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Breathe Easy

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By Ryan G. Van Cleave

It starts with a tickle in the nose and a sense of something…different…in the air. A kind of tingling. A hmmmm moment. Before long, there’s the type of calm everyone aspires to have on those weekend vacation binges but pretty much no one actually experiences.

This is the story of my visit to Salt of the Earth (4037 Clark Road, Sarasota, 941.702.8300), a new company that advertises itself as “Sarasota’s Premier Salt Therapy Center.” I first tried out their Halo Booth Pro, where I sat on a sleek modern chair inside a glass enclosure that was lit by a polychromatic light system that cycled through a range of soft colors. The air I breathed was full of invisible amounts of pharmaceutical-grade salt that’s ground up by a machine and blown inside. “No more than you’d get by spending two or three days at the beach,” explains owner Dianna Manoogian about my intake during that 20-minute session. While some might choose to listen to music, I opted for silence (or rather the quiet hum of the generator whirring away), which let me focus more fully on the amazingly tactile experience which I confess seemed both calming and refreshing. And a day later, I think I can safely say that it helped my seasonal allergies and maybe even soothed my rough elbow skin (“like an alligator’s hide,” my wife has commented on occasion).

I also tried out the Salt Bed with Chromotherapy, which is like sprawling atop a masseuse table but instead of being on squishy material, it’s a bed of gently-warmed salt. “A lot like dozing away an afternoon right on Siesta Key Beach,” I thought as I snuggled in for 25 minutes, the usual time for a single session on the Italian-imported bed that Manoogian notes was a quite a bear to import, but it’s up and running now and it’s comfortable as anything. I don’t know how Michael Phelps and others can sleep in hyperbaric oxygen chambers, but I certainly COULD see how someone might sleep soundly through the night on a bed like this one.

I asked Manoogian what got her interested in salt therapy and learned that she’s always been interested in healing her family in a natural way. But once she saw a salt cave in a cousin’s hair salon in Massachusetts, she asked, “Why don’t we have something like this in Sarasota?” That was August 2016. She signed the lease for her Clark Road property in December, and Salt of the Earth opened June 3, 2017. “The permits worked out. Plus Baldwin Construction was amazing,” she says. “From the start it was clear—this was what I was supposed to be doing. The universe put it all right in line.”

After a long career in the corporate sector where she traveled the world, her goal has become to provide a different health option for our community—especially the elderly. Why not have options other than taking drugs? With salt therapy, you keep your clothes on, no one’s touching you, and you can sit back, relax, and unplug. Even just the 20 or 45 peaceful minutes of the sessions allows you to quiet your mind and de-stress the body, which allows healing to being with virtually no side effects.

“Why salt?” you might be asking. I know that’s what I did when I first heard about a salt cave and salt therapy. But it doesn’t take much sleuthing to find out that salt is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. Plus I know that when I got my ears pierced two or three years back, the tattoo artist said to skip the hydrogen peroxide or alcohol and simply use sea salt and distilled water. It worked wonders for my healing process. So when fitness expert and founder of myosapp.com Ryan Swift tells me “When the micro-particles of salt land on your skin, it relieves oozing, itching, and scaling symptoms from skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne,” I find it easy to believe.

Still, we all know that too much salt is bad for you. That’s true for eating table salt, but has nothing to do with this kind of salt experience. The difference? Table salt is processed like crazy and all the good parts of it are essentially removed. Pink Himalayan and natural sea salt retains dozens of trace minerals that help flush toxins from the body and regulate the pH level in your skin. Heat these salts and they release healing negative ions, which can give you that feel-good sense you might get at the beach or in a quiet spot deep in the woods.

With the nasty cough going around these days, plenty of moms are taking their kids into the special Moms and Kids room at Salt of the Earth, where the floor is covered in salt, which is no surprise since they have 3 ½ tons of it in use there. The kids play and don’t realize they’re getting treatment, but the whole time their allergy symptoms, coughs, nasal congestion, and runny noses are getting better. “I had that cough,” admits Manoogian, “and so did my family. Two sessions in the booth knocked it right out.”

Maybe it sounds a little crazy. But plenty of people are having good results. One of Manoogian’s clients needed allergy shots once a week. After a period of twice a week salt therapy, though, she’s down to one shot a month. Some Massachusetts insurance companies are now paying for COPD patients to sit in salt rooms, and for hundreds of years in Eastern Europe, people have been going to salt mines to improve their breathing. 

Yet ultimately, I can really only speak for myself. After my 20-minute session in the booth and 25 minutes on the bed (I toyed with the idea of the 45-minute session in the big main room with the eight La-Z-Boy style recliners but didn’t take the plunge), it felt like I’d gone swimming in the ocean. A whisper of saltiness remained on my lips and in my nostrils. Nothing about it was unpleasant. And I can’t deny it—I felt pretty darn good. 

So consider trying out a pink Himalayan salt lamp or pillow on your own. See how it works for you. And if you decide you want to give it a good faith effort, come on by Salt of the Earth and tell Manoogian to give you “the works.” New client visits are only $35, she says, and veterans and first responders always get 20% off.

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