Natural salt caves are especially popular in Asia and Europe, and now re-creations of them are hot in New England, sought-out for their relaxing, meditative, and healing environments.
Salt caves, which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, are believed to help with many ailments and illnesses, from chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis to the common cold and allergies to skin ailments like psoriasis and eczema. Even snoring.
Here are a few local salt caves worth checking out. (If you suffer from a chronic condition, it’s best to get the green light from your doctor prior to your salt cave experience.)
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center & Spa
The Himalayan Salt Cave at this wellness center in Rutland, Vt., celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The cave was built by Dr. William Kelley, Pyramid’s founder, “long before the current salt cave awareness,” says owner Eileen Coughlin.
The cave is a “simulated salt mine” crafted of natural materials and thousands of pounds of Himalayan salt. “Our cave was designed by Dr. Margaret Smiechowski, a homeopath from Poland, whose dream was to recreate a salt cave mimicking the naturally occurring salt caves in Poland,” says Coughlin. “In other parts of the world, salt cave therapy, also known as speleotherapy, is used to treat a variety of medical conditions.”
Pyramid’s salt cave fits up to 12 people, and attracts those seeking a combination of relaxation and healing. You’ll tuck into a zero-gravity chair with a blanket and listen to music and the sounds of the ocean while breathing in the salt air. The cave has an electric fireplace in the corner, lanterns, and salt lamps that reflect off the cave walls throwing off a warm pink glow, as well as ceiling lights that twinkle “creating a starry night and magical effect.”
“Many people find the cave to benefit the many varied ailments they may be experiencing,” says Coughlin. “The salt is anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial, and filled with all the minerals the body needs. Scientists are studying the release of negative ions from the salt, which acts as a natural detoxifier.”
Adults and children 13 and older are allowed. Cost is $15 for a 50-minute session.
Pyramid also offers a more intimate salt experience called the Halotherapy Room, based on the original Polish graduation tower in Ciechocinek, Poland. “The wooden structure carries highly-saturated Himalayan salt water to the top of the fountain, allowing trickles of water to meander through the maze of branches and twigs,” says Coughlin. “As the salt water falls, molecules of salt water collect on the branches and move through the halotherapy room creating a microclimate of moist salt air.” You’ll rest in a zero-gravity chair while listening to the water and music. The room is intended for three or four people. Cost: $15 for a 50-minute session; massage or other wellness service can be done in the room for an additional $50. www.pyramidvt.com
Vermont Salt Cave Spa
& Halotherapy Center
Open only a few months, the salt grotto in Montgomery Center, Vt., near Jay Peak, was built in a classic Vermont barn using all natural items, including 16,000-pounds of Polish rock salt.
“We have not sprayed salt on walls or ceilings so as not to use any glues which might have fiberglass or other chemicals in the glue, and since salt is corrosive, we wanted to make sure it is all healthy,” says Sarita Khan, the center’s director of salt. A halotherapy machine was imported from Poland. It crushes pharmaceutical grade sodium chloride into miniscule particles that are dispersed into the air in controlled quantities for dry salt therapy.
“Our salt cave is . . . by far the most popular healing modality that we offer,” says Khan. The way it works: You sink into a zero-gravity chair with a blanket and music and waterfalls provide sound backdrop. “You are in a heavily-saturated negative ion environment with over 50 salt lamps in the cave, and this is great for stress, anxiety, and winter blues,” says Khan. The sessions last for 45 minutes. “It is such a Zen place.”
Bien Soigne Salt Cave
This full salon and day spa in Salem, N.H., made the decision to add a salt cave three years ago when it relocated the next town over. “The fact that it’s a natural treatment alternative for many respiratory ailments was important,” says owner Kay Charron. “Many people are looking for holistic avenues to find relief.”
The 32-by-12-foot cave at Bien Soigne is lined with 17-tons of Himalayan salt that was mined, custom cut, and shipped to New Hampshire, and the cave is designed “to simulate the sedimentary layers of the earth,” says Charron. There is also a halo generator and 13 zero-gravity loungers.
It is believed that the high negative ion environment provides a meditative place to reduce the stress that contributes to all of our other major illnesses, says Charron. “Quieting the mind or mindfulness is a growing health trend.”
Salt therapy is actually not unusual, says Charron, noting that we are already familiar with “wet” salt therapy. “We use saline in our eyes and noses, are given saline drips in the hospital, and walk in the ocean for a cut on our foot.”
Cost: Sessions run 45 minutes. First-time visits are $20; regular visits $40, and packages are available. Kids 12 and under are $12 (and must be accompanied by an adult). www.biensoigne.com
Raffa Yoga & Urban Sweat, Cranston, R.I.
This yoga and active relaxation center is home to a Himalayan Salt Grotto. Opened four years ago, it features 18,000 pounds of Himalayan rock salt imported from Pakistan, and a warm salt-water fogger that creates a room that is 40-percent humidity.
“It’s a 10-by-20-foot room and it’s a 360 Himalayan salt experience,” says a spokeswoman for Raffa. “The salt is on the walls, ceilings, floors, pretty much all over. You go in barefoot and there are no chairs and you can sit or lay right on top of the salt stones.” The dimly-lit room is heated to about 90 degrees, and it holds 10 guests laying down and 22 sitting. Raffa provides shorts, T-shirt, and towel.
Cost: $40 for a full day pass, which also gives you access to some of the other services in the Urban Sweat active relaxation center, including a Finlandia sauna. www.raffayoga.com
Release Well-Being Center, Westborough, Mass.
When writing her business plan a couple of years ago, owner Linda Townsend researched hundreds of reputable studies about healing modalities, and spoke to her network of wellness providers and consumers to find out which of those “that really work” they were most excited about. “Salt was the top of the list,” says Townsend. “It has proven therapeutic benefits, and people were either excited to try it or had tried it elsewhere and were thrilled that it would be accessible closer to home.”
And so, Townsend opened a Himalayan Salt Room, furnished with zero-gravity relaxation chairs. Sessions are 30 minutes.
The Himalayan Salt Room is just one wellness component at Bliss, the center’s relaxation space, that also includes a eucalyptus steam room and saunas. The Salt Room is available to people 13 and older. The cost is $30 to access Bliss, including The Himalayan Salt Room; $15 if you have a spa appointment that day. www.releasewellbeingcenter.com