DENVER -- In Denver, a salt cave is being used to fight toxins and open airways.
“You can sort of feel the salt in the air,” said Bob Coleman, a frequent customer of 5 Star Salt Caves.
It's in the air, on the walls, even the ground is covered in salt.
“Sort of like just going to the beach,” said Coleman.
Except this beach is made up of 13,000 pounds of ancient sea salt harvested from underneath the Himalayan Mountains.
“It’s over 6 tons of Himalayan salt. … You’re simulating an environment that was found in Europe in the salt mines” said Markus Bohunovsky, owner 5 Star Salt Caves.
It’s a salt cave tucked right inside a brick building on Denver’s South Pearl Street.
“This is sort of like the Caribbean in Denver. You know you can come in and breathe that salt air and get that feeling,” said Coleman.
They say the cave uses a sophisticated system that takes pharmaceutical grades salt, grinds it up into very fine pieces and blows it through the air allowing you to breathe it in.
“There’s the benefit of breathing the salt," said Bohunovsky.
Coleman comes here a couple times a month. He said it’s good for relaxation and helps him when he feels lung infections coming on.
“It’s sort of like breathing healthy stuff. It does feel like a very healthy thing to be doing for yourself. I like to come in here and just go into a meditative state,” he said. “For me is like an ideal setting to experience the benefits of the breathing exercises in this space that has a lot of salt in the air."
It's called Halotherapy. Halos means salt in Greek.
“Everything’s really geared toward providing that holistic feeling. … Himalayan salt is a very natural and complete salt. It has 84 different minerals in there,” said Bohunovsky.
Customers include people with ailments like asthma, allergies and COPD.
Scott Joy, medical director for Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, said despite the lack of studies on Halotherapy, he understands the draw.
“I think what’s exciting about a salt cave is that it provides a relaxing environment, it’s a unique environment, it changes your frame of mind,” said Joy.
As physicians look at integrating wellness into primary care, Joy says there may be benefits for patients with certain chronic diseases.
“We know stress causes a lot of chronic medicals conditions, makes them worse so the more that primary care physicians, the more that patients seeing primary care doctors begin to ask more about integrative services, we think that is going to be beneficial,” he said.
For cave regulars like Coleman, a session with the salt coupled with care from his primary doctor, is a combination that provides more lasting results.
“I don’t think they make claims that it cures viral infections but it certainly helps,” Coleman said.
“There’s some very good evidence for chronic conditions as far as acupuncture and massage for chronic pain, mindfulness to help people deal with anxiety and depression. But I think its really an emerging opportunity for primary care to really engage patients more on these services that they offer,” said Joy.
Around 300 salt therapy rooms have opened up across the U.S., though the owners of this one say it is the only salt cave in Colorado.