Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Dose of Salt: Savor the relaxing, therapeutic air at a nearby salt room

Gulien’s Massage & Saltroom, Palmyra

After this long winter, you may yearn for a day of beach therapy, taking in the warm, salty sea air.

Unfortunately, it’s still too cold to spend much time luxuriating by the seashore. But, much closer to home, there is a salty substitute.

Halotherapy, or salt therapy, allows you to immerse your body in salt and fill your lungs with concentrated salty air to harness its curative properties. It’s like a day at the beach in less than an hour’s time.

Eve Marton, co-owner of Gulien’s newly reopened farmhouse-style salt room in Palmyra, learned about halotherapy during school field trips to salt caves while growing up in Eastern Europe.

“We learned that pink Himalayan salt is the best type because it’s mineral-rich,” she said. “Salt is so important for your cellular function. It’s a natural antihistamine and contains antiseptic properties.”

Ionically charged with beneficial elements like potassium, calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium and bromine, salt has been used throughout the world, over centuries, to treat a long list of physical and mental ailments.

Modern salt rooms use a halogenerator, which micronizes salt and disperses microscopic particles into the air.

“The salt particles convert positives ions into negative ions, which is vital in strengthening the body’s immune system,” said Mel McGuire, owner of SaltEFX, located near Linglestown. “And it has a positive effect on the respiratory system and skin ailments.”

With a long list of touted benefits, the therapeutic claims do tend to raise the proverbial eyebrow. So, I had to see for myself during my own 45-minute salt room session.


Salty Benefits

To enter the salt room, I removed my shoes and walked barefoot through a floor coated with literally tons of salt—about eight inches of granules the size of garbanzo beans. After burying me under a salt pile, the attendant handed me heated rocks for each hand and placed a salt bag onto my stomach. That served as a good reminder to breathe through my diaphragm.

I did a few snow angels, but I mostly stayed still and relaxed, saturating myself in the ambiance. The salt bricks, arranged like beautiful mosaics around a warm fireplace, glowed to create the sensation that I was in a pulsating, neon crystal ski lodge. Halotherapy met color therapy and sound therapy for a balancing triad of mind, body and spirit.

Even lying on a heated floor, the salt quickly cooled most of my exposed skin. But my feet continued to burn and throb as if they had their own pulse.

“The salt is drawing out pollutants and inflammation,” McGuire said. “Can you feel your body detoxifying?”

That’s the moment I turned over and planted my face in the salt. Take that, acne and double chin.

Even if you have no physical afflictions, the relaxing atmosphere may calm your mind, allowing you to absorb the salty benefits into your mental psyche. Or you could indulge in a spa treatment with salt. It’s used in beauty treatments to exfoliate skin, reduce swelling in feet and under eyes, and detoxify glands in bath water.


Good For You

There’s a checklist for attending a salt session.

The rules vary per salt room, but there are some common threads—refrain from applying scented products to your body, no smoking prior to your visit, no eating or drinking, and wear comfortable clothing. Although salt absorbs bacteria, you won’t want to disturb the other guests by bringing the funk.

But you can bring your children. McGuire said that even young children respond well to halotherapy. Marton will even set up a playroom for your kids with sand and salt toys, complete with table soccer.

If you are under a doctor’s care, please consult your physician to discuss whether halotherapy is safe for your medical situation. Halotherapy, while practiced around the world, is considered an alternative treatment.

What should you expect after your session?

Your skin will definitely have a chalky coating. Your entire body will look like a gymnast’s hands. Your lips will taste like soft pretzels, minus the pretzels. But I found that it was worth it to feel your skin’s new softness, to restore your balance.

You also might have a runny nose or a light cough. According to McGuire, “that means it’s working.”

“That’s just the salt breaking down and purging toxins from your lungs,” McGuire said.

Marton offered one final piece of advice post-visit.

“Definitely make sure you hydrate,” she said. “And add salt to your water bottle to replace your electrolytes. Salt is so good for you.”


Salt Near You

The Harrisburg area has three independently owned and operated salt rooms to choose from.

Gulien’s, 125 N. Locust St., Palmyra:

SaltEFX Salt Room Center, 6009 Allentown Blvd., Harrisburg:

Tranquility Salon and Wellness Center, 257 Penrose Pl., Carlisle:


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