Originally Posted HERE
Brie Schwartz | Oct 18, 2018
Weird or Wellness is an OprahMag.com series where staffers answer the question: Do we really need the “woo-woo” fads we keep seeing on social media in our self-care routines? We put buzzy treatments from halotherapy to facial yoga to the test so you don’t have to—all in the name of living your best life.
I love salt. I’ve been known to salt soy sauce…and apples (it’s a thing). I love salt so much it got a shout out in my wedding vows. So I thought the next logical way to express my adoration would be to spend an hour sitting in a room made entirely of this magical mineral.
Salt caves, or designated areas of spas designed to look like you’re in a mystical mine, have been on the rise since 2013 when intrepid business folks realized there was a market here for the popular European trend (and that they weren’t terribly expensive to implement).
The idea is that you sit in an enclosure while a machine called a halogenerator mists pure-grade sodium chloride particles into the room. According to Leo Tonkin, the founder and director of the Salt Therapy Association, breathing in these anti-bacterial “microns” can help keep a virus from spreading, treat allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis, sinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even jet lag.
I find nothing less relaxing than the prospect of having to relax.
How so? Taz Bhatia, MD, integrative health expert and author of Super Woman Rx, explains that the salt particles loosen mucus and decrease inflammation. Yum. She also adds that dry salt therapy can “improve your mood and energy,” too.
In order to test these claims on my own slight case of the sniffles, I spent 45 minutes inside one of these salt chambers. But all I walked away with was a few Boomerangs and some major anxiety.
To be fair, the salt room I had the honor of palpitating in at Modrn Sanctuary in New York was a literal dream. Before setting out, I was anxious that I’d be chilling in a dank cave—the kind your family drags you to on spring break to stare at stalactites when you really just want to be on a beach like the popular kids. But, I figured that regardless of the surroundings, I’d go in with an open mind in an attempt to clear my head and my sinuses.
Instead of a moldy cavern, I entered a pink oasis with floor-to-ceiling backlit Himalayan salt walls, soft floors to bury my toes in, and plush chairs so comfortable I would have stolen one if I didn’t live in a studio apartment.
Oh, and it smells how I imagine Natasha Richardson in the Parent Trap would—like a clean hotel infused with white jasmine that you can’t afford to stay in. I find nothing less relaxing than the prospect of having to relax, however, so alone in that exquisite place with surfaces so savory I almost licked them, all I could think about was work. And cheese fries.
After, say, 16 minutes, when I finally put my phone down, I could feel the halogenerator cooking. The warm salt particles started touching my lips and with every (shallow) breath, it was as if I was inhaling the essence of organic popcorn. Similar to how post-nasal drip lingers in the back of your throat, the microns migrated through me and I could feel them “working” as I swallowed. Or, at least I was willing myself to believe that because I had nothing else going on.
After Alexandra Janelli, the founder of Modrn Sanctuary, instructed me to wiggle my toes into the chalky floor or to roll around in what seemed like the (sanitary) basement of a fish tank, I decided to lean into the experience. But a hot-second into rubbing the chalky salt residue into my skin (purportedly to help with psoriasis and eczema, which I don’t have), I got obsessed with thinking how much better this experience would be if someone handed me a martini.
Clearly, the meditative aspect wasn’t for me, but the fanciful walls serve more as a pretty placebo, Tonkin says. He assured me that the physical healing powers come from the halogenerator, not the décor, which is there for mentally therapeutic reasons.
Though halotherapy is widely respected in Europe as more than just something for millennials to toss money at (it me), few U.S. studies point at demonstrated clinical significance. “There have been some abstracts but not many doctors have done the research here, unlike in Poland, parts of Russia, Finland, Estonia, and Canada, where insurance even covers part of the treatment,” Tonkin explains.
However, he predicts that as more and more of us start seeking alternative medicine, we’ll likely see salt therapy rise in popularity in the way that acupuncture is now considered normcore.
Why the pendulum shift? “Wellness is now a powerful movement fueled by frustrations with the current medical model, the desire to have non-prescription options for care, and the urge to have quality, not just quantity of life,” Tonkin says. “Many millennials have watched their parents age poorly while our 55-plus generation simply wants to live the rest of their years empowered and vital.”
And me? I just wanted to see if the salt could dry up my sniffles. (It did not.)
Though I was still snotty a day later, it was nice to inhale purified air for a while. I felt like I was doing something productive while literally doing nothing, which is kind of, like, #LifeGoals. If you need a small win (or have respiratory issues), I would absolutely suggest finding yourself a nearby salt cave to putter around in. You’ve got nothing to lose—besides $30 bucks.