So what exactly are the benefits of surrounding oneself with floor-to-ceiling slabs of sea salt? Salt-cave, or halotherapy supporters claim that as a result of salt's proven drying effects, salt caves can help with respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma, as well as common coughs and colds.
You most likely have seen those chunky pink salt lamps in a yoga studio, or a hippie dippy bookstore but the healing powers of Himalayan or Polish sea salt are believed to be so beneficial, some spas are devoting entire rooms to salt cave therapy.
Salt caves are generally constructed with sea salt bricks lining the walls, and a looser grain of salt on the floor. It's common to have salt lamps within the space, sometimes clustered in a salt "fireplace" where the lamps collectively emit a soothing glow.
Sea salt ions possess strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and halotherapy is recommended as a way to strengthen the immune system.
Halotherapy works by creating a hypo-allergenic and allergen-free environment with controlled temperature and humidity, where salt particles diffuse naturally from the walls into the air.
Inhaling the salt sends it through the respiratory tract, where it cleanses and kills bacteria and germs.
The effect is apparently similar to how rejuvenated you feel after spending time near an ocean. Although the opportunity to step away and connect with nature is beneficial in and of itself, the salt that we breathe oceanside helps boost immunity, clear skin and relieve respiratory conditions.
And so the theory goes, for an hour in a salt cave, though the results are intensified; one hour in a salt cave is said to equal about a day at the beach, possible even more.
Breathing in salt particles might also help reduce inflammation in the lungs and clear mucus, as well as potentially increases lung capacity.
Though a very small study that was released last year noted an improvement in mild asthma for children with the condition after being exposed to salt therapy, health professionals who specialize in respiratory conditions tend not to be convinced by the technique.
If you still want to go, particularly for the relaxation or sinus-clearing benefits, here's what to expect.
Generally sessions are about an hour, although several facilities offer shorter sessions combined with other treatments. The atmosphere is a zen-like experience, with low lighting and soothing music, while guests lounge in chairs.
Children are usually welcome, and some salt rooms even have play areas, which is good news for parents, but talk to your doctor before you go if your child has any health problems.
While the effects of the salt caves may be felt immediately, some guests may notice a stronger result after multiple visits; we imagine this is similar to the benefits of one yoga class vs. an ongoing practice.
Halotherapy could be something to add to the list of preventatives; especially if you don't live near the ocean.