Sitting in a 10x12 ft room filled with around four tonnes of salt and inhaling air with vapourised salt has helped Ipshita, 8, breathe easier.
Salt therapy is available at two centres in Noida and Gurgaon. New centres across Delhi are on the cards.
Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, has helped reduce her symptoms of asthma, for which she’s been using inhalers and steroids since she was two years old.
“She would cough and wheeze frequently and has been carrying an inhaler with her since she was a toddler. But ever since she started therapy two years ago, she’s been off steroids completely. She didn’t even catch a cold when the temperatures dropped this season,” said her mother Saraswati Singh, 34.
Ipshita was taken for her first session two years ago. After 20 sessions, her health improved, and with it, her mood. “She lost her crankiness,” said Singh.
Another artificial salt cave helped Mehak, 4. Her father Gagandeep Arora, a Delhi-based businessman, takes Mehak for salt therapy. “I first heard about it on FM Radio this summer and decided it was just the thing for Mehak, who has had a problem of cough and cold throughout the year since she was 3 years old. She took 10 therapies of one hour each and now she is fine,” said Arora, who continues to take her for follow-up sessions.
Though Singh and Arora swear by the salt therapy, there is not enough scientific evidence to show that it works.
“I was going through scientific literature and though there are some small studies showing benefits of halotherapy on respiratory diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, etc, the findings have not been extrapolated to a large population. The benefits noted were improvement in cough and some physiological parameters by pulmonary function testing,” said Dr Anant Mohan, additional professor, department of pulmonary medicine at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“There are many alternate medical practices and home remedies that provide certain benefits and we follow them despite there not being any scientific proof of their efficacy. This therapy could be one such thing,” he said.
The therapy is available at two centres in Noida and Gurgaon, but centres are coming up in Rajouri Garden, Saket and Model Town too. “By March 2016, there will be at least one centre in north, south, west and east Delhi. By the end of the year, we are planning to start eight centres across Delhi,” said Anju Chandna, director of Salt Room Therapy.
The centre in Noida, which has been operational for two years now, has a clientele of 25-30 people per month. “This is a very new concept and most people have tried out so many things that don’t work that they are a little sceptical. We offer a 30-minute demo for people who want to understand how it works,” said Chandna.
Some clients are there not for the cure but because they believe the therapy boosts immunity.
“I have thoroughly researched asthma and there is no cure for it. Salt therapy has reduced my dependence on steroids,” said KK Verma, 69, retired commander from the Indian Navy was had asthma since 1994 and been using salt therapies since 2013.
CASE STUDY: A life away from inhaler, nebuliser
RITA JAIN, patient: I would not say that I am completely cured, but the therapy has helped me in managing my bronchitis better. It has been two years since I have touched steroids
Rita Jain, 55, has been suffering from chronic bronchitis, inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tube resulting in constriction of airway and production of mucous for over 20 years.
An inhaler and a nebuliser had become a part of her life.
Two years ago, on International Women’s Day, Jain finally got relief from her respiratory disease after attending a free trial session of salt cave therapy. In the past 20 years that she had lived with the disease, she had tried everything from homeopathic medicine to ayurvedic therapies.
“I have had this disease long enough for me to try out everything. Steroids are harmful and have side effects, so, I wanted something natural. But, everything I tried worked for a while and then the cough would return,” said Jain.
Jain, a resident of Pitampura in northwest Delhi, travels more than 30 km to Noida Sector 18 twice every week to take the salt therapy. It seems to be the only thing that works for her.
“I would not say that I am completely cured, but, the therapy has helped me in managing my bronchitis better. It has been two years since I have touched steroids,” she said.
She still has to take certain precautions like avoiding cold food items and drinking lots of fluids so that the mucous is not sticky.