In Roman times slaves were used to mine salt. It was not a pleasant chore. But today in the Ukraine some people willingly spend several hours a day in a salt mine. They are not there, though, to mine salt. They are there to treat their asthma or other pulmonary problem. “Speleotherapy” is based on the supposed therapeutic effects of breathing air laden with negative ions which supposedly originate from salt and fill the air in the subterranean cavern. A couple of “supposedlies” there. There actually are some studies that show the air purification capabilities of negative ions. Indeed, some home air purifiers function by generating negative ions which then transfer their charge to dust particles. These negatively charged particles are in turn attracted to surfaces such as walls and floors which tend to be positively charged. There are also claims that negative ions make people feel more energetic. What’s the evidence? That thunderstorms generate negative ions and people feel refreshed after these. Or that waterfalls, which also give rise to negative ions, make people feel good. Not exactly what I would call compelling evidence. And there is really no evidence that the air in salt mines has an abundance of negative ions. But certainly, there is anecdotal evidence that people with breathing problems feel better after a few hours in a salt mine. I think it has to do with relaxing and being away from pollutants.
And what do you do if you can’r make it to a salt mine? Well, you can buy yourself a Himalayan rock salt lamp. These are cropping up in health food stores and even some pharmacies. They do look pretty, that is for sure. These lamps are made by boring a whole in a large salt crystal and inserting a lightbulb. What else is inserted? A good dose of hype. If you go by the advertising, the lamps give off negative ions and thereby reduce fatigue. They also reduce the negative effects of computers, microwave ovens and other sorts of electromagnetic pollution. And you’ll be relieved to know that using dynamite to mine the salt in the Himalayas is forbidden. This preserves the crystal structure of the salt, which of course is essential to its healing properties. Yeah. Well at least the lamps are pretty and may put you in a good mood. But there is a depressing side to Himalayan salt as well. The quacks have gotten into the game and are selling the stuff for an outrageous price with equally outrageous claims. They call ordinary salt poison and deify Himalayan salt. If you eat it, they say, you’ll be energized because it conatins stored sunlight. It will remove phlegm from the lungs, clear sinus congestion, prevent varicose veins, stabilize irregular heartbeats, regulate blood pressure and balance excess acidity in brain cells, whatever that means. Oh yeah..it will also assist in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells. Gee, and I thought only Hydro Quebec generated hydroelectric energy. What poppycock! I’m just sorry that on the radio I can’t use more salty language to describe this nonsense.