All About Salt Pipes (or Salt Inhalers)
A salt pipe is an inhaler containing salt particles. Salt pipes can be used in salt therapy, also known as halotherapy.
Halotherapy is an alternative treatment of breathing salty air that, according to anecdotal evidence and some advocates of natural healing, may ease:
- respiratory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and bronchitis
- psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression
- skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis
Keep reading to learn more about salt pipes, whether or not they can relieve certain health conditions, and how to use them.
Salt pipes and COPD
There are claims that halotherapy is a viable treatment for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
COPD is a lung disease characterized by obstructed airflow. It’s caused by long-term exposure to particulate matter and irritating gases, often from smoking cigarettes.
If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, you have an increased risk of developing conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease.
A 2007 study concluded that dry salt inhaler therapy may support primary COPD medical treatment by improving effort tolerance and quality of life.
However, the study also indicated that it didn’t exclude the possibility of a placebo effect and suggests that additional clinical studies are needed. There haven’t been any studies since that found salt inhalers were effective.
Salt pipes and asthma
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AFFA) suggests that it’s unlikely that halotherapy will make your asthma better.
The AFFA also indicates that halotherapy is “likely safe” for the majority of people with asthma. However, because reactions can vary for different people, they suggest that patients with asthma avoid halotherapy.
Do salt inhalers work?
The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests that salt therapy may offer relief to certain COPD symptoms by thinning mucus and making it easier to cough up.
That said, the ALA indicates that there are “no evidence-based findings to create guidelines for patients and clinicians about treatments such as salt therapy.”
A 2013 study of the effect of 2 months of halotherapy on patients with bronchiectasis who didn’t have cystic fibrosis indicated that salt therapy didn’t affect either lung function tests or quality of life.
The review suggested that high-quality studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of salt therapy for COPD.
Types of salt therapy
Salt therapy is typically administered wet or dry.
Dry salt therapy
Dry halotherapy is associated with natural or man-made salt caves. A man-made salt cave is a cool, low humidity area with microscopic salt particles released into the air by a halogenerator.
Salt pipes and salt lamps are typically based on dry halotherapy.
Wet salt therapy
Wet salt therapy is based in saline solutions, using:
- salt scrubs
- salt baths
- flotation tanks
- gargling solutions
- neti pots
How to use a salt pipe
Here’s how to use a salt pipe:
- If your salt inhaler doesn’t come prefilled with salt, place salt crystals in the chamber at the bottom of the salt pipe.
- Breathe through the opening at the top of the salt pipe, slowly drawing the salt-infused air deep into your lungs. Many advocates of salt pipes suggest breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose.
- Many advocates of salt pipes suggest holding the salt air for 1 or 2 seconds before exhaling and using your salt pipe for 15 minutes each day.
Check with your doctor before using a salt pipe or any other salt therapy method.
Himalayan and other types of salt
Many proponents of salt inhalers suggest the use of Himalayan salt, which they describe as a very pure salt with no pollutants, chemicals, or toxins.
They also suggest that Himalayan salt has 84 natural minerals found in your body.
Some advocates of halotherapy suggest using ancient Halite salt crystals from salt caves in Hungary and Transylvania.
Origins of salt therapy
In the mid-1800s, Polish physician Feliks Boczkowski observed that salt miners didn’t have the same respiratory issues prevalent in other miners.
Then in the mid-1900s, German physician Karl Spannagel observed that his patients had improved health after having hidden in salt caves during World War II.
These observations became the basis for the belief that halotherapy can be beneficial for health.
A fair amount of anecdotal evidence exists to support the benefits of halotherapy. However, there’s also a lack of high-quality studies that have been fielded to determine its effectiveness.
Halotherapy can be delivered through a number of methods, including:
- salt pipes
- salt scrubs
Before trying a salt pipe or any new type of treatment, check with your doctor to make sure that it’s safe based on your current level of health and the medications you’re taking.
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