Mediterranean sea salt, Himalayan rock salt, Dead Sea salt crystals -- they're all salt, they all have a high sodium chloride content and they all are touted as having properties that positively affect the human body. Allergies, dehydration and body detoxification are just a few of the purported health benefits derived from mineral-rich Himalayan salt, in particular. A popular product on the market is the Himalayan salt lamp -- a block of salt that's heated either electrically or with a candle. It's believed that the negative ions emitted from the warmed block of salt purify the surroundings and chase away destructive positive ions.
Ions -- Positive and Negative
Ions, those atoms or molecules, can be either positive or negative because of their unbalanced construction. Instead of the electrons and neutrons in ions being equal, they exist in an unequal configuration.
Throw away your belief that everything called "positive" is positive for you -- especially when it comes to ions. A negative ion, which is often displayed after an act of nature such as an electrical storm, large waves crashing onto the shore or bright sunlight streaming directly from the sky, can charge the human body, refreshing it and creating a feeling of exhilaration. Positive ions, on the other hand, are created when electrical equipment, microwaves, air conditioners or even vacuum cleaners stir up the atmosphere, causing sneezing, coughing or other maladies Fortunately, a negative ion can destabilize the positive ion and cleanse the air.
"Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness and more mental energy," says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research, and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.
Enter the Himalayan Salt Lamp
At this point, you may be wondering how the Himalayan salt lamp factors into ion activity. It's a facilitator. The salt lamp doesn't actually create negative ions, but forms an environment wherein negative ions thrive. Due to its chemical construction, the block of salt attracts humidity. The heat within the lamp then causes the moisture to begin evaporating, which does create negative ions. Whether using the salt lamp with a candle or a low-wattage bulb, the negative ions are released.
Some term a Himalayan salt lamp "a living energy source." It's been purported that even a small number of negative ions could decrease the amount of bacteria in the air that are known to spread diseases. The Himalayan salt lamp is considered by many to be a natural ionizer and air purifier.
Origin of Himalayan Salt
The stately, mysterious, awe-inspiring Himalayan Mountains hold millions of years of secrets, including the salt mines found in the foothills of Pakistan. According to historical lore, the salty treasure was originally discovered by Alexander the Great on his trek through northern Pakistan in 326 B.C. Fast forward over 2,300 years later, and the salt mines of Khewra, Pakistan, produce over 325,000 tons of salt a year and are the second largest salt mines in the world.
Salt veins were formed in the bowels of the mountains by the evaporation of inland seawater, a process that took millions of years. Today, technology akin to that employed in coal mines is used to extract the blocks of salt. Himalayan salt used for cooking is also pulled from the same mines but the processing is slightly different than that for the salt used in lamps. The high mineral content of the Himalayan salt is natural. It contains no additives, unlike table salt.
Halotherapy, or salt therapy, has been practiced since the times of ancient Greece. While Himalayan salt lamps are just one form of salt therapy, other methods, including salt room therapy, have evolved. Even today, we know to gargle with salt when mouth sores become annoying, or that swimming in salt water relieves most topical rashes. Polish salt caves were a known treatment for respiratory ailments as far back as the 19th century. Today, salt spas are still considered a popular method for treating respiratory ailments.