After years of suffering with regular sinus infections, Pam Barberis was eager to try anything to alleviate her symptoms, having little luck with traditional remedies.
A few years ago she traveled to Las Vegas to pursue the promise of dry salt therapy. After just three sessions she was so convinced of its efficacy that she left her landscape gardening business to share her discovery with the Flathead Valley.
She opened the Salt Box at 19 Baker Ave. in Whitefish recently. It is the first business in Montana to offer dry salt therapy, also known as halotherapy.
“I felt like Whitefish was a great place to do this,” Barberis said. “This valley in general is open to alternative therapies and because of where we live we have a lot of respiratory issues — allergies, smoke, all the outdoor activities.”
Halotherapy is touted as boosting immunities and alleviating symptoms of colds and sinus issues, ear infections, skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne, and more.
At the Salt Box, clients relax in a room where a halogenerator grinds pure pharmaceutical-grade salt into microparticles. The fine, salty powder is lightly sprayed throughout the room, penetrating and spreading healing properties deep into the lungs and skin cells, Barberis said.
“Pure sodium chloride is a natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial substance, and in a dry form it’s very absorbent,” Barberis said. “When you breathe it into your respiratory system or allow it to land on your skin, it absorbs the bad junk stuck in your sinuses and allows the antibacterial properties to propagate in your sinuses or around your skin.”
The concept is similar to using a saline nasal spray, but the dry salt penetrates more deeply than a water solution, Barberis said.
The main halotherapy room in the Salt Box offers six comfortable reclining chairs, a floor covered with extra-coarse pink Himalayan salt and a lighted wall of decorative Himalayan salt tiles. The salt features create a relaxing ambiance and offer a passive salt benefit, Barberis said.
A private Salt Box room also has a salt-tile wall and seating for two. It has a bare floor so it’s accessible for the handicapped or people who would feel unsteady walking on a deep layer of salt.
The therapeutic benefits of salt were first discovered in salt-mining operations of Eastern Europe. Compared to their counterparts working with coal or other harsh substances, salt miners reported healthy lungs and good skin. Based on that anecdotal evidence, a doctor created the first salt-based therapy facility at a mine in Poland in 1839. A number of other salt spas and caves opened throughout the next century, mostly in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union states, with the first halotherapy salt-grinding device developed in Russia in 1985.
Halotherapy spread across Europe and Scandanavia in the 1980s and ’90s, and has been growing in popularity in the United States since.
Barberis said other alternative health practitioners in Whitefish, such as massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and others, are excited about her venture.
“They’ve been very supportive,” she said. “I already have one class booked from a gal who does foundation training, which is a breathing technique. I anticipate the use of this room a lot with that kind of thing.”
Salt Box services also include an infrared sauna and a hot salt-rock massage, which Barberis said will be given by a licensed massage therapist.
The Salt Box is open Wednesday through Sunday. Customers can book 45-minute sessions in either the main or private room.
Visit www.saltboxwf.com or call 792-6131.