Fit to be tried: Salt therapy
WHEN Annette Agar’s father was ill and suffering from respiratory problems she used to see him struggling and found the experience heartbreaking.
But his spirit was unbreakable, and one day when he dropped in for lunch she was thrilled to see him perky and breathing easily. “I’ve been doing this amazing salt therapy — you have to try it,” he told her.
And no better woman. Although her darling father has since passed away, Annette, owner of a beauty salon in north Dublin, set about installing her own ‘salt cave’.
If you have asthma or respiratory trouble such as hay fever or allergies, breathing in salt offers instant relief, supporters say. So with my nose stuffy after a long-haul flight I’m ready to give it a try.
I don protective blue shoes and enter the salt room. I lie back in the darkened cave, with soothing music piping in to my crusty haven and tiny lights sprinkled in changing colours on the ceiling.
There are only a few of these salt treatment rooms in Ireland, offering drug-free relief for respiratory illnesses such as hay fever, bronchitis and sinusitis, or allergies like eczema and psoriasis.
The ‘cave’ is a bit like an igloo. There are salt drifts everywhere, underfoot and covering the walls. The shoe covers are to keep the room free from dirt and bacteria, and the wafting music enhances the soothing effect.
Supporters say the medical benefits come from breathing in the sodium chloride aerosol mix piped into the therapy room by a microclimate generator, which mixes milled salt with an air current.
The idea is that by inhaling this mixture, mucus in the respiratory tract is loosened and you can cough it up.
Where does the practice come from? Salt inhalation has been around since the Greeks, when Hippocrates recommended it for respiratory problems.
However, since then there is little empirical evidence of the benefits. The research is sketchy, but one study from the former Soviet Union found 250 children and 500 adults reported that salt therapy for an hour a day for two weeks improved respiratory results in nine out of 10 cases.
Many Western doctors are sceptical. Asthma UK says the complementary therapy may bring improvements, but this hasn’t been proved.
“There is evidence it can have a benefit, but we don’t know enough about it.”
However, since opening the salt therapy room at their Lemons salon in Clontarf, Annette and her business partner Tina Keogh say a growing number of clients are finding the treatment beneficial, and return for follow-up sessions.
My own experience is positive, although I get a bit fidgety and my eyes feel a touch dry and itchy. But breathing is easier, and I have a great sleep that night. I don’t drink, but a friend who tried the treatment after a hard night out said it helped shift his hangover.
My trial session lasts 45 minutes, and relaxed by the music and atmosphere, I emerge feeling good.
But all the salt air makes me fancy adding vinegar, and heading out for some fish and chips — so there goes the healthy start to the day.
WE TRIED: Salt therapy
DID IT WORK? Helps you breathe easy
PLUSES: Frees up clogged sinuses
MINUSES: The medical research isn’t definite, but trying is believing
COST: €35 per 45-minute treatment
CONTACT: Lemons, 48 Clontarf Road, Dublin 3.
Tel: 01 833 7907
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