Contributions to the Development of Halotherapy

Physiotherapy and non-medicinal methods have a long history of use in Russia. I became familiar with many of them and used them in treatments while working at the All-Union Scientific and Research Institute of Pulmonology in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Among them are fasting diet therapy, and various types of breathing exercises (Buteyko, Strelnikova, etc.), acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, various types of massage and manual therapy, hot body wraps, auto-hemotherapy, and hirudo medicinalis. Of course, I, as a pulmonologist, am especially interested in inhalation therapies. We use the inhalation of saline solutions, mineral water, herbal remedies, warm humid air, and so on.

I am very interested in inhalation therapy using natural treatments. It was at that time that I first found out about speleotherapy. The Institute had scientific links with the Uzhgorod Scientific and Research Institute of Balneotherapy (Trans-Carpathia, Ukraine); and we sent asthma patients to an underground salt speleoclinic in Solotvino (near Uzhgorod). That speleoclinic had been built in a former salt mine at a depth of nearly 300 meters.

Observing patients undergoing a round of treatment, we studied its effectiveness and honed the recommended uses and warnings of using speleotherapy. Many patients liked the non-medicinal method of treatment, as they felt relief from the diseases’ symptoms, and it decreased the amount of medication they needed to take.

But, there were drawbacks. These were, primarily, the inevitable period of acclimation, as well as difficulties and complications connected with being underground. In some cases, the patients became worse after they returned home. One limitation of speleotherapy is connected with the duration of the treatment and the small number of available clinics. Though the method is effective, it is rather exclusive and inaccessible for wide use.

A study of the atmosphere of the speleoclinic and the mechanics of speleotherapy showed that the main factor, which improves health is the smallest airborne particles of natural rock salt of a certain size and concentration. This fact led us to the idea of creating similar atmospheric conditions, which are more accessible to patients.

We built the first salt room at the end of the 1980s at the Institute of Pulmonology in Leningrad, which created an atmosphere for dry salt aerosol treatment. We named this treatment ‘halotherapy’ (‘halite’ means ‘mineral rock salt’), and the salt room was called the ‘halochamber’. Before this, there were other attempts to build facilities reproducing the conditions of natural salt caves. The walls of the first such facilities that attempted to create an artificial microclimate were covered in all sorts of salt-based minerals (halite, sylvinite, salt bricks, etc.). However, studies have shown that salt walls do not create a microclimate of dry salt aerosol. We realized that the only effective way to build a functioning salt cave was through the creation of dry salt aerosol with the help of special equipment: halogenerators.