News & Features

A Salty Approach to Health

SaltBox opens in Whitefish, offers dry salt therapy services to those who want a natural remedy for respiratory issues

When Pam Barberis got her annual sinus attack after finishing the landscaping and gardening season, she knew she wanted a natural remedy. She didn’t know that remedy would be found in the Himalayas, or that she’d wind up shipping in literally tons of salt from Pakistan.

She just wanted to feel better.

“My landscaping business, I ended the last two seasons with terrible sinus infections,” Barberis said. “I was looking for natural remedies, and I started reading about dry salt therapy.”

Now, Barberis is the owner at the SaltBox, a spa for dry salt therapy that includes two rooms with salt-brick walls, a floor full of crushed salt that runs a couple inches deep, and an infrared sauna and massage room.

To understand modern dry salt therapy, also called halotherapy, one must look back hundreds of years to the salt caves in Europe and Russia, where the miners’ health was thriving. They weren’t getting the respiratory illnesses the rest of the town was, and it was determined the environment, with the salt dust in the air and constant air circulation, was keeping them healthy.

Dr. Feliks Boczkowski studied the effects, and in 1839 opened the first health resort in a salt mine in Poland.

Salt is an antibacterial substance, and for many centuries was the main way to store food in a hygienic way that wouldn’t lead to spoiling or mold.

Pam Barberis, owner of the SaltBox, a dry salt therapy spa, sits in the larger of her two salt rooms in Whitefish on May 10, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Halotherapy takes the idea of the salt cave and tries to translate it to a modern space. At the SaltBox, Barberis’ two salt rooms each have their own halogenerators, machines that crush pharmaceutical salt into a fine dust to be circulated into the air of the rooms.

Barberis said the salt that her patrons breathe is created purely from sodium and chloride, unlike the Himalayan salt, which is has a pink-orange tone due to all the other minerals in it.

She said the salt dust binds to bacteria and other micro pieces clinging to our bodies and clears and removes them, providing relief for allergies, sinus infections, snoring, sleep issues, COPD, asthma, and other breathing issues.

It usually takes about five sessions for people with chronic issues to feel the full effect of the salt room, Barberis said. And it usually takes a visit to the room to convince people that yes, sitting down on a comfortable chair to relax and breathe deeply is actually therapeutic, she said.

But after the visit, many people inquire about how to get a salt wall built in their own homes. The salt walls, which are backlit to provide a warm glow in the salt rooms, contain about 3,000 pounds of salt bricks, and the floor has about 1,200 pounds of crushed Himalayan salt. Staring at it has the same effect as looking into a fire, since each brick is translucent and unique in its coloring and striations.

A wall of glowing salt bricks in the SaltBox dry salt therapy spa in Whitefish on May 10, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Though she’s only been open for two months, Barberis said the reaction from the community has been heartening. As far as she can tell, hers is the only dry salt therapy spa in Montana, and she’s had people drive hours to come in for a 45-minute session.

“It’s been a really nice start,” she said.

People sitting in the rooms can read or meditate or just sit; Barberis provides headphones and meditation music loaded onto electronic music players so people don’t have to bring their own. Salt is corrosive, and if electronics are repeatedly exposed to it, it can ruin them.

Seats can be booked individually or by the room, with 45 minutes starting at $37 per individual. Barberis also plans to add a power-lunch special of 25 minutes for $25. There are also package specials with five to 12 visits.

The rooms also host classes occasionally.

Barberis said she would like to expand the SaltBox’s offerings, but for now wants to continue getting her salty message out there.

“People are always looking for an affordable alternative or complement to whatever they’re trying to fix,” she said.

For more information, visit www.saltboxwf.com.

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