Health & Medicine

Salt therapy may make you feel better than a day at the beach

Bluegrass Salt Room owner Tiffany Richir in her treatment room on East Brannon Road in Nicholasville. The business provides halotherapy, during which microscopically ground salt is released into the air that clients breathe. Proponents say it helps people with breathing problems.
Bluegrass Salt Room owner Tiffany Richir in her treatment room on East Brannon Road in Nicholasville. The business provides halotherapy, during which microscopically ground salt is released into the air that clients breathe. Proponents say it helps people with breathing problems. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Many health professionals want us to stay away from too much salt, but Tiffany Richir is encouraging folks to surround themselves with it — with natural salt therapy.

Richir’s business, Bluegrass Salt Room in Brannon Crossing in Nicholasville, provides halotherapy, the use of salt vapor to treat respiratory ailments, skin irritations and mental lethargy. The therapy is offered in a controlled climate where Himalayan salt is ground up and dispersed through the air, creating an environment similar to that found in European salt caves.

The treatment can clear mucus out of the body and help treat colds and asthma, Richir said.

Richir was introduced to salt therapy about 10 years ago, when she worked at a wellness spa in Florida. Now, she does a session herself almost every day. Her 1 1/2 -year-old daughter also receives a daily treatment, which Richir said treats the toddler’s eczema without the use of steroid creams.

She offers 45-minute sessionsby appointment only. She said she keeps sessions intimate, with small groups or individuals. The room temperature and the amount of salt released into the air can be controlled.

In a session, a person sits in the salt room with 15,000 pounds of salt while lights are dimmed and soft music plays. The floor of the salt room is covered with salt. Chunks of salt rock line the floor, and a line of salt tiles run along the walls. A machine grinds salt into microscopic particles that can be inhaled to the deepest part of the lungs, Richir said.

A single session is $35. Multiple sessions get a discounted rate, with 15 sessions costing $245. Richir offers a first session for an introductory rate of $20.

Results are better if people attend multiple sessions, Richir said. For respiratory problems, customers should take 12 to 15 sessions within 30 days, up to four times a year. For skin health, the salt room advises 15 to 20 sessions within 30 days, repeated four times a year. For general health, customers should go to two sessions a week for four to five weeks in a row, four times a year.

“If you’ve been to the beach and you feel better, ... you already understand a little about salt therapy,” Richir said. “This is like times 10.”

This ancient therapy is a growing business. According to the Salt Therapy Association, there were just a handful of businesses offering halotherapy years ago, but now there are more than 125 clinics in the United States and Canada.

Salt therapy began in Poland about 1849 after a doctor noticed that salt mine workers had fewer respiratory problems than other miners, according to the American Lung Association. The association, which acknowledges an increase in salt rooms around the country, says that some patients see benefits, but there is no scientific evidence that salt therapy is effective.

Dr. Beth Miller, director of the University of Kentucky’s Asthma, Allergy and Sinus Clinics, said salt therapy is not highly studied in the U.S. and could even pose risks to patients of Asthma or COPD if they stop taking medicine and treatment in favor of salt therapy.

Salt therapy could induce bronchial restriction, which means airways narrow and cause irritation, Miller said.

“It’s too early to recommend, and there is no scientific evidence,” Miller said.

Richir doesn’t keep her own data, but she said her patients who see pulmonologists tell her that their doctors notice an improvement in their conditions. Richir salt salt therapy is a supplement to medical treatment and not an alternative to it.

The Bluegrass Salt room sells salt lamps, salt blocks for cooking and salt licks for animals. The salt is from Pakistan, mined from foothills of the Himalaya mountains. Richir is a direct importer of the salt. Bluegrass Salt Room also has a dry heat far-infrared sauna that mimics the some benefits of exercise, such as an increase in core body temperature. It gets the heart pumping and is good for muscle and joint tension relief, Richir said.

Her customers range from 6-month-old infants to seniors. Richir said children respond well to the salt room because they typically heal faster and need fewer sessions than adults.

On its Facebook page, Bluegrass Salt Room has five stars based on 39 reviews. Facebook user Michelle Gunther Beard said, “Very relaxing. The owner knows what she is doing. This is cutting-edge for our region.”

Richir agrees: “I’m just a big believer in this, and I love to watch people to be able to breathe better, to see their results from it.”

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