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THERAPY


The Thalasso Spa Lepa Vida in Sečovlje Salina Nature Park in Slovenia is an open air spa with a contemporary design


WELL SEASONED


Sophie Benge looks at how salt and herbs are used in spas in eastern and central Europe, a region that’s attracting a growing number of wellness tourists


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atural resources have been pivotal to health culture in central and eastern Europe ever since they were discovered to


have curative benefits – often by chance – over the centuries. A combination of aural knowledge, observation and rigorous study by scientists has led to a spectrum of treatments that both enhance a sense of wellbeing and cure chronic conditions. This is appealing to the growing


number of wellness tourists who show increasing scepticism for the drugs-and- knives approach of allopathic medicine in favour of more holistic options. Last issue, Spa Business (see SB14/4


p22) looked at the role of naturally occur- ring gases in the region’s health protocols. Here we give an overview of how salt and herbs are used for therapeutic purposes.


Pinch of salt As the main food preservative in medieval Europe, salt literally kept people alive. More specific benefits were recorded in the 19th century when Polish physician Dr Feliks Boczkowski noted that miners in the world-famous Wieliczka salt mine near Kraków, Poland, never suffered lung complaints despite spending months below ground. Miners no longer work there, instead, the site has been converted into a tourist attraction and an under- ground health resort (see p72) which now welcomes up to 1 million visitors a year. Because of its unique conditions, the salt


mine has its own medical classification for ‘subterraneotherapy’ which is acknowl- edged by the Polish Ministry of Health for the treatment of respiratory disorders. Most evidence for the benefit of salt comes from studies carried out in the


1950s in the USSR. As a result, chambers which simulate the microclimate of natural salt caves are common in central and eastern European spas. Minuscule particles of salt are pumped into a chamber with a 40-60 per cent humidity and temperatures of 18-24˚C. The rooms, with salt-encrusted walls and floors, feature reclining deckchairs. This therapy involves lying down and breathing deeply. Inhaling saline moisture cleanses the


airways by thinning the mucus and improv- ing the function of cilia – microscopic hairs which filter out toxins like dust – in the respiratory tract. In addition, microele- ments from the salt clean the environment of airborne germs to also ease respiration. Studies show that halotherapy (‘halos’


is Greek for salt) gives relief to people suffering from conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive


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© PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTIAN BANFIELD AND HELEN ABRAHAM


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