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Salt Spa Treatments Gaining Popularity

BOSTON (CBS) -- For years we've been warned to hold the salt. But these days the latest trend isn't sprinkling it on food, it's breathing it in.

It's called salt therapy and many people have found it's a breath of fresh air.

Winter makes it tough for Megan Gilley to breathe easy. She suffers from nasal congestion and respiratory problems.

To help soothe the situation she goes to salt therapy sessions, which she says have been a mind and sinus clearing experience.

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben reports.

"Just after 20 minutes, my sinuses feel better. I don't feel dry," Gilley said.

Also known as halo therapy, the experience involves relaxing in a warm room coated with salt crystals while breathing in salt-infused air.

Proponents say the particles help ease respiratory and skin conditions, everything from asthma and allergies to psoriasis. Spa Finder website recently named the treatment a top trend.

"We're seeing salt therapy all over the United States," said Sallie Fraenkel of Spa Finder. "You're going to see more and more salt spas pop up as time goes on."

Salt therapy first gained popularity in Eastern Europe many years ago. "Once upon a time people in the Ukraine, for example, used to go below ground and breathe in salt caves to help all sorts of breathing disorders," Fraenkel said.

Above ground, at modern spas like Aria, salt rooms often fill up fast, sometimes with people who just need some R & R.

"It's very quiet in there. And we do have music piped in to some very therapeutic, relaxing chairs," said Michelle Wilkos of the Spa at Aria.

Doctors say it's possible for salt to provide some short-term relief. After all, it's used in everything from I-V solutions to nasal washes.

"So if you inhale salt, the theory is that you will take the mucus that is blocking the airway and make it more liquidy," said Dr. Leonard Bilory of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

It's important to remember that salt therapy is not a medical treatment, and there haven't been any clinical trials on it yet.

The cost of salt therapy varies depending on the location, with prices ranging from $10 to upwards of $100.


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