Concern over growing popularity of salt therapy as respiratory treatment.

By Samantha Turnbull

As flu season begins some respiratory illness sufferers are turning to ‘salt caves’ for relief, but the Lung Foundation is warning against the trend.

Salt therapy is an alternative health practice that has been around for hundreds of years, but has grown in popularity in Australia since the opening of the country’s first replica ‘salt caves’ about 10 years ago.

Marshal Rubinstein opened a ‘salt cave’ last month in the northern New South Wales town of Byron Bay.

He said he began researching salt therapy after he attended a session in Sydney and found significant relief from a bout of bronchitis.

“In 1743 there was a Polish doctor who worked in a town with a salt mine and he discovered all of the workers from the salt mine had excellent respiratory health,” Mr Rubinstein said.

“After a little while they discovered it was beneficial being in that environment that people from all over Europe would visit the salt mines, and doctors would prescribe time spent in salt caves.”

Mr Rubinstein’s facility is a room with a two-inch layer of salt on the floor and a machine known as a ‘halogenerator’ that disperses micro-sized salt particles into the air.

“Some very clever Russian scientists discovered that it wasn’t necessary to cart someone all the way across the country into a cave to get these beneficial effects,” he said.

“So they studied the temperature, humidity and size of the salt particles and they built a machine called a halogenerator.

“The salt is put down partly for aesthetics, but the true therapeutic benefits come through the halogenerator.”

Mr Rubinstein has no medical qualifications and does not claim salt therapy as a cure for respiratory illness, but said it may relieve symptoms.

“We have a couple of doctors who come in, one that comes in every week,” he said.


“I prefer people to experience it themselves and make their own decisions.”

Byron Shire resident Candida Baker said she took her daughter, Anna Drewe, to the salt cave after being diagnosed with whooping cough.

“It’s known as the 100-day cough, but it went on beyond that,” Ms Baker said.

“She’d been on a lot of antibiotics and one day I thought ‘there must be something out there that we haven’t tried’ so I started Googling remedies for coughs and salt caves came up.

“It has definitely lessened the continuing cough that Anna had.”

No scientific evidence to support therapy: Lung Foundation

However, Lung Foundation chief executive Heather Allan said she developed evidence-based guidelines for patients and clinicians about treatments such as salt therapy and she did not recommend it.

“There isn’t the scientific evidence to support the benefits of salt therapy in the form of a salt cave or a salt room or the inhalation of salt,” she said.

“There is no current medical guideline that has been developed by any credible peak body to recommend the use of salt caves or salt rooms.”

Ms Allan said there was no evidence that salt caves could cause harm, although warm rooms could provide ideal conditions for the growth of bacteria.

She also said the Lung Foundation had received an increase in inquiries about the safety of salt therapy in recent years.

“I do get the sense that more and more are coming online,” she said.

Ms Allan advised anyone with a respiratory illness to seek advice from their general practitioner.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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*** Featured Image: Anna Drewe in a Byron Bay 'salt cave'(ABC)

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