Salt therapy for respiratory issues is nothing new: it dates back to ancient Greece, when Hippocrates recommended the inhalation of steam from heated salt water as an effective treatment for breathing problems. In the mid-19th century, after a Polish physician noticed that salt miners didn’t suffer the same respiratory illnesses common in other miners, salt caves became a popular destination throughout Eastern Europe for those seeking relief from lung problems.
Halotherapy — from “halo,” the Greek word for salt — has been widely available across Europe since then, utilized to combat a range of breathing problems and skin issues, from asthma, allergies and sinusitis to eczema, bronchitis, hay fever and cystic fibrosis. But while many of us in this country are familiar with things like gargling with salt water to relieve a sore throat, salt-based therapeutic treatments have been largely unknown.
That seems to be changing, now, with salt sauna locations beginning to open nationwide. Earlier this month, Rhiannon’s Saltz of the Paltz opened at 215 Main Street, offering infrared Himalayan salt sauna treatments that offer the benefits of salt therapy combined with the advantages of infrared sauna technology.
Owners Sean and Theresa Lewis say their business is not only the first such business in the Hudson Valley area but one of the first to open in the state. It’s named after their youngest daughter, Rhiannon, 17, who has plans to work in the business after graduating and eventually, perhaps, taking it over. (And yes, she was named after the Stevie Nicks song.) The couple also have a son, Sean Jr. and another daughter, Tara.
Half-hour sauna sessions take place in single or double cedar booths. There are LED lights inside each along with a stereo system, and the dressing area outside the booths is curtained off for privacy with black-out curtains. There are hooks to hang clothes on — most people go in wearing either a swimsuit or nothing at all — and plush white towels to wrap around oneself along with a hamper to leave the towels in after the sauna. The cost is $40 per person or $50 for two people together.
The booths are typically heated to 120 degrees. Bricks of Himalayan salt lay on the floor, which when moistened and heated, release their beneficial properties. It cannot be termed a medical treatment, but the idea espoused by those who say they’ve benefitted is that the salt bricks contain 84 natural elements and minerals also found in the human body, which when released into the sauna replenish what the body loses through stress and environmental conditions.
Himalayan salt can generate negative ions that replace positive (bad) ions (EMF) in the air. With more negative ions, breathing is easier and healing can take place. Negative ions help soothe frayed nerves, much as a visit to the seashore and its salty air does, and devotees of the salt sauna say they feel renewed and energized afterward.
And beyond the salt part of the equation, infrared sauna technology makes the experience more comfortable than it is inside a traditional sauna. An infrared sauna generates heat through light, warming the body from the inside without warming the air as a traditional sauna does. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, the appeal of any sauna is that it causes reactions in the body similar to those elicited by moderate exercise, but an infrared sauna is more accessible to people who can’t tolerate the high heat of a traditional sauna and are seeking to produce results at lower temperatures.
Several studies, they note, have shown some evidence of benefit using infrared saunas to treat chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, type-2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, with no adverse effects reported.
In the short time that Rhiannon’s Saltz of the Paltz has been open, its owners report that a number of people have tried the infrared salt sauna and come back to tell them how much they liked the experience. One woman said it cured her cold, says Sean, and the couple’s own son found relief from his asthma in it.
The Lewises, currently based in Poughkeepsie, are looking forward to becoming a part of the New Paltz community. “I’m happy if our customers are happy,” says Theresa. “That’s the main thing.” The two have operated a number of businesses in the past, from a landscaping operation to a cleaning business, and Sean’s focus in recent years has been on fixing up properties and flipping them.
The business is also part boutique, selling salt-related merchandise and self-care products. Those who wish to take the salt treatment home with them can purchase a hand-carved Himalayan salt lamp in several sizes, made from a block of salt; there’s even a version with a USB cable to change the ions around a workspace. The Lewises have commissioned a line of jewelry for the shop, made with salt crystals, and the shelves contain useful items like a mortar and pestle for grinding salt, ceramic salt inhalers, all-natural crystal salt antiperspirant eggs — moistened and rubbed over the skin, it prevents odor-causing bacteria from forming — and goat’s milk soap made with salt. There are bath salts, culinary salts seasoned with flavors like sriracha and truffles, and even a bit of rock candy to sweeten the mix.
Rhiannon’s Saltz of the Paltz at 215 Main Street is currently open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information is available at www.saltzofthepaltz.com.