Coughs, wheezes, sniffles and more? Pass the salt.

The restful Salt Cave treatment room at Milton Keynes. Please note my sterile-wrapped feet in foreground…

Being a country bumpkin with my head buried ostrich-like in the sand most of the time, until very recently I had never heard of salt therapy. Until, that is, a friend mentioned that the Salt Cave had opened a branch in Milton Keynes (England), my home town.

Salt therapy, to quote from the Salt Cave brochure, “…was widely used by the ancient Greeks, who discovered that salt mines and salt caves had a therapeutic influence on respiratory problems. In 1982 scientists in Russia were the first to develop the method to replicate this medication-free treatment. Since then thousands of patients have been successfully treated in Russia, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and Canada.”

How it works

Much as the brochure goes on to give a very scientific-sounding explanation, I don’t personally think it’s rocket science. Salt has known antiseptic and antibacterial properties as, it would seem, the ancient Greeks discovered, and saline solution – whether delivered intravenously or otherwise – forms an essential part of many hospital and other medical treatments.

What happens in the Salt Cave’s therapy is that sterile, medical-quality, negatively ionised dry sodium chloride aerosol is released into the room where you sit. In addition the room has a floor of sterile Dead Sea salt which is also caked up on the walls, to complete the picture. Your feet and hair are covered with disposable plastic bags to retain sterility; then you enter the room, pick up some reading material if you want, settle down in a very comfortable chair or chaise longue and stay there for about an hour.

A relaxing yet invigorating experience

Although the atmosphere in the room was conducive to sleepy tranquillity complete with audio track of ocean waves crashing gently on a beach with accompanying seagull squawks and synthesised strings, I found the experience relaxing yet invigorating all at the same time.

Reclining in that comfortable seat, I practised my deep breathing (although you don’t have to do that to benefit) and felt incredibly, well, alive. Because the atmosphere is very drying the slightest sniffle seems to disappear, your head clears, and your senses feel rejuvenated.

So you’re treated for what, exactly?

The only respiratory tract ailment I can lay claim to currently is chronic rhinitis caused by permanent damage to my mucus membrane resulting from chemotherapy for breast cancer some six years ago. While in the Salt Cave room, my ever-present sniffle dried up and didn’t come back for several hours. But as Linh, our hostess at the Milton Keynes Salt Cave, pointed out, one treatment can only give you a glimpse of the long term benefits possible, so it would be very wrong to judge the exercise on that basis.

Where salt therapy has been shown to be very effective (and is acknowledged “off the record” by many family doctors) is in the treatment and/or symptom relief of more serious respiratory conditions … especially bronchitis, sinusitis, hay fever, allergic asthma, and COPD, a serious condition common amongst ex-smokers, to name but a few.

Due its drying and sterilising effects, I imagine, it is also said to be useful for skin complaints such as atopic eczema, acne, and psoriasis, and a number of other conditions.

And who can benefit?

Obviously all adults with a respiratory or atopic issue stand to benefit from salt therapy. But there is a strong lobby of opinion that says children can benefit from the therapy too, in the treatment of childhood asthma, allergic rhinitis and other respiratory tract disease.

This is so much in evidence that the Salt Cave in Milton Keynes, along with its sister clinics elsewhere in the UK, have a dedicated children’s room with a selection of reading material and toys. Each child can be accompanied by a parent or carer.

According to Linh, our Milton Keynes hostess, many families from Eastern Europe and beyond – who have been using salt therapy for generations – bring their children to salt therapy not just when there is a respiratory problem, but also as a preventative measure to help, perhaps, stop respiratory disease occurring in the first place. That at least offers a potentially cleansing counter-balance to the junk we have been pumping out into the atmosphere and beyond for many years.

Where to find Salt Caves

Salt Caves, a franchise operation, is based in London, Edinburgh, Tunbridge Wells, and Milton Keynes. For people north of London and south of Edinburgh wanting to try this out, the Milton Keynes branch is very easy to find – very centrally located with free parking outside.  Roughly an hour by car from London / Oxford / Cambridge / Birmingham, it is easily accessible from further afield, and of course is on a mainline train route from Euston to Scotland.

I will certainly go back there to see if I can finally knock my chemotherapy-caused rhinitis on the head, although in fairness that may not be possible within the remit of salt, which sadly can’t compete with the utter poison of which chemo drugs are made.

However my student son, who at age 20 has a history of upper respiratory tract and ear infections AND – I hope – is about to quit smoking, will definitely be invited to attend some salt therapy to help “clear his tubes” and breathe more easily … for good.

Have you heard of salt therapy? What do you think of it?

Salty Suze…

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