a current of air. The theory is that by breathing this in, mucus in the respiratory tract is loosened and coughed up.”
For those who don’t have access to a salt mine (or have 2 -3 hours a day free to spend sitting in one), medical devices such as salt pipe inhalers were created to enable people to take advantage of the therapy. Hand-held salt pipes contain special dry salt crystals that are inhaled through a mouthpiece and exhaled through the nostrils. Salt crystal lamps that emit salt ions into the air can also be purchased.
According to Kathleen MacNaughton writing for HealthCenter, “Other forms of salt therapy include salt solutions that you drink, made with special forms of salt crystals (not just everyday table salt) and saline nebulizers, where a saline solution is turned into a fine mist that you breathe in through a tube from an ultrasonic salinizer device.”
Unfortunately, there is very little scientific evidence to support most of the claims made by purveyors of salt inhalation therapies and devices. As MacNaughton points out, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2006 suggesting that saline nebulizer therapy was a safe and effective additional treatment for cystic fibrosis patients who had used it for 48 weeks.
The Guardian article mentions a 1999 Lithuanian study of 250 children and 500 adults which found that salt therapy for an hour a day for two weeks improved respiratory results in nine out of 10 cases.
Otherwise, as MacNaughton claims, there is “a complete lack of scientific studies from reputable sources that prove this therapy works for all the conditions, including allergies, that are claimed. Many of the Web sites selling salt pipe inhalers claim there are studies, but don’t provide links to any of them.”
Being an allergy sufferer myself, I see nothing wrong with using a salt inhaler or salt lamp as a compliment to whatever treatments my doctor recommends.
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