by Lisa Schauer
This story begins in the salt mines of Eastern Europe, where miners were said to emerge from their toil with rejuvenated skin, greater lung capacity and a reduced incidence of respiratory ailments.
Healing spas began to spring up around the salt mines, catering to people with a range of respiratory illnesses, following the discovery of the benefits of dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, by Polish doctors in the 19th Century.
Modern salt caves use a halo generator to finely grind and atomize sterile pharmacy-grade sodium chloride in an indoor room built to look like a cave with four inches of Himalayan salt on the floor.
The décor is soothing and the cool dry air in the room fills with a faint mist of odorless salt, permeating the lungs and capillaries, invisibly coating the skin.
For people with COPD, allergies, sinus infections, colds and other breathing problems, as well as those suffering from dermatological conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, halotherapy offers a non-pharmaceutical route to relieving symptoms of chronic and acute diseases.
Others frequent salt caves to help improve athletic performance or to recover from jet lag, ear infections or cosmetic surgery.
Credit goes to the healing power of salt, which in its dry form can absorb toxins, deep cleansing the skin and respiratory track.
Most Americans are more familiar with so-called wet salt therapies such as salt scrubs, Nettie pots, nebulizers and saline solutions. Dry salt therapy is a staple in spas throughout Europe, Canada and Australia, and now salt caves are gaining acceptance in the U.S.
Originally from New Jersey, Janice and Anthony Zakrzewski opened Berkeley Springs Salt Cave in May 2021 with strong support from visitors and the local community.
“It’s been well-received in the community, and from people all over,” said Anthony, a retired Navy veteran who quit his job at Gatt Creek Furniture to build the salt cave and run the business fulltime with his wife of 28 years.
“Business is good. We get to meet people who have a positive experience and they come back. We do bridal parties, and girls’ night out,” adds Janice, who was inspired to find alternative treatments for her own health and skin issues.
After visiting a salt cave in Martinsburg, Jan decided she and her husband could do it even better in Berkeley Springs, which they considered a natural location for alternative treatments.
The couple joined the Salt Therapy Association, the local Chamber of Commerce and Travel Berkeley Springs, promoting their health-oriented products and services, including an active salt cave, massage therapy, and a line of handmade soaps, hand-poured candles, bath bombs, lip balm, jewelry and crystals in their gift shop onsite. Items in the gift shop are affordably priced between two and 60 dollars.
“It has definitely helped his breathing. The doctor was pretty impressed with his lung capacity,” said Carrie Johnson of Catonsville, who visits Berkeley Springs Salt Cave with her husband, who has COPD.
Berkeley Spring Salt Cave is located on Greenway Trail behind Charlotte’s Café. Call 304-258-0381 for reservations and more information.