By Corey B. Schuler, MS, DC, LN, CNS
Salt therapies, which include gargling with salt water, neti pots and salt caves (speleotherapy), have been used for thousands of years in both traditional and modern medical practices. They have been used to treat mouth infections, sore throats as well as upper and lower respiratory conditions such as cold and flu, allergy, asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, sinus infection, hay fever and emphysema. But in this day and age of heart transplants, genetic engineering and miracle drugs, it is often hard to credit that such simple steps can truly have beneficial effects. But there is an upside to our ever-increasing scientific understanding of health conditions and how the body responds. We can now break down and analyze old remedies to see how they actually work and if they are scientifically valid – and salt therapies appear indeed to be valid.
How Neti Pots Work
Neti pots, from Ayurvedic medicine, have become widely popular among natural health practitioners and consumers. These ceramic pots are designed to flush out the nasal passages and are often go-to products for congestion and sinus infection, whether fungal, viral, or bacterial. Besides the simple effect of water flushing away allergens and microbes, an action potentially provided by any liquid, neti pots specifically use a saline (salt) solution. The reasoning is because salt is known to:
✓ thin and reduce mucus build-up
✓ act as an anti-microbial (exposure to salt dehydrates the microbial cell leading to death of that cell)
✓ act as an anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal
In addition, saline solution may improve cilia function. Cilia are the hair-like structures that line the lungs, throat and nose (respiratory tract). They must work together to move allergens, pathogens, excess mucus and fluid out. The need for uniform cilia function is well illustrated by a smoker attempting to quit. There is a period of time, when the cilia are not working together, when a cough develops. This is one of many issues that makes quitting difficult. Saline irrigating is also one of the only options to address the hard to reach sinus areas and whole cilia matrix.
How Original Himalayan Crystal Salt Inhalers Work
Speleotherapy, also known as cave therapy, was developed in the mid-1800s after Polish salt miners were found to have a lower incidence of pulmonary disease. Halotherapy, a more recent development of the concept, is the use of salt air, re-creating the cave microclimate, for therapeutic use. The popularity of these salt rooms is significant, with new salt spas popping up everywhere from Florida to Minnesota, LA and New York with 10-20 one-hour sessions costing between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.
A more recent and portable alternative to salt caves or rooms is a dry ceramic inhaler, with a salt chamber inside. This adds salt to the air as the patient breathes in - mimicking the atmosphere and process in speleotherapy and halotherapy. Just like the neti pot does for the sinus tract (nose), salt air creates an environment in the bronchial tract (lungs) resulting in thinned mucus and less build up, as well as providing anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-mold and anti-fungal activities. The potential benefits:
✓ Ease of breathing*
✓ Supports rehabilitation and medical therapies of the respiratory system*
Salt air can be very helpful also for respiratory problems caused by
- Pollen and other allergies
- Influenza and other infections
- Dehydration and recycled air • Smoking
In a pilot study of 35 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a dry salt inhaler improved six-minute walk times. This is a frequently tracked and significant marker since COPD is not known to be a reversible condition. While dry salt inhalation does not reverse asthma or COPD, it can have therapeutic benefits in relieving mucus congestion and improving ability to breathe, thereby improving quality of life for chronic sufferers of these conditions. Asthma shares some similarities with COPD and asthma treatments are becoming more holistic all the time. At the 2010 World Allergy Organization International Scientific Symposium, president Dr. Richard Lockey, MD said, "I don't believe you can take care of an asthmatic without addressing their comorbid conditions, and there are many of them. In my opinion, diagnosis and treatment guidelines should also address these comorbid conditions."
Comorbid conditions include obesity, gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn, dysfunctional breathing and mental disorders. Runny nose, watery eyes and allergies to foods are now being included as well in most doctors’ to-treat lists. Long term use of dry salt inhalation therapy has been suggested when multiple chronic conditions may exist such as allergies and dysfunctional breathing. General recommendations are once or twice daily in the morning and evening. Duration of inhalation ranges from five to twenty minutes depending on the condition. However, because dry salt inhalation does not address the original cause of the respiratory condition, long-term, continued use may be necessary for chronic conditions. No contraindications have been observed with current pulmonary, bronchial, or asthma medications.
Another condition which is believed to benefit from dry salt inhalation is cystic fibrosis - a very complex disease of the lungs and bronchial tract. In the lungs, the layer of salt and water that our body creates to coat airways is only about a millionth of an inch thick. When it becomes irritated, mucus thickens excessively and can be difficult to clear. It appears then that while the normal defenses of the body help to trap and segregate invaders, too much of a good thing can be a problem. Everyone who has ever had a sinus infection has experienced this. Cystic fibrosis patients have been found to have lower naturally-occurring salt concentrations in their bronchial tissue. Researchers have also identified a genetic predisposition in these patients that means the mucus is not thinned appropriately. Therefore salt inhalation, which reaches the bronchus, has symptomatic benefit for cystic fibrosis patients due to mucus thinning. Similarly ex-smokers report a lot of phlegm (mucus) in their throat for 12-18 months following quitting. Dry salt inhalation supports this process by breaking down the excess phlegm and helping expectoration (e.g. coughing and spitting).
Type of Salt Matters
The type of salt used for inhalation may play an important role as well. Commercial salts have different size mineral particles and structures which will determine ease of absorption. Industrial salts may have chemicals added, which can damage the sensitive tissues of the respiratory tract. Original Himalayan Crystal Salt is formed under enormous pressure, with particles and structures so small and perfectly formed that they can be instantaneously absorbed into a cell. Practitioners of Energy Medicine also prefer crystal salts over rock salts for their vibrational quality. Original Himalayan Crystal Salt has the highest number of trace minerals of any salt, including many monatomic elements which have been shown to have the highest vibration of all. However, with so many “Himalayan Salts” on the market it is important to choose those with appropriate certification verifying both origin and all the trace minerals claimed. Original Himalayan Crystal Salt Inhalers are hand-made in the US using lead-free decals and coating. The high quality ceramic inhaler is filled with premium- coarse ground Original Himalayan Crystal Salt which contains 84 trace and ultra-trace minerals. Certificates of analysis showing all 84 trace minerals, structural analysis showing the perfect crystalline form and clinical research provide validation. The Original Himalayan Crystal Salt Inhaler is refillable using a BPA- free rubber stopper with a standard refill lasting up to 18 months.
To shop our Original Himalayan Crystal Salt Inhaler and Neti Pot bundle and Save 20%, Click Here.
About the Author: Dr. Corey Schuler is member of the Symphony Natural Health's medical team. Dr. Schuler has a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and botanical medicine, is a chiropractor, licensed nutritionist and holds certification in acupuncture, kinesiology, holistic and functional medicine. Dr. Schuler is an Adjunct assistant professor - School of Health Sciences and Education at New York Chiropractic College, as well as a member of Institute for Functional Medicine, American College of Nutrition, and American Nutrition Association. Dr. Schuler is also a member of the board of directors for the International Probiotics Association.