May 22, 2022

Do Salt Rooms Really Offer Health Benefits?

Research is limited on whether halotherapy delivers on its claims

A couch with several pillows inside of a large Himalayan salt cave.

Nearly two centuries ago in Poland, a physician noticed something rather interesting about those who were toiling deep in the Wieliczka Salt Mine: They didn’t have lung issues like workers in other mines.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Today’s therapeutic salt rooms owe a debt of gratitude to that long-ago observation by Dr. Feliks Boczkowski. His belief in the healing power of salt is the foundation for the growing wellness trend of halotherapy (salt therapy).

Here’s the question, though: Do these newfangled “salt caves” deliver on touted health claims of better breathing, healthier skin and even stress relief?

Let’s take a look with functional medicine specialist Melissa Young, MD.

What is a salt room?

Salt rooms deliver a dry salt therapy experience, where the air inside the room exposes you to microscopic salt particles. There are two types of therapy rooms, according to the Salt Therapy Association:

  • “Active” rooms feature machines that break salt apart and circulate the particles, allowing them to be breathed in and exposed to your skin. The practice is known as halotherapy.
  • “Passive” rooms are filled with large amounts of salt. Typically, a variety of salts ― Dead Sea, Himalayan, rock salt, etc. ― fill the climate-controlled space. These are typically more meditative settings.

“For what would be considered a true halotherapy experience, you need a room with the particle generator,” says Dr. Young.

Benefits of salt room therapy

Search online and there’s no shortage of breathless testimonials about salt rooms. Anecdotally, people say they’re life-changing, especially when it comes to easing respiratory issues or infections.

When it comes to proven research, though … well, let’s just say there’s not a salt mountain of scientific evidence to support the claims.

“Sometimes, it can be frustrating that there aren’t enough well-designed studies looking at a particular treatment or the different study outcomes can be conflicting,” notes Dr. Young. “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a potential benefit to that treatment.”

Advertisement

Here’s why people say they go to salt rooms.

Improved breathing

If you have trouble moving air in and out of your lungs, odds are, your condition is on someone’s list of health issues that can be made better through halotherapy. Various sites claim salt rooms can help address:

So, how does this salty air make a difference? “Breathing in the salt particles appears to thin mucus, which allows your cough to be more productive and makes it easier to get phlegm out,” explains Dr. Young. “It gets things moving. That’s often key for people with breathing issues.”

But there’s just not a lot of rigorous research supporting the theory. “The data is mixed on halotherapy,” says Dr. Young.

Fight infection

The idea of using salt to clear the gunk out of your sinuses isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Saline sprays and rinses are go-to methods to rinse out your nose and sinuses for better breathing.

But does breathing in dry salt accomplish the same thing? Again, there’s not enough research to verify the claim, says Dr. Young.

Healthier skin

Allowing salt-saturated air to flow over your body is said to naturally boost your skin’s hydration, leaving it feeling smoother and looking less splotchy. There’s a lot of chatter about balancing out pH levels and clearing up eczema, too.

Is it true? You can probably guess the answer. “We don’t have scientific proof,” says Dr. Young.

Advertisement

(Looking for a natural route toward younger-looking skin? Try eating these foods.)

Stress reduction

A calm and dimly lit salt-filled room with soft music playing certainly presents itself as a setting ideal for meditation. “It’s an environment where you could definitely calm your nervous system and reduce stress.

But the same could be said if you took out the salt component. “You could get the same effect without it,” says Dr. Young. (Learn more about ways to practice mindfulness.)

Are there risks to visiting a salt room?

If you’re relatively healthy, spending a session in a salt room shouldn’t cause any issues, assures Dr. Young. However, she offers a few notes of caution.

  • You may cough more. All of those salt particles in the air may increase your coughing for a bit. “I’ve had patients go and say they ended up coughing a lot afterward,” reports Dr. Young. “It’s just something to be aware of.”
  • No defined halotherapy standards. “It’s the Wild West, with everyone doing it a different way,” says Dr. Young. She suggests looking for a salt room in an office or spa where treatment is overseen by a medical professional.
  • It’s not the same as medicine. Don’t confuse a salt room session with medical care. “It is not a substitute for your medication,” says Dr. Young.
  • Ask questions. If you have existing health issues, talk to your doctor before trying halotherapy to be on the safe side.

Is a salt room worth trying?

Could a salt room be beneficial for you? “Maybe,” says Dr. Young. “It’s something that may be worth trying, especially if you have some breathing issues. But view it as an extra to your normal treatments ― not a replacement.”

Related Articles

woman lying in bed with thought bubble above her head
May 11, 2023
4 Benefits of Sleep Meditation and How To Do It

This bedtime exercise can help you fall asleep faster (and stay asleep)

Person practicing deep breathing.
April 6, 2023
Feeling Nervous? Here Are 6 Ways To Calm Yourself Down

Deep breaths, exercise and even your favorite scent can help calm those nerves

Body scan meditation on floor.
February 2, 2023
Body Scan Meditation for Beginners: How To Make the Mind/Body Connection

Use this technique to increase awareness of your body and assess how you’re feeling

Music practitioner lightly hits gong as patient lies relaxed on matt while sound waves move around body.
November 28, 2022
What Is a Sound Bath?

Deep sound vibrations made by a soothing instrument may help you decompress

The moon.
October 23, 2022
Does the Moon Affect Humans?

Yes, the moon and its lunar cycles can impact you — but for other reasons than you may think

two extravert personalities dancing and an introvert personality reading.
July 26, 2022
Introverts vs. Extroverts: What’s the Difference?

It’s possible to have traits from both personality types

elderly woman meditating on back porch
April 7, 2022
How You Can Ease Your Aches and Pain With Meditation

Five minutes of quiet, focused time can help

A person in the woods raising their hands in a meditation practice
March 1, 2022
What Is Meditation?

Find out how to meditate properly

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad