Natural Standard Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Aerosol salt particles, aerosol salt therapy, aerosolized sodium chloride, halochamber, ionic salinizer, natural salinizer, saline therapy, salinizer, salt, salt caves, salt lamps, salt pipes, salt therapy, sodium chloride, sodium speleotherapy, speleotherapy.
Speleotherapy comes from the Greek word "speleo," for cave, and refers to salt-lined caves. During speleotherapy, patients sit in salt-lined caves for medicinal purposes. The salt is thought to have bactericidal effects and help regulate air humidity in these caves. These properties are believed by some to improve respiratory conditions and relieve some skin conditions.
Halotherapy, or treatment with salt, comes from the Greek word "halos," which means salt. Halotherapy replicates the salt-cave environment of speleotherapy, with the intention of being more accessible and less expensive. Halotherapy involves man-made structures that replicate the environment of the salt caves and is considered a natural, non-invasive, treatment.
Similar to speleotherapy, the intent of halotherapy is to improve or cure respiratory ailments (such as asthma, bronchitis, or sinusitis) and skin conditions (such eczema or psoriasis).
Some manufacturers also market smaller devices for home use. Although the properties of these home devices are based on halotherapy, they are typically called aerosol salt treatments. Some of these salinizers release particles into the home environment, while others are pipes that require the user to place his/her mouth over the device and breathe for 15-25 minutes daily. Salt lamps are also marketed, purportedly to ease respiratory symptoms by "balancing the ions in the air" via electricity when they are plugged in for long periods of time, although scientific research proving this is lacking.
Halotherapy experts report that monks used speleotherapy before the 1800s. The benefits of salt for lung health were suspected and investigated in Poland in the mid-1800s, and caves have also been used for treatment in central and Eastern European countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Russia.
Halotherapy is thought to have first been used in mid1880s.
Much of the research on salt therapy has been done in Russia or former Soviet bloc countries, where salt caves exist.
Although there are clinics in several European countries, there is only one known halotherapy clinic in North America, in Toronto.
During halotherapy, patients sit and relax in small groups or individually in small rooms or chambers called halochambers that are lined with salt. Each session is about one hour long.
To reproduce the microclimate of a salt cave, a nebulizer releases dry sodium chloride aerosol that contains particles of 1-5um. These amounts can be adjusted. Humidity is typically kept at 50%. Room temperature is generally set between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some clinics also offer treatment through a mask and tube, and salinizers (humidifiers that release aerosol salt particles) are sold in Canada and Europe. In some countries, salt lamps and salt pipes are also popular. There is a lack of data on the effectiveness of these products.
Speleotherapy is still used in European salt caves, although some have been altered or refurbished as medical centers to allow more patients to use them.
It is theorized that the salt used in halotherapy may help maintain air humidity and eliminate bacteria. Inhaling tiny aerosolized particles of salt is purported to help clear mucus in the airway and prevent inflammation.
Manufactured halotherapy chambers or rooms may be permanent or portable/collapsible. Their walls and floors are thickly coated with salt and have an air filtration system and a specially designed nebulizer that pumps in miniscule dry aerosol particles of salt at a specific rate and concentration. Patients cannot see the particles as they sit in the room.
Patients typically stay in halotherapy chambers for about one hour per treatment.
At least one Canadian company markets smaller salt therapy devices called natural or ionic salinizers. They are roughly the size of an air purifier or humidifier and intended for individual use at home. There is a lack of scientific data on their effectiveness.
A number of studies have been published in scientific journals, suggesting potential benefits of speleotherapy and halotherapy for patients with respiratory conditions (such as asthma, bronchitis, or sinusitis) and skin conditions (such eczema or psoriasis).
In a 1986 study, researchers found that 4,000 patients who made multiple visits to a Hungarian salt cave over a period of 10 years experienced marked and lasting improvement in respiratory symptoms. Other studies suggest that daily 60-minute sessions for 10 days to three weeks may relieve symptoms for up to 12 months. In one study, more than half of these patients discontinued medication for their respiratory problems following halotherapy.
Two 2007 studies of asthmatic patients, one group adults and one group children, suggests that halotherapy may be an effective adjunctive treatment option.
A qualified healthcare provider should be consulted before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Some reports indicate that side effects from halotherapy may include itchy skin, conjunctivitis, throat irritation, and mild sedation.
This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Aĭrapetova NS, Rassulova MA, Ksenofontova IV, et al. [Sylvinite speleotherapy in medical rehabilitation of patients with pathology of respiratory system.] Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2008 May-Jun;(3):52-4. View Abstract
Faradzheva NA. Efficiency of a combination of haloaerosols and helium-neon laser in the multimodality treatment of patients with bronchial asthma, Probl Tuberk Bolezn Legk. 2007;(8):50-3. View Abstract
Horvath, T. Speleotherapy: A special kind of climatotherapy, its role in respiratory rehabilitation. Int Rehabil Med. 1986;8(2):90-2. View Abstract
Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com
Rassulova MA. [Influence of interval hypoxic training and sylvinite speleotherapy on physical working capacity and quality of life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2008 Jul-Aug;(4):40-2. View Abstract
Sokolova MIu, Ivanova NA, Shabalov NP. Optimal therapy of children with bronchial asthma at Pyatigorsk spa. Vopr Kurortol Fizioter Lech Fiz Kult. 2007 May-Jun;(3):8-12. View Abstract
Thinová L, Burian I. Effective dose assessment for workers in caves in the Czech Republic: experiments with passive radon detectors. Radiat Prot Dosimetry. 2008;130(1):48-51. Epub 2008 Apr 24. View Abstract
Tolmach DV, Bondarenko GA, Aleksanova AM, et al. The results of the combined treatment of patients with dust-induced bronchitis. Vrach Delo. 1990 Jun;(6):42-4. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017