Asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States, and that number is rising every year. Although there is no known cure for asthma, and the condition is normally managed long-term with prescription medications, there are some simple diet and lifestyle steps that may help reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. These include identifying possible trigger allergens and getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids.
One lesser-known tool in the armory of potential asthma aid is a simple salt inhaler (or “salt pipe”)—a small and inexpensive device through which you breathe air that is infused with microscopic salt particles. Salt therapy—also known as halotherapy—has been shown in several studies to improve lung function in those suffering from mild to moderate asthma, as well as other respiratory conditions.
Inhaling salty air to improve respiratory health is not a new idea. Physicians from past ages prescribed trips to the seaside to relieve a host of ailments. Scientific interest in the health benefits of salty air was sparked in the mid-1800s when Feliks Boczkowski, a Polish doctor, observed that men working in salt mines had fewer respiratory problems than those working in other types of mines.
About a century later, during World War II, Karl Hermann Spannagel, a German doctor, observed that patients who hid in salt caves to avoid bombing experienced improved respiratory health. Therapeutic salt rooms appeared soon after in several European countries and have since made their way to the United States. They are believed to relieve respiratory problems and common skin conditions like eczema and strengthen the immune system.
Researchers acknowledge that salt has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, but they aren’t sure about just how it affects asthma patients. The American Lung Association suggests that salt may thin mucus in the airways of asthma patients, making it easier to expectorate.
Research on salt’s alleviation of asthma symptoms is limited, and hard data are sparse, but anecdotal evidence is growing. For those suffering from the effects of chronic asthma, using a salt inhaler as a complement to a standard asthma management plan may be beneficial. Patient testimony suggests it could improve respiratory function and quality of life, and in some cases reduce dependence on asthma medications.
Halotherapy is increasingly recognized as a viable option that can complement standard treatment. Kurt Stradtman, a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner, told The Epoch Times: “Salt inhalers are very beneficial at improving respiratory health. When tiny salt particles are inhaled in a controlled environment like with a salt inhaler, these salt particles draw in moisture—in this case, mucus from the lining of the lungs. This can effectively help alleviate respiratory symptoms naturally. Salt therapy can be beneficial for both acute and chronic respiratory conditions.”
Since Dr. Oz first touted the respiratory health benefits of salt inhalers on his TV show, multiple studies on salt therapy have produced some encouraging results. A review of 13 studies related to halotherapy published in the March 2022 edition of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine concluded that the therapy “has been found to have a positive effect on patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases, improving mucociliary elimination and lung function.”
A comprehensive review of 18 studies examining the effect of halotherapy on adult and child asthma patients was published in the Nov. 22, 2021, edition of the journal Healthcare. It consistently found halotherapy to have positive therapeutic effects, which included improved mucociliary clearance (the ability to clear mucus from the respiratory airways), and reduced occurrence of nighttime asthma attacks.
“All studies seem to sustain the overall positive effects of halotherapy as adjuvant therapy on asthma patients with no reported adverse events,” the authors wrote. “Halotherapy is a crucial natural ally in asthma, but further evidence-based studies on larger populations are needed.”
Proponents of halotherapy report that it’s a very safe natural treatment, with no significant side effects other than the possibility of a sore throat resulting from prolonged exposure. Still, available studies related to halotherapy are limited in number and duration, with no available data on potential long-term effects.
It’s important to note that a salt inhaler is not a replacement for asthma medications, which have well-documented effectiveness and are essential to asthma management for millions of people. Rather, it’s possible that halotherapy could help prevent or alleviate chronic asthma symptoms, leading to reduced dependence on medications—and that would be a win for both patient and doctor.
Stradtman added, “I feel like it’s a safe option for most anyone, but it’s always important to check with your healthcare provider before starting just to be sure.”