Legend has it that the Queen of Sheeba believed in the healing properties of the salt-rich Dead Sea. Cleopatra also famously traveled from Egypt to use the Dead Sea as her own personal spa.
Today, people don't need to travel to Jordan or Israel to benefit from salt therapy, with salt chambers opening across northern Texas, claiming to heal a variety of ailments, with sessions that cost upwards of $50.
Customers believe that spending time in the chambers, which look similar to tanning beds, can help to combat germs and ease breathing during the winter.
Lisa Cobb is the owner of Luxury on Lovers in Dallas, where they offer individual salt chambers that use Himalayan salt for customers seeking skin benefits and pharmaceutical-grade salt for those seeking respiratory and skin treatments.
"It's like a neti pot on steroids," Cobb said, referring to the vessels used to wash out the nasal cavity. "Salt has been used for thousands of years for healing. When people come out of the salt chambers, they get all the benefits of the skin to treat rashes, acne, eczema, and it's also hydrating for your skin."
Cobb pointed to two of her regular clients who come in for the respiratory benefits of salt therapy.
"There is a woman who comes in here with her 4-year-old who has asthma and it helps him to breathe easier," Cobb said. "And we have an American Airlines pilot that comes in regularly to fight allergies and to boost the immune system, because it helps you fight the stuff that's flying around, no pun intended!"
Though it's difficult to find clinical trials that support the positive effects of salt therapy, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in 2006 that said that inhaling hypertonic saline showed improvements to lung function in people living with cystic fibrosis.
On his TV show, Dr. Oz said, "Salt is being rediscovered as the miracle mineral that heals."
"It's not as simple as popping a pill," Cobb said. "Americans are always looking for instant gratification, and people want things really fast and right now, and I think the more holistic therapies take time. You didn't get there overnight and it's not going to be solved overnight."
Ulle Lentz is the owner of Salt Chamber LLC, which provides Luxury on Lovers and other stores with their salt chambers and rooms. It recently expanded beyond land to provide Norwegian Cruise Line's "Breakaway" ship with a salt room at sea.
"Norwegian Cruise Line opened the first salt rooms at sea using one of our halo generators, which is the most important part" of the chamber, Lentz said. "The generator takes pure salt crystals and grinds it into micro-particles and disperses it into the room or chamber."