Your nose is stuffy. You’ve got a wet cough. You’re pretty sure you’re coming down with a cold. Rather than heading straight to bed, though, you decide to head to your favorite spa — only this time, you don’t book a session on the massage table. Instead, you check into a soft-lit room where every surface is lined with slabs of … salt. Fine salt particles waft through the air. You sink into a lounge chair, close your eyes, and take a deep, briny breath.
Halotherapy, or salt therapy, is a spa trend imported from Eastern Europe, where its roots date back to the 19th century. That’s when a Polish doctor noticed that workers in salt mines — unlike other miners — didn’t experience any respiratory problems. The key to their health: the salt itself, which is purported to reduce symptoms of lung conditions like COPD, asthma, allergies and bronchitis, as well as skin issues such as eczema, acne and psoriasis. The evidence for these claims is thin but promising, with a handful of small studies suggesting that salt therapy could reduce inflammation, thin out mucous, improve immune function, and confer other therapeutic benefits. (Still, some doctors remain skeptical and there are no medical guidelines for using salt therapy to treat health conditions.)
Some halotherapy fans, though, just find it mentally restorative — like inhaling lungfuls of salty ocean air or relaxing in a giant bath of Epsom salts. At the very least, it’s a great way to sneak in a much-needed nap. And hopefully wake up breathing a little bit easier.
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