You may be gifting a salt lamp or have one on your wish list this holiday! But do they actually do all the things manufacturers claim – like boosting blood flow, improving sleep, and calming allergy or asthma symptoms?
I checked in with four experts around the country to see if Himalayan salt lamp lamps will make you healthier or are they just an earthy addition to your home?
Eastern European doctors have been using salt therapy to treat patients with allergy, asthma, inflammation and neurological problems for thousands of years.
Patients claim breathing in the salty vapors improved their severe symptoms. However, U.S. doctors are not so sure.
“In fact, what I find is that these cilia, the cleansing cells of our upper respiratory tract are probably having to work overtime to make sure these larger particles do not get lodged in our airways,” explained Dr. Svetlana Kogan, M.D, of New York City: integrative physician and author of Diet Slave No More. “Just a clinical observation in my small clinical practice.”
Himalayan salt lamp manufacturers say the spa-like lamps are similar to salt therapy and work in two ways. One, by cleaning the air by attracting allergens and pollutants to the lamps surface. Two, by releasing air-purifying salt and minerals that puts out a feel-good, healthy, relaxed, and beach-y vibe into the air.
Companies who sell these lamps advertise the salt air created by lamps can clear air pollution and radiation from modern day electronic devices.
“They say they help to neutralize electromagnetic radiation. That is not true because I am a huge believer in electromagnetic radiation. I do have a device in my office that I use for treatment of electromagnetic radiation and it has nothing to do with how these lamps are made,” Kogan said. “There is nothing emanated by these lamps to neutralize electromagnetic radiation.”
“If you are burning a candle in one of these salt lamps, the amount of pollution from the smoke would hugely outweigh any benefit of the salt,” said Dr. John Newsam, PhD, of the American Chemical Society and CEO of Tioga Research in San Diego, CA.
Some salt lamp manufactures claim their product can also cure modern ailments from stress to cancer.
Patients who are concerned about daily radiation exposure from computers and cellphones to MS symptoms have approached Kogan and Dr. Monica German, MD Board certified in functional medicine and pediatrics about salt lamps. www.medicine-naturally.com
Both doctors are not opposed to patients trying salt therapy. They say it may be helpful to some individuals and symptoms. But there is not sufficient evidence- based- medicine to support the list of claims the lamp manufacturers are making.
“There are too many claims that make me suspicious,” German said. “If you want to buy it, it is a nice lamp, if you want to buy it may have a stuffy nose in the winter, but I would not advice it for chronic lung disease.”
“On one hand, there is certainly an aesthetic aspect to the lamp. There is something really beautiful about these lamps. They insight the spiritual feeling inside us,” Kogan said. “It evokes certain emotions conducive to spiritual thins/ spirituality, rest and destressing. On the other hand, there is science, and the science does not support the claims that the manufacturers are making, lets also stay true and not fool ourselves into what it is not.”
As for the chemistry behind salt lamps, two doctors we spoke with said the lamp would not get hot enough to actually release salt into the air.
It would take high energy radiation similar to a focused X-Ray AND more than 2500 Degrees, the same amount of heat needed to weld two metals together, to break apart the chemical bonds holding the pink Himalayan salt minerals together.
“The only way to get those ions or salts into the atmosphere is using very high energy radiation like using something like x-ray and focused x-rays and we don't have them in our house or do we want it. The same x-ray you want to examine a broken bone or radiate a tumor. That is the kind of energy it would take to get those salts into the air. We do not want to be exposed to these amounts of x-ray without those amounts of health benefits. And those types of radiation do not exist in our house” said Dr. May Nyman, PhD, of the American Chemical Society and Professor of Chemistry at Oregon State.
“That is not happening in a Himalayan salt lamp where you have a flame, incandescent bulb or led bulb. You are not heating up the salt high enough to liberate any of the ions from it,” explained Newsam. “The strength of between positive and negative ions of salt is very strong and therefore, they want to stay together - they don't want to scoot off into the atmosphere. A block of salt is not going to liberate any sodium or chloride ions.”
The experts do not want to discourage anyone from enjoying a salt lamp. The lamps can evoke positive emotions connected to relaxation and happiness.
“There is increasing evidence that shows meditation, yoga can have an effect on physiology. Our systems are controlled by what happens is our brain, where we ate thinking, so depending on what happens in there we can potentially modulate our physiology to some degree, to some degree.,” explained Newsam. “And so even if there is not a direct affect from a Himalayan salt lamp: if someone believes this certain object has certain benefits just the process of believing that may actually lead to benefits. “
The lack of scientific research and lack of heat generated by a flame or 20-watt light bulb verify salt lamps are probably not a cure-all for your health.