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Himalayan Salt Lamps: Science Backed Health Benefits or Trendy Bunk?

I am a chronic illness warrior who is always on the lookout for scientifically proven ways to support natural wellness.

The typical claim is that the negative ions released by the salt lamp support your body’s natural ability to ward off disease. However, unless your lamp is blazing like the ever-loving sun it’s probably not releasing enough negative i

The typical claim is that the negative ions released by the salt lamp support your body’s natural ability to ward off disease. However, unless your lamp is blazing like the ever-loving sun it’s probably not releasing enough negative i

Himalayan salt lamps have recently been touted as a cure all for everything from bad moods to static electricity. Is there any substance behind the many claims made about Himalayan salt lamps, or are they just pretty nightlights?

More than just a pretty nightlight?

More than just a pretty nightlight?

How Much Real Science is There?

Unfortunately, for all the claims made about these lamps, there is very little actual science being done. Without the benefit of evidence-based research, there has been a lot of speculation in recent years regarding the benefits of Himalayan salt lamps. One dubious study was conducted in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2007. At this point, it is impossible to find the original results of that study, (If you have access to this study’s write up, please drop a link in the comments below!) though many companies selling Himalayan salt products have cited it. Ultimately we are left to sort fact from fiction without the benefit of reading any original research articles.

Where Does Himalayan Salt Come From?

Himalayan salt is most frequently sourced from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Punjab Region of Pakistan. This enormous salt mine houses millions of tons (estimates range from 82 to 600 million) of pink salt and was discovered by no less than Alexander the Great himself in 320 BC, though the main tunnel was not developed until a British mining expedition in 1872. The salt from the 19 story Khewra mine ranges in color from red to transparent. The mine is also an enormous tourist attraction seeing around 250,000 visitors per year. Some rooms in the mine even date back to the Mughal Era which began in the mid 1500’s.

So where does the fact end and the fiction begin when it comes to Himalayan Salt? Let’s find out!

A peek inside the seriously cool looking Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan.

A peek inside the seriously cool looking Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan.

Can Himalayan Salt Lamps Remove Static From Your Home?

This claim is first on my list to prove or debunk as I live in what feels like the driest place on earth, the high desert. My home is constantly filled with static cling. Taking a sweater out of the closet feels like taking my life in my hands, risking electrocution.

The idea behind this claim (and many involving Himalayan salt lamps) is that the heat from the bulb causes the lamp to release negatively charged ions into the air. Because air that is dry and staticky is positively charged, the release of negative ions causes the air to “neutralize” in a sense. The issue here is that salt is an incredibly stable element and in order to get it to release an ion you’d have to heat it to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (816 degrees Celsius) if you wanted to see benefits, and there’s just no way your little lamp from Walmart is going to do that. (And if it does, you have much bigger problems.)

While your Himalayan salt lamp is certainly not going to remove static from your living room, proponents claim that a muslin bag filled with Himalayan salt and tied shut can reduce static cling from the dyer. While we recognize that there is no scientific research here, this is a pretty easy claim to test at home and many people have found great success with this method of naturally reducing static. Again, since your dryer is hopefully only reaching temperatures of around 135 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re not exactly sure how this works, but if it works for you, that’s good enough.

Is this claim fact or fiction?

I’m calling it 50/50.

Can Himalayan Salt Lamps Benefit Those With Respiratory Ailments?

While many claims are unsubstantiated, the effects of Himalayan salt on cystic fibrosis has actual research behind it. In 2012, a study was performed at the Salt Room Orlando where participants received nine sessions of “Halotherapy.” Halotherapy basically involves sitting in a cool room breathing in air that has been filled with microscopically ground salt particles. Theoretically these particles absorb bacteria and toxins and cause your body to release serotonin, making you feel calm and happy, much the same way an afternoon at the beach breathing in the salty air has calming effects on the nervous system.

Of the twelve patients studied, Halotherapy was associated with benefits. The patients appeared to improve by an average of a little over 9 points, while the clinically important difference was 4 points. However, while the results were measured on a subjective basis and twelve patients is not clinically significant, Halotherapy may be worth further investigation if you struggle with chronic respiratory illness.

Though Halotherapy may be effective in treating chronic respiratory issues, it takes place in a a large “salt cave” and offers the added feature of tiny salt particles being thrown into the air. Something your salt lamp isn’t equipped to do.

Is this claim fact or fiction?

I’m calling fiction. While Halotherapy may benefit you, if you’re looking for cheap, easy relief for sinus symptoms, I’d recommend a humidifier or a day at the beach instead.

A "salt cave" spa room.

A "salt cave" spa room.

Can Himalayan Salt Lamps Help You Sleep?

A popular claim is that Himalayan salt lamps can help you get a better night’s sleep. While we’ve thoroughly debunked the claim that your salt lamp is releasing negative ions into the air thus improving your overall mood, there may be something to the claim that your salt lamp can help you sleep.

