You are likely familiar with the practice of gargling salt water for a sore throat and also probably know salt has been used in medicine for thousands of years, but did you know that inhaling dry salt particles may help with a range of respiratory issues such as asthma and allergies along with skin conditions and other ailments? Among many other benefits, salt is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

Salt therapy, or halotherapy — derived from “halos,” the Greek word for salt — is an under-utilized natural treatment for a variety of health issues. Although much evidence of halotherapy’s success is anecdotal, there is a growing wave of advocates thanks to an accidental discovery many years ago.

“In the mid-1800s, it was discovered that people who worked in the salt mines of Poland had a remarkably low rate of respiratory illnesses,” according to the St. Louis Salt Room website. Soon clinics were placed in salt mines, many of which are still in operation. “Recently, engineers created a device called a halo-generator, which not only simulates the conditions in salt mines, but accelerates the effect. A dry salt mist fills the air with particles ranging in size from .5 to 10 microns, which have been clinically proven to deliver the most optimal results.”

Some people might notice a difference in a little as one session, but more sessions are typically recommended. St. Louis Salt Room Owner Clay Juracsik says the standard course of treatment is three days a week for 10 to 20 sessions of 45 minutes each, but this can vary greatly depending on the severity and type of ailment. “You can’t really go overboard with this because it’s natural,” he says. “The salt particles detox your lungs, and this treatment helps most patients reduce the amount of medicine needed — sometimes people can totally eliminate medicine. And you’re about 40 percent less likely to get sick if utilizing salt therapy treatments.”

Juracsik opened the business about seven years ago to help his daughter, who was suffering from severe asthma-related symptoms. After trying myriad other treatment options — both mainstream and alternative — the family decided to give salt therapy a shot. “My daughter was much improved after just a few weeks,” he says. “It was after her continued use of this therapy for a few years that she was eventually able to nearly phase it out altogether.”

Juracsik said that salt therapy isn’t typically prescribed by medical doctors because “doctors are in the business of prescribing medicine;” therefore, they aren’t trained in many natural remedies such as halotherapy.

This therapy can boost immunity and help you get over a lingering cold. It also helps with smoker’s cough, anxiety, joint pain, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis and even acne, among many other ailments. For some people, Juracsik explains, it’s possible to relieve symptoms and then simply do maintenance sessions as needed or for flare-ups.

At the St. Louis Salt Room, which was the first business in St. Louis to offer halotherapy, pure pharmaceutical-grade salt is fed into a halo-generator, which utilizes an engine running as fast as a jet engine to pulverize the salt into small enough particles that can easily penetrate the lungs. The halotherapy rooms are dimly lit with salt-encrusted walls and what feels like a sandbox of salt beneath your feet, making a peaceful place to relax for 45 minutes while breathing in the particles, which aren’t noticeable to most people, although some patients have said they can taste the salt in the air.

Relaxing in a salt room has proven beneficial to many people, but nutrition is key, and halotherapy is complementary to a healthy diet, Juracsik says. So, if you aren’t fueling your body with the proper nutrients, salt therapy may not work as well for you as someone who is eating healthy. M