Says World Action on Salt and Health (WASH), an international organisation dedicated to encouraging a gradual reduction in salt intake in populations worldwide, while our bodies do need some salt to survive, we’re all eating way too much of it! WASH’s World Salt Awareness Week, marked in March each year, highlights the health implications of consuming more salt than we need – like hypertension and heart disease, for instance. Did you know that salt had other uses, though, besides eating – like in spa salt treatments? Read on to find out more about the healing powers of salt…
Halo is Greek for salt – halotherapy, then, simply, refers to therapeutic treatments using salt. Salt treatments have been used for millennia for a plethora of ailments, and were popular amongst the Ancients – which is why we still use the Greek term when referring to it.
Taking the baths, as it was referred to in times past, is seen as a therapy for skin complaints like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis, as well as for relieving stress. The trace minerals in salt eases the itchiness of skin diseases, reducing inflammation and aiding healing, while the warm water soothes the mind. Healing resorts have grown up around natural mineral springs – this is where groundwater, high in mineral content and geothermally heated in the earth’s mantle, wells up to the surface via a spring or geyser and forms warm pools of water. Famous mineral spas include Bath in the United Kingdom, Spa in Belgium (the place which gave us the very word, spa), Vichy in France, and Saratoga Springs in New York. South Africa, too, boasts hot springs including Calitzdorp and Warmwaterberg in the Western Cape, Bela-Bela (previously Warmbaths) in Limpopo and Paulpietersburg in KwaZulu-Natal. Go on, have a soak!
- If you can’t afford the time or money involved in trekking to a salt spa, do it at home, instead! Buy mineral bath salts or make your own, chuck into a bath full of warm water, get in, close your eyes and imagine your troubles melting away….
Since Ancient Times, taking the air was a recommended course of therapy for respiratory ailments. By this it was meant anyone suffering from diseases like asthma, bronchitis or tuberculosis should relocate to the coast where the sea air was found to vastly improve their condition. Ancient Greek and Roman doctors, as well as Medieval Christian monks who read about the practice in the ancient medical texts, would also have patients sit in salt caves, spaces which nature had eked out of landscapes rich in minerals. For those of us living far from the sea or salt caves, a new spa trend is bringing relief to our doorstep – halotherapy chambers. These chambers, also called salt rooms, aim to recreate nature’s salt caves – the walls and ceilings are coated in salt, and salt generators provide lightly salted air, just like at the seaside. The rooms provide a calming environment, with a pleasantly warm ambient temperature, and a distinct lack of sensory stimulation (other than soothing music) – all that’s required of you is to sink into a comfy deck chair and relax. The experience will set you back around R500 for an hour. Take a peek inside a luxury salt room over here: The Salt Room, Woodbury, USA.
Sea salt is a standard ingredient in many spa treatments, its abrasive nature making it particularly useful as an exfoliant in body and facial scrubs. Exfoliating with such coarse granules sloughs off all those dead skin cells and other microscopic debris, exposing the new skin underneath. The scrubbing action also improves circulation and tightens the skin, while the minerals themselves are said to flush out toxins and feed the skin. The result is a smoother, fresher, more radiant appearance. Get scrubbing!