Are Salt Rooms New Age?

A salt room in Orlando

A salt room in Orlando

MA asks: “Are salt rooms New Age?”

No, but they’re not known to be very efficacious either.

The idea originated from the naturally occurring salt caves in Europe which are said to improve allergy symptoms, asthma and some skin conditions.

Sometimes called halotherapy chambers, they’ve sprung up across the US in cities such as New York, Orlando, Chicago and Los Angeles. The rooms have salt-coated walls and ceilings with loose grains scattered a few inches deep on the floor. The salt is supposedly pure, coming from caves in the Ukraine and other natural mines.

Some chambers use machines that grind the salt into powdery flecks that are then blown into the air and inhaled.

People are fully clothed while using the chambers or can don a robe and slippers if they prefer.

A one-hour session for an adult in an Orlando salt room costs $45. Another location charges $100 for a private room with a television.

Salt inhalation therapy is considered an alternative method and has little clinical study to back up its claims.

“English-language studies on salt rooms are rare,” says this report by the Wall Street Journal. “Often quoted by salt rooms as evidence of their efficacy is a landmark New England Journal of Medicine study that found improvement in cystic-fibrosis symptoms from salt therapy. But the study used a handheld nebulizer twice daily to deliver a concentrated salt mist into the mouth, and the results don’t apply to salt rooms, says Australian scientist Mark R. Elkins, the lead author of the 2006 paper.”

Springfield, N.J., allergist Leonard Bielory, chairman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s integrative-medicine committee, says it’s logical that salt rooms could help a variety of respiratory conditions—but probably only in the short term. “It’s like a massage,” he says. “Great while you get it but after that [the benefit is] gone.”

However, doctors such as Dr. Bielory warn that salt rooms can aggravate asthma because salt is an irritant that could cause airways to constrict.

While salt rooms are not New Age, they are not very well-studied and should be used with caution.


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