Questions over salt caves' claim to fight illnesses
St Kilda players in a salt cave. Photo: Salts of the Earth website
An increasing number of alternative clinics are charging people hundreds of dollars to sit in ''salt caves'' for respiratory illnesses and skin complaints such as asthma, eczema and cystic fibrosis.
AFL footballers have also turned to salt therapy to see if it shortens recovery time between games. But medical practitioners say they are not convinced of the therapy and suggest people consult their doctors before paying for it because it could exacerbate their condition.
Over the past three years, more than a dozen clinics have started offering ''salt therapy'' or ''halotherapy'' in Australia, claiming inhalation of tiny salt particles in a room full of natural salt relieves inflammation and congestion and breaks up mucus.
The Galos salt cave in Chicago, Illinois, uses iodine salt from the Black Sea. Photo: Getty
One clinic in Hampton, ''Dr Salt'', claims hour-long sessions at a cost of $45 each ''wards off and decreases the likelihood of asthma attacks'', prevents allergies and treats the symptoms of illnesses such as croup, hay fever, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It also promotes it for acne, ear infections and snoring.
''Clinical studies have proven that bodily ailments ranging from respiratory diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, etc) to allergies are noticeably reduced after receiving such treatments,'' the Dr Salt website says.
The website also says: ''The antiseptic nature of the salt is able to kill bacteria and viruses and also increase mucociliary clearance, thereby reducing inflammation in the whole respiratory tract.''
The clinic says the therapy is suitable for babies as young as four months and has
rooms with toys and play equipment for children.
A natural therapist at Dr Salt, Orly Miller, said the clinic had no medical staff and generally recommended people try six to 14 sessions depending on their symptoms. She said the clinic did not claim to cure any illnesses, but rather relieve symptoms of them.
''None of us claim to be doctors … we're just called Dr Salt,'' she said. ''We offer advice that you do consult your doctor before coming. We don't offer it as an opposition to Ventolin [asthma treatment], it's just an alternative that can go hand and hand together with medical treatment.''
David Lindsay, the CEO and founder of another business, Salts of the Earth, said he did not claim salt therapy could treat illnesses. Instead, his website says it ''may help'' people with a range of conditions ranging from sinusitis all the way through to pneumonia and lung cancer.
He said he was looking to expand from five clinics to 100 over the next three years across Australia because his service was so popular. He said his clinics in Melbourne and Perth had seen more than 10,000 people over the past three years and were now receiving the backing of a ''very well-known Melbourne businessman'' as well as celebrity doctor John Tickell.
Mr Lindsay said he was getting referrals from the Royal Children's Hospital and Monash Medical Centre and was building salt rooms for the St Kilda Football Club.
''If this therapy didn't do something, these professional athletes wouldn't be doing it,'' he said.
But spokesmen for both hospitals said they did not refer patients to the ''non-evidence-based'' therapy and Head of Immunology and Allergy at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Professor Jo Douglass said salt rooms could actually trigger asthma in some people.
She said although the inhalation of salt solutions in a nebuliser helped clear some people's airways, this was done in a medical setting where people's lung function was observed. ''People with active asthma need to be aware of the potential for salt to cause airway narrowing,'' she said.
A Salus Naturalis é a primeira sala de Haloterapia ou sala de Sal de Brasília
SGAS 915 conjunto N lotes 69A e 70A
sala 106 térreo
Advance Centro Clínico SulBrasília DF 71680-349 Brasil