What is Halotherapy and Are There Potential Benefits?


 by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

The origins of halotherapy can be traced back to the medieval era, but with scientific advancements, researchers have recently started studying it much more closely.

Halotherapy is an alternative treatment where one breathes in salty air. Advocates of this method have claimed that it can resolve respiratory issues like bronchitis, allergies, and asthma.

There have been other claims that champion halotherapy as a measure against:

  • Easing smoking-related symptoms
  • Treating anxiety and depression
  • Improving skin issues like eczema and psoriasis

I don’t know about you, but the talk of medieval times, a mystifying type of therapy, and breathing in salty air raises my BS meter. But let’s give it a chance, dive a little deeper into the topic, and see what the research has to say.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your health regimen.

The History of Halotherapy

In the 12th century, the practice of speleotherapy, or visiting salt caves for therapeutic reasons, was commonplace in Eastern Europe. However, it was in the 1800s that a more modern version of what is now known as halotherapy emerged because of Polish salt miners. Despite spending long hours in mines, these workers exhibited exceptional health, free from respiratory conditions. Their immunity to common colds and coughs intrigued researchers.

Further investigation revealed that the miners’ daily exposure to salty air played a pivotal role in maintaining their respiratory health. The salt-laden atmosphere in the mines helped keep their lungs clear of infections and allergies. Over time, Eastern European salt mines and caves gained recognition as not just industrial sites but also as health-promoting destinations. People from various parts of the world began visiting these salt caves to inhale the salty air, seeking relief from respiratory ailments and contributing to the development of halotherapy as a recognized alternative therapy.

The Halotherapy Methods in Practice

Here are the halotherapy methods in vogue.

1.   Dry Method

The dry method is carried out in a dry artificial salt cave that is devoid of humidity. The temperature is usually set at 68 degrees or lower, and the sessions usually last for about 35 to 40 minutes.

With the help of a halogenerator device, salt is released in a microscopic form in a room. The salt, once inhaled, helps in the absorption of irritants and allergens from the respiratory system. This process helps break up mucus and reduce inflammation.

The salt particles also help the skin in a similar fashion by absorbing bacteria that hamper the well-being of the skin. Salt also produces negative ions, which help the body by releasing serotonin, a chemical that is responsible for happiness.

2.   Wet Method

The wet methods of Halotherapy include:

  • Gargling with salt water
  • Drinking salt water
  • Bathing in salt water
  • Nasal irrigation with saltwater
  • Salt water-filled floatation tanks

What are the Benefits of Halotherapy?

Halotherapy has a plethora of benefits for the immune system. Below are five of the main benefits:

1.   Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a response to injury or infection. However, when the inflammation assumes a chronic presence, it can lead to autoimmune diseases and even cancer. Halotherapy has been shown to reduce inflammation in the respiratory system, which enhances immune functioning and overall health.

2.   Improve Respiratory Function

Halotherapy has also been demonstrated to improve respiratory function by removing mucus from the lungs and mitigating inflammation in the airways. This helps in the alleviation of problems like asthma.

According to a 2014 research, halotherapy is responsible for triggering anti-inflammatory reactions in people with bronchial asthma and chronic bronchitis. It also prevents respiratory infections and spikes the general health of the respiratory system.

3.   Support the Immune System

Halotherapy increases the production of white blood cells in the body, which helps counter inflammation and helps us fight against infections. By boosting the immune system, it also helps reduce the effects and severity posed by colds and flu on our bodies.

4.   Relieve Stress

Halotherapy has also provided a much-need answer to the modern problem of stress. When the body and the mind are under stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol. This hormone, in return, reduces the efficiency of our immune system.

By countering this process, halotherapy helps the body fight stress and the consequent effects that it has on the body.

5.   Enhance Skincare

Halotherapy has a huge impact on the human skin. The salt particles come in handy in the exfoliating of our skin and enhance its texture and appearance. Halotherapy also helps improve skin health by reducing inflammation and enabling better circulation.

Scientific Validity of Halotherapy

A lot is being studied about halotherapy, but if one study confirms its validity, the other study disproves it, which honestly seems like many therapy methods and practices these days.

For example, the study that talks about halotherapy being a resolution to asthma also has its counterpart in a 2001 review, which disproves it.

Another research from 2014 disagrees with the earlier findings that advocated the use of halotherapy for COPD treatment.

Therefore, physicians and researchers suggest that studies on halotherapy should be taken with a grain of salt as conclusive pieces of evidence are yet to be found to determine its absolute validity. Should you try it? Talk to your doctor about it and see if they believe it may be beneficial and worth a try.