by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Today it seems that more and more people have allergies, sinus infections and middle ear infections than ever before. Typically doctors prescribe antibiotics and other drugs to treat these conditions. Unfortunately, these drugs often can be ototoxic.
To make matters worse, these conditions tend to recur so these drugs are prescribed over and over again.
As people are becoming more aware of the ototoxic properties of antibiotics and other drugs, they ask me what they can do/take to get rid of these infections/conditions without the risk of ototoxic side effects such as hearing loss and tinnitus.
Recently I came across information on a natural therapy that is not ototoxic and apparently works for many people. It goes by various names such as “salt therapy”, “halotherapy” and “speleotherapy”.
Did you ever notice when you go to the beach, especially when the wind is blowing and thus the waves are pounding the surf, the invigorating salt air really cleans out your sinuses? That is the essence of salt therapy.
Although known in ancient and medieval times, salt therapy had its modern beginnings in the mid 18th century when Dr. Feliks Boczkowski noticed that workers in the Polish salt mine at Wielezka did not suffer from lung diseases. As a result, he wrote a book about the benefits of salt dust back in 1843. His successor, M. Poljakowski set up a salt spa at Velicko, near Krakow, (that is still in operation) based on these observations. From this beginning, salt spas soon sprung up throughout many eastern European countries.
The original spas were actually salt caves or grottos and salt rooms in working salt mines. Treatment consisted of spending some time in these salt rooms breathing the salt-laden air. This form of salt therapy is called speleotherapy from the Greek word “speleos” – “cave”.
Since not everyone lived near salt mines or salt caves, some entrepreneurs mined big blocks of salt and set up artificial salt caves (rooms) where people could come and breathe the salt-laden air given off from these blocks of salt.
A later development were salt rooms—rooms that were coated in several layers of salt—plus a salt-dust generator that blew finely crushed dry salt dust into the air. This treatment is called halotherapy from “halos” the Greek word for salt.
To be effective the salt particles in the air must be exceedingly small (0.3 – 0.5 microns) so they can reach the deepest/smallest recesses in the lungs, sinuses and other parts of the respiratory tract.
Salt therapy works because salt is a natural preservative and disinfectant. When you breathe in this microscopic natural salt dust it dries up and disinfects the mucous membranes in your sinuses and lungs, and even in your Eustachian tubes and middle ears.
Not only does salt therapy kill the pathogens causing your sinus infections, it also shrinks the mucous membranes so you can breathe easier. Thus, it can be a boon to people with sinus problems, allergies, asthma, middle ear infections and related conditions.
Although salt therapy is quite common in eastern Europe, it has been slow to catch on here in the USA, but that is changing. For example, there are now salt rooms in Encino, CA and Naples, FL (and in Kitchener and London, Ontario for Canadians) to name some of them.
If you want to learn more about salt therapy and how it might help you, here are some links to get you started.
General articles on salt therapy:
Locations of some “Salt Rooms” in the USA and Canada (from one salt room manufacturer). You can find the locations of these current “Salt Rooms” in the USA and Canada here.