Originally published on Orlando’s We Care issue May/June 2010 – written by Kevin Fritz
THE HEALING EFFECTS OF SALT: How the process of halotherapy helps lessen the symptoms associated with allergies, bronchitis and even acne.
Lying back on the padded chaise among the salt encrusted walls and ceiling of the Relaxation Room, I was told I would need at least 20 minutes to experience the therapy the salt room could offer. Being one who has trouble relaxing, I wondered how long I would last as I walked across the salty, granular floor and positioned myself on the chair as the lights went down and the Zen influenced music began to play deep in the background. Suddenly the light returned and the door opened. For some reason my therapy was being halted, I surmised. Hardly. I had fallen asleep.
Now, if you have never been in a salt room, also called a halochamber, or undergone any type of halotherapy, you are not alone. In fact Orlando, Fla., boasts one of only about 10 such businesses in the country. Long-trusted as a way to fight bacteria and soothe the respiratory system in Europe since the 1800s, it has been slow to catch on in the United States, but is beginning to finally get some legs.
Here’s how it works: Pharmaceutical salt is added to a halogenerator, which turns the salt into microscopic particles and pumps it into the air. The dry salt aerosol is passively inhaled and acts as a natural disinfectant, clearing mucus
and improving breathing and relieving symptoms caused by every thing from allergies to bronchitis. And it’s safe for children as well as adults. Moreover, The New England Journal of Medicine says salt therapy is an inexpensive, safe, and effective complementary therapy for patients with cystic fibrosis.
The Salt Room in Orlando opened on February 1, and is owned by Ashley Lewless and Marines Hoppes, who acts as director of day today operations. They were inspired by Lewless’ father-in-law who lives in the Bahamas and believes wholeheartedly in the healing effects of salt. He offered seed money and encouraged his daughter-in-law and Hoppes to open a salt therapy business in Florida.
“Florida is in the top five states with high mold and pollen counts,” notes Lewless about their decision to open The Salt Room in their home state. “And like Chinese herbs and acupuncture, the timing seems to be right for alternative therapy. People are more open to it.” Hoppes adds the recession really changed how people feel about their lives, with health becoming more important than material possessions.
Still, the hardest thing is educating the masses on the healing effects of salt therapy. “I’d say 80 percent of the people don’t even know about halotherapy,” notes Lewless, which she explains gets its name from the Greek word halo, meaning salt. Lewless estimates the number of halotherapy centers will grow quickly when insurance companies begin to cover the treatment. Similar treatment is already covered in Canada. Knowing the therapy is out-of-pocket, The Salt Room has reasonably priced its treatments: Two sessions of halotherapy for as little as $45 does wonders for people suffering from asthma, allergies, emphysema or bronchitis.
“It’s a wellness type of business,” adds Lewless. “The treatment is really prevention and complementary medicine.” Beyond the reality that alternative-type therapies are catching on, it was the halogenerator invented just seven years ago that made it possible to bring this type of treatment to the masses. The first generator appeared in Naples, Fla., last year.
“It is drug free and there are no side effects,” says Lewless. “It offers instant relief, and it’s a natural expectorant.” In fact, she says many people hear their ears popping during their first visit. But what about drying
out your skin? Au contraire, Lewless adds, noting it actually helps your largest organ by improving acne,psoriasis and neurodermatitis.
Located in a row of medical offices on North Mills Avenue, The Salt Room is in reality three rooms, which are not unlike caves: The Relaxation Room where I fell asleep; the Children’s Room complete with indoor playground equipment and safe for kids as young as six months old; and the Yoga Room, where you can get your therapy while taking your yoga class.
Each room offers the same halotherapy, and while there may be a faint salt smell, it is barely discernible that salt is being pumped into the air around you, helping to heal and adding to the encrustations on all four walls, the ceiling and the granular floor.
The Relaxation Room in particular is an excellent place to de-stress while receiving treatment, and can be rented out for a small office meeting at discounted rates.
Lewless, who was born and raised in Winter Park, Fla., and graduated from the University of Florida, and Hoppes, who was born in Puerto Rico, but has lived in the Orlando area since she was a teenager and graduated from the University of Central Florida as an environmental engineer, are sincere about helping and healing the locals they have grown up with over the years.
“We both live and play in this community,” says Hoppes. “We feel like we are giving something back. And when one person feels well, they’ll spread the word.”