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Benefits of Salt Lamps?

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Many holistic therapists advocate the use of salt lamps as ionisers.   The negative ions are thought to neutralise the electrically charged ions present in the everyday environment.  They believe these negative ions promote many health benefits including: alleviating respiratory problems, stress, skin conditions and joint pain.  However, the majority of the scientific community disregard such claims, supporting their findings through research demonstrating that salt lamps produce no health benefits.  So which side is right?  We'll look at some of the facts, research and anecdotal claims surrounding the debate.

It would be useful to start our investigation by examining how salt therapy has been linked to health improvements.  Use of salt therapy is centuries old and was reported as long ago as in Roman salt mines where it was observed many of the workers down these mines were in much better health than their contemporaries.  The use of 'salt air' to promote good health was also famously observed by the German Doctor, Herman Spannagel.  During second world war air raids he noticed improvements in the health of his patients that took refuge in the salt-rich Kluterthöhle cave.  Asthma symptoms, bronchitis and hayfever were alleviated and this was attributed to the clean air produced by the salts in the cave.
    
More recently, a study by The Division of Respiratory Medicine University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland concluded the negative ions produced by air ionisers were ineffective in asthma treatment.  They even state that over-reliance on alternative therapies can lead to undertreatment and undesired side effects.

However, not all those from the scientific community dismiss the impact of negative ions on health.  A 2006 trial by the American Psychiatric Association reported improvements in a sample group of people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Over a three week period, forty per cent of those exposed to negative ions reported improvements in their depressive symptoms.


Despite the majority of the scientific community being sceptical of the benefits attributed to salt lamps, many holistic health practitioners champion their use.  They point to many of the positive anecdotal experiences reported by many people who have used them.  In fact, many advocates of salt lamps experience so many improvements they end up using them all around their homes and in their workplace.  They are particularly popular for use in bedrooms where many claim keeping a salt lamp active throughout the night stops their partners snoring!

Those in the field of alternative health also state how scientific thinking does not generally support their methods.  Just because something can't be proven in a research study does that mean it can't exist?  Is it not possible that any benefits that can arise from the use of salt lamps are unable to be examined adequately with current scientific thinking?  There are a lot of things that we all experience which can not be studied in a laboratory and this could be true of the beliefs held by holistic therapists.

So, the big question is; do salt lamps work?  The answer to this question seems to be down to the individual.  Those who need concrete evidence to hold a belief are likely to see salt lamps as little more than an attractive decorative item.  For those who believe there's more out there than can be proven by science then a salt lamp could be viewed as a catalyst to health improvements.


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By Gary Mullen
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