The long & surprising history of salt therapy

The long & surprising history of salt therapy


The benefits of salt therapy (also known as "halotherapy") have been known since at least the 1830's, when Polish physician Feliks Boczkowski observed that while most miners suffered terrible lung diseases, the men working in a nearby salt mine enjoyed excellent respiratory health. In fact, they experienced less incidence of bronchitis and pneumonia than most of his middle class and upper class patients.

Upon studying the effects of this phenomena, Dr. Boczkowski founded and opened the first health resort facility at the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland in 1839, which is still operating today (see image). 

World War 2

During World War 2 German physician Dr. K.H. Spannahel observed that people who hid in salt mines and caves to escape bombing experienced respiratory health benefits. In 1949 he proposed that his hospital turn sections of the Klyutert Cave into an inpatient department and confirm the medical efficacy of underground environments. The results of these studies laid the foundation of modern "speleotherapy", which is the treatment of respirratory illnesses utilizing underground environments.

From salt caves to salt therapy 

These methods proved successful and spread to neighboring salt mines and caves in Europe, as well as to the former Soviet Union. In 1968, an entire "speleo-hospital" opened in the Solotvyno salt mine in Ukraine. 

Over the next decade, doctors confirmed that nearly all therapeutic benefits from being in a salt cave derived from breathing dry salt particles. It was clear that treatment and research could be better conducted if salt particles could be produce above the ground. In 1985 researchers in Odessa developed a device that ground and crushed salt, then dispersed the microscopic salt particles into the air. The world's first dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, device was born, making salt therapy accessible to people everywhere.

The salt room boom

By the early 2000's, the use of salt therapy devices had spread to the USA and UK, and for the next few years, new "salt therapy spas" or "salt rooms" would open in the USA at the rate of one per week. Guests would typically pay about Euros 30 to visit these spas for an hour and enjoy the benefits of salt therapy. So while the treatment was effective, many people found it expensive and inconvenient. Moreover, the halotherapy devices used to ground and disperse the salt were too large and costly to install at home. 

It would take a Romanian biochemist - Constantin Pascu - to invent a small, inexpensive device that would enable people to enjoy the benefits of salt therapy in their own home. For his story see our blog - "From salt sculpture to salt therapy - the history of Salin Plus".