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But Dr. Charlene McEvoy, another pulmonologist and head of the Asthma Center at HealthPartners, said there is a difference between sitting in a salt-covered room and ingesting a solution of salt and water directly.
She also cautioned that patients with conditions such as asthma should not replace their medications with salt therapy. “If by doing the salt therapy they couldn’t afford their medications, absolutely not. I have data on their inhalers. I know they help. Mortality for asthma has dropped significantly using our current medical treatment,” she said.
Davies acknowledged there’s a history of “people using [salt] as a homeopathic remedy,” and said he knew of no harm that could come from sitting in a room full of salt. Rather than a medical treatment, Davies said, he would put salt therapy in the same category as a spa treatment.
Maybe that’s a good comparison.
The last time Valerie Petit, another salt-therapy enthusiast, made a trip to the Salt Cave, she fell asleep. Petit said she goes to the cave mainly to unwind in the beach-like environment. “I don’t have any health issues,” she said. “I’m just doing it because it feels good.”
And even McEvoy said there could be value in asthma patients doing anything that allows them to relax and slow down their breathing.
Cost, perceived benefit
A 45-minute session of salt therapy costs $30. The cave also is used for groups doing yoga, meditation or story times for children. Terri Peterson, a pharmacist, leads a breathing class once a month inside the cave. She said her sinuses open up, an effect that can last for a few days.
Eric Christopher, a member of Peterson’s class, said he’s been to the cave more than eight times since first reading about salt therapy in an alternative health newspaper. He occasionally will take an antihistamine for his allergies, but he believes the breathing classes in the salt cave have helped. “I woke up having had a restful, deep sleep,” he said after a recent visit to the cave.
Christopher isn’t deterred by the lack of research on salt therapy.
“I let my own experience be my guide in that,” he said.
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488