Fla. ó Dianne Duvall lay in a recliner, the room awash in
dim blue light, and took breath after breath of salty air.
her, the walls were lined with of chunks of salt. Beneath her,
the floor was covered with salt pebbles.
is a customer at a new kind of spa that proponents say
relieves ailments from emphysema to psoriasis. Itís called
halotherapy, or salt therapy.
peaceful, very serene, and you can feel itís drying you up
so that you cannot have a runny nose," said Duvall, a
real-estate agent who suffers from allergies.
many customers such as Duvall swear by salt therapy, the
medical community is not sold on it.
Norman Edelman, senior scientific adviser to the American Lung
Association, said the salt particles in therapy rooms are too
big to be inhaled deeply into the lungs, but breathing them
does loosen mucus and promote coughing, which may make some
patients feel better.
he doesnít recommend the therapy or think it helps a lot of
people. Nor is it regulated or covered by health insurance. A
single 45-minute session is $49 for an adult at The Salt
Scene, where Duvall goes, and $45 at The Salt Room, although
both offer packages and memberships.
anything we do in medicine, there is always a huge placebo
effect, especially in asthma," said Edelman, a professor
at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in internal
and pulmonary medicine.
are three salt spas in the Orlando area. The newest is The
Salt Scene, which opened in July.
Rupal Thakkar began taking her then-toddler daughter to The
Salt Room in Orlando about four years ago. Her pediatrician
was skeptical, but Thakkar was so impressed with the
improvement in her daughterís eczema that she decided to
open her own salt-therapy business closer to home.
of having her on meds for a lifetime, Iím able to control
her symptoms," said Thakkar, a dentist who maintains a
dental practice in the same shopping center as The Salt Scene.
healing power of salt was touted centuries ago in Greece and
at the Dead Sea. The modern salt spa became possible when a
machine to crush and disperse salt particles was invented in
1985 in Russia, where doctors used it to treat respiratory
conditions, said ‹lle Pukk, co-founder of the Salt Therapy
Association in Boca Raton.
U.S., one of the first salt spas was built in the Chicago
suburb of Skokie in 2006, owner Isabella Samovsky said. The
U.S. has more than 125 salt-therapy businesses, according to
the Salt Therapy Association. Salt rooms also can be found in
Eastern Europe, Israel, Canada and Australia and on two
Norwegian Cruise Lines ships, including the Getaway, which
began sailing out of Miami last year.
salt-therapy experience is meant to mimic the environment of
salt caves, only with considerably more modern spa amenities
and a New Age vibe.
salt-room session, a client reclines, feet elevated, in a
"zero-gravity" chair designed to reduce stress on
the spine and impart a sense of weightlessness.
generator pulverizes pharmaceutical-grade salt, blowing tiny
particles into the room, said Ashley Steiner, a former
third-grade teacher who owns The Salt Room, which is
celebrating its fifth anniversary.
people read, meditate or doze, while others listen to soothing
music. Many prefer subdued lighting.
is antibacterial and antimicrobial, and it helps open the
airways and reduce any congestion," said Steiner, who is
on the board of the Salt Therapy Association.
scant studies have examined the practice, the New England
Journal of Medicine in 2006 concluded that inhaling saline can
improve lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.
speech pathologist Nancy Stone has gone to The Salt Room for
several years to get relief from her cystic fibrosis.
can take deeper breaths, and it helps me cough," Stone
said. "Itís such an uplifting place, and the people
here are so positive."
Osborne said her 4-year-old daughter, Stella, had recurrent
ear infections before she started going to The Salt Room about
a year ago. On a recent day Stella cooked pretend chicken soup
on a play stove, colored and dug in the salt in the childrenís
worked beautifully," Osborne said. "To have your
child not be sick, you canít put a dollar value on
Kao, an internist, allergist and immunologist who teaches at
the University of South Carolina, said heís unaware of any
benefit ó or harm ó from salt rooms, although he said heís
not sure why soaking in an Epsom-salt bath or relaxing at the
beach wouldnít have a similar effect at a much lower cost.
if youíre going in there pessimistically, sitting in a
comfortable chair in a very quiet room is probably very
calming," Kao said.