We Tried It: Salt cave

Emma Frankart Henterly
The author at Tranquility Salt Cave

Maybe you've seenthe pinkish-orange glow of a Himalayan salt lamp emanating from your co-worker's desk. Or perhaps you've listened to your brother-in-law's enthusiastic support of his neti pot. Regardless of the delivery method, both are using halotherapy—from the Greek “halo,” which means salt—to treat what ails them.

I tend to be a skeptic when it comes to things like salt lamps, and the idea of pouring a saline solution through my nasal cavity sounds abhorrent. But a Facebook post for a local “salt cave” piqued my interest. And that's how I found myself, one cold January day, walking into Tranquility Salt Cave in Lewis Center.

Before my session, I did my due diligence as a reporter (by which I mean I Googled “halotherapy” and checked out Tranquility's website). I read about Tranquility's particular form of halotherapy, which consists of sitting in a cave lined with Himalayan salt boulders as pure salt is diffused into the air.

Supposedly, the process releases negative ions and removes toxins from the air to treat respiratory ailments like asthma, allergies and congestion; it also purports to help with cystic fibrosis, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and skin conditions.

I suffer from anxiety and depression and doubted a single halotherapy session could benefit me. Fortunately (for this story, anyway), my co-worker Holly had a massive head cold—the perfect test for a single session's efficacy.

Holly and I arrive early at the modest storefront off of Route 23, so we peruse the items for sale in the lobby—crystals, sage burners, feathers, salt lamps, healing pyramids. When the time comes, we slip on our socks (the staff will provide a clean pair if you've forgotten yours) and walk across a heated floor covered in several inches of ground salt to the zero-gravity chairs we would sit in during the 45-minute session. A staff member tucks soft blankets around us, then shuts the door as a pre-recorded voice explains the session and its alleged benefits.

I drift in and out of a half-sleep, lulled by the gently undulating twinkle lights on the ceiling, the soothing music and the soft glow of the five 200-pound salt lamps dispersed around the room. The walls—lined entirely in Himalayan salt bricks and boulders—are interspersed with more salt lamps, which change colors throughout the experience. Leslie Dahn, who co-owns Tranquility Salt Cave with her husband, Rob, later explains to me that the salt is infused into the room in the form of “a very fine mist, almost like an aerosol,” which is circulated through the room's ventilation system.

After the session, Holly says her sinuses feel a little better, but not perfect. Rob Dahn overhears our conversation and informs us that it sometimes takes multiple sessions to see lasting results. “The salt itself is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory,” Leslie tells me later, adding that there is “lots of research” on the healing properties of salt, though she couldn't cite any studies offhand.

I found conflicting studies in several scientific journals. Some confirm that inhaling salt vapors can alleviate symptoms of lung disorders. Others argue that the supportive studies have inadequate sample sizes or are otherwise flawed.

“At the very least, the session itself is relaxing,” Leslie says. “That, in and of itself, is important for your body as well.”