An Alternative Way To Breathe Easier
People in Eastern Europe have used halotherapy for respiratory complaints.
Can a man-made cave in London do the same? The latest technique
for combating cold and flu season should be taken with not just
a grain of salt but a whole roomful. After all, that's the way it
The Salt Cave in Wandsworth, south London, is a man-made salt
cave where visitors relax and breathe in a dry saline aerosol,
devised to relieve respiratory conditions such as asthma, smoker's
cough, sinusitis, hay fever, and other ailments. Salt therapy
or halotherapy has a long history, and not just because food tastes
better with it. Salt has known antibacterial and anti-inflammatory
properties. Certain places such as Germany and Eastern Europe
place great stock in the benefits of it, with people visiting
natural salt caves to breathe in the salty air.
The Salt Cave uses a machine, housed separately from the therapy
room, that produces a microclimate of very fine salt particles,
so small you can't see them, taste them or use them to coat the
rim of your margarita glass. There's no noticeable difference
to the air when you first enter the room, but your bootie-covered
feet shuffle through a blanket of salt and the walls are rough
and textured, coated with the stuff.
During an hour long session, I sat on one of the padded chairs,
propped up my feet on the footrest and read. Two other clients
dozed and flipped through a magazine. It's a strange experience
- the room is almost entirely white and the sound is muffled,
as it would be if the drifts were made of snow rather than NaCl.
The light is slightly dim, yet it's easily bright enough to read
by. The atmosphere was tranquil, quiet and soothing, as we all
breathed deep and relaxed. If I had any complaint at all about
the experience in the room it was that the chair - it looked like
an Ikea staple - was thin on padding on the back of my legs. I
tucked one of the throws available underneath my thighs to cushion
For parents or children looking to use the facilities, the owners
have kitted out one end of the room with a travel cot, a children's
table, and a toybox filled with toys.
As a long-term asthma sufferer, I'm accustomed to waking up with
a tight chest and shortness of breath, like I did the morning
of my visit. I tested my breathing before and after, measuring
lung capacity with a peak flow meter. I scored 100 litres per
minute higher than I had that morning. Some of this could be down
to the fact that I spent an hour practicing deep breathing, but
the effects continued for the next week. Regular visitors to the
Salt Cave swear by the long-term benefits. Visitors book sessions
on both a pay as you go basis (£35 each) and buy packages
of 5 sessions or more (starting at £145).
If you're looking to combat coughing, sniffling and sneezing
this winter with something other than drugs and nasal spray, you
can retreat to the Salt Cave, hibernate a while and breathe easier.
January 27, 2010