Halotherapy is a type of salt therapy that may have some health benefits for respiratory conditions. However, there is a lack of evidence behind many of these claims, as well as reports that it can cause side effects, such as a cough.

Salt therapies have a long history of use in some parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe, but they are less common in the United States.

This article looks at some possible benefits of halotherapy, what the research says, and whether or not there any side effects.

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Research has not yet confirmed that halotherapy has any health benefits in humans.

Halotherapy is a form of salt therapy that some people claim is beneficial for respiratory and skin conditions.

The sections below will look at its history and how it might work in more detail.

History of salt therapy

Salt caves are common in Eastern Europe and a popular site for halotherapy. However, this is less common in the U.S.

In the 1800s, a Polish doctor noticed that salt mine workers had fewer respiratory concerns than other miners. A German doctor also noted respiratory health benefits in people spending time in salt caves.

Salt chambers became popular forms of therapy in the 1950s and 1960s.

How might it work?

Advocates of halotherapy suggest that it can:

  • improve lung function
  • clear pollens, toxins, and viruses from the lungs and nasal tracts
  • reduce inflammation
  • clean nasal cavities and sinuses
  • relieve certain skin conditions

However, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. There have not been enough large studies in this area.

Dry salt therapy

Halotherapy and speleotherapy are types of dry salt therapies.

Speleotherapy takes place in natural underground caves that contain salt. However, these are less common in some areas.

Halotherapy uses an artificial environment to create the same effect. Places that offer halotherapy use a dry salt aerosol to spread tiny particles of salt around the room.

The salt usually contains a mixture of different minerals, including:

Active salt rooms use a salt generator to spread the salt around the room. Passive salt rooms include large amounts of salt in the room without a generator to move it around.

The Salt Therapy Association (STA) suggest that passive salt rooms are not a form of halotherapy. However, they can still be relaxing and improve a person’s sense of well-being.

Some people believe that salt therapies have benefits for respiratory conditions, such as asthma. However, research in this area is still lacking.

The following sections will outline the existing research in more detail.

Asthma

A 2014 study in rats suggested that salt therapy may help asthma.

The researchers kept rats in a speleotherapy-like environment and found that the environment helped the rats’ respiratory cells.

However, according to the authors of a major 2001 review, there is little evidence for the benefits of speleotherapy on asthma.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Some reports have suggested that halotherapy may benefit chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

However, a 2014 review of the research found no evidence to suggest that halotherapy can improve the symptoms for people with COPD.

Bronchiectasis

A 2013 clinical trial studied the use of a salt spray in 20 people with bronchiectasis for 2 months. The trial found no benefits of using the salt spray.

However, 65% of the participants were happy with halotherapy and wanted to continue with it. So although it may not improve symptoms, the salt spray could promote relaxation and well-being.

Adenotonsillar syndrome

In a 2013 trial, researchers gave 45 people with adenotonsillar syndrome either 10 halotherapy sessions or a placebo.

After the trial, people receiving the halotherapy showed some improvements in their symptoms.

Other conditions

The STA suggest that dry salt therapy has antibacterial effects that could be beneficial for COVID-19. However, bacteria do not cause COVID-19.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that salt therapy is useful for preventing or treating COVID-19. People should refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for help with COVID-19.

There has been little research into the safety and side effects of halotherapy.

One small study showed that people with respiratory conditions developed a cough after using halotherapy, while the 2013 clinical trial in people with bronchiectasis revealed no side effects.

However, both of these studies were small. Therefore, large-scale research is necessary to examine the safety and side effects of halotherapy.

An alternative way to use salt for certain health conditions is wet salt therapy. This includes the use of:

  • saline solutions
  • nebulizers
  • salt baths
  • salt scrubs
  • gargling solutions
  • neti pots
  • exfoliation
  • flotation tanks

Some people use wet salt therapy for respiratory conditions, including the common cold. Others use it for beauty treatments and to improve skin health. The therapy is also relaxing and can be helpful for improving general well-being.

Halotherapy could help ease some respiratory conditions, but so far, the research is limited and inconclusive. There are potential side effects, such as a cough.

Although it may not have proven medical benefits, halotherapy can be relaxing. It can help improve a person’s sense of well-being.

Practitioners of halotherapy usually lack medical training. Always consult a doctor before trying halotherapy to reduce the risk of complications and side effects.