It’s long been proven that blue light (the kind that comes from your TV or smartphone) interferes with sleep patterns. LED lights and fluorescent bulbs can also disrupt your production of the sleep hormone melatonin and throw off your circadian rhythm. However, the warm pink glow of your salt lamp is far less likely to interrupt your body’s natural process of winding down and may actually have real benefits when it comes to improving sleep quality.

The benefits of your salt lamp on sleep are likely going from the color itself, rather than the chemistry of the salt because color has a profound effect on psychology. (Just ask anyone in the marketing business.) In fact, according to Psychology Today, humans are naturally drawn to and soothed by warm colors; warm pink hues are commonly associated with a sense of calm. There is even a shade of pink known as “drunk tank pink” that is often used in prisons to calm inmates!

Is this claim fact or fiction?

Fact!

Can Himalayan Salt Lamps Support Your Immune System?

While a better night’s sleep is certainly not going to hurt your immune system (see above), there is likely no direct benefit to your immune system coming from a Himalayan salt lamp. The typical claim is that the negative ions released by the salt lamp support your body’s natural ability to ward off disease. As we discussed earlier, unless your lamp is blazing like the ever-loving sun it’s probably not releasing enough negative ions to do you any good.

However, one way you could possibly reap some immune benefits from Himalayan salt is through a salt bath. According to Medical News Today, this may actually reduce the risk of infection and kill bacteria. Because your skin has a natural antimicrobial barrier that helps to protect you against potentially dangerous microorganisms, the antibacterial qualities of Himalayan salt may have a limited ability to support your immune system through a warm salt bath.

It may be worth a try to swap out your typical epsom salt bath with a Himalayan salt bath. Epsom salt though it has benefits in relaxing muscles is not actually salt. It is in fact, mostly magnesium which, when absorbed through the skin can sooth your muscular system among other things. Himalayan salt however, is actually salt, and may support your immune system by way of you largest organ, your skin.

While a lamp likely won't support your immune system, a Himalayan salt bath might!

While a lamp likely won't support your immune system, a Himalayan salt bath might!

Is this claim fact or fiction?

Again, I’m calling it 50/50 since your salt lamp just won’t cut it in this area, but the salt itself may prove beneficial through other means.

Can Himalayan Salt Lamps Clean the Air?

This is perhaps the most common claim that companies selling Himalayan salt lamps make. Unfortunately, the chemistry just isn’t on their side. The idea that your salt lamp is attracting airborne toxins makes less sense the more you think about it. Once these particles become attached to the lamp, what happens next? Does the surface of the lamp become completely toxic? Even if the lukewarm lamp were powerful enough to attract toxins to its’ surface and keep them there, the sheer air volume in the room would prove to be far more than a lamp could handle.

In order to clean the air in you home, there are many more effective methods than plugging in Himalayan salt lamp. For example, vacuuming floors regularly, cleaning air filters, and even purchasing a few houseplants will prove far more effective in terms of air purification. If you need a few idea on where to start with houseplants or are interested in their science backed air purifying qualities start HERE.

Is this claim fact or fiction?

Sorry. This one is 100% retail-driven fiction!

What’s the Consensus?

If you’re wiling to lower your expectations a bit, you may find some marginal health benefits coming from your salt lamp. If you’re simply in it for a pretty nightlight or home decor piece, then shop away!

What do you think about Himalayan salt?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Abigail Hreha (author) from Oregon on May 29, 2019:

Pamela, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree. It seems like a bath might be the perfect way to use some Himalayan salt!! (Other than cooking of course!)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 29, 2019:

I really liked the way you explained all the possible benefits or claims by the company or people using these salt lamps. I don't particularly like a night light in my bedroom as there is just enough coming from another room. I wonder if the bath salts would not be the best use of this product. I found your article very interesting, and you obviously took a fair amount of time researching the salt lamps.

Abigail Hreha (author) from Oregon on May 23, 2019:

Thank you so much for the encouraging comment! They make awesome night lights! We use ours all the time!!

Kari on May 23, 2019:

What a well written piece! I have never had Himalayan lights in my home...after reading this article I am eager to get a light as my special needs daughter has a terrible time sleeping! Thank you Abigail for this very informative article!

Abigail Hreha (author) from Oregon on May 22, 2019:

Yes, Lorna! They make absolutely beautiful and unique nightlights! I love the way the look and that each one is different.

Lorna Lamon on May 22, 2019:

I think they look lovely and I do like the color, however, not too sure about the health benefits. I can see me using one as a night lamp as the color is so calming. Thanks for sharing this interesting topic.

Abigail Hreha (author) from Oregon on May 21, 2019:

RTalloni, thanks so much for the positive feedback! I means a lot.

I love my Himalayan salt lamps. They made great nightlights when we had foster kiddos; especially the ones with dimmer switches.

RTalloni on May 21, 2019:

Thanks much for a reasonable examination of Himalayan salt lamp claims. In the right setting they would be cool to add to decor, and useful, as you say, marginally, but the hype is appealing, isn't it? Good job on dividing truth from error on them!

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