ABINGDON, Va. — Twice a week, Karen Sorber reclines in a chair, relaxes to quiet music and breathes in refreshing salt air.
Sorber isn’t on vacation. She’s enjoying a salt therapy session in downtown Abingdon.
A new health spa on Main Street is offering Sorber and other clients the same healing properties trusted by people centuries ago.
Tonya Page said her business, Salt of the Earth, is a recreation of salt rooms or caves that exist naturally throughout the world. The modern healing rooms are popping up across the country with spas similar to the Abingdon business no closer than Asheville, North Carolina.
“Inhaling salt is very beneficial for people who suffer from allergies, asthma, colds, bronchitis and sinus conditions,” she said.
The all-natural, holistic business in Abingdon is attracting clients from as far away as Greeneville, Tennessee.
“A couple of years ago, I had a respiratory illness, so I’m doing this as a preventive measure,” said Sorber, an Abingdon resident. “It’s made a huge difference. I get a monthly membership when I come twice each week.”
She traveled to Asheville for the salt therapy before the Abingdon business opened in June.
Salt therapy is proving to be a new lure for people who want to improve their health.
“I think this town is catching up with other cool little towns in the country because more people are eating farm-fresh foods and going in for what’s natural. Salt therapy just goes along with that. I guess you could say Salt of the Earth is getting back to the basics. We’re going back to the basics with essential oils, herbs and salt that God put on earth for us,” said Page.
According to the business owner, salt therapy has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that clear toxins in the lungs and skin. “A 45-minute session is equivalent to several days at the beach,” she said.
Salt therapy sessions begin at $22.50 for seniors, $15 for children, ages 4 to 17, and $25 for adults. Clients visits once to a few times each week, depending on their needs.
Salt therapy, also called halotherapy, supposedly originated centuries ago. According to Page’s research, halotherapy more recently can be traced back to the mid-1800s when a doctor in Eastern Europe discovered that salt mine workers had healthy respiratory systems, free from lung diseases suffered by people who didn’t work in the mines.
The doctor concluded that the natural sodium chloride contained in the air in salt mines helped to reduce inflammation in the lungs.
Therapy takes place in a climate-controlled room with a halogenerator machine that disperses a fine aerosol mist of high-grade sodium chloride particles and negative ions into the air.
“Our bodies are constantly bombarded by positive ions from the use of cell phones, computers, microwaves, televisions and other electronics. Salt therapy provides negative ions to restore balance,” said Page.
Dimly-lit therapy rooms have comfortable chairs and relaxing music. Bare feet sink into a floor covered with 2,500 pounds of Himalayan pink salt from Pakistan. Himalayan pink salt bricks cover the walls for décor and therapeutic purposes.
“It’s also good for headaches," Page said. "The first week I opened, a client tried out the salt therapy and left saying her migraine was gone after suffering from it all day.
“Another client told me his son slept through the night without coughing after just one salt therapy. A client came in and told me she had been to urgent care for an ear ache. After salt therapy, she couldn’t believe how her pain was completely gone.”
Found her niche
Page was attracted to salt therapy after a sinus infection nearly landed her in the hospital for surgery a year ago. After she tried salt therapy at a spa in Asheville, she was sold on the holistic treatment.
“One session made me feel the best I had felt in months. I knew I’d be fine if I could use this treatment more often.”
At 53, Page, was looking for a new career. She found and renovated a vacant building in town in March and opened the business three months later.
“I think we needed a facility like this here in Abingdon. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t suffer with sinuses and allergies around here.”
In addition to salt therapy, Page incorporated treatments with infrared therapy and red light therapy, both offering the healing power of wavelengths of light.
She said infrared energy increases circulation, reduces inflammation and promotes healing when delivered to injury sites and other painful areas.
Sorber, who visited the business last week, also received an infrared treatment.
“I threw my back out lifting something heavy. Four ibuprofen pills didn’t touch the pain. I took an infrared therapy, and there is no sign of it now. I’m a big believer.”
According to Page, red light therapy is a skin care treatment that speeds healing of conditions including acne, rosacea and sun spots. It fades scars and stretch marks, assists in boosting collagen, adds moisture to the skin, and can stimulate hair growth over time.
Page is such a believer in the positive benefits of salt therapy, she sells salt products for home use, such as Himalayan salt blocks that can be used as cooking surfaces. “The flavor is amazing. You use so much less salt on your food.”
In addition, her business has salt lamps that help improve indoor air quality.
Page also enjoys the benefits of essential oils, many of which she stocks at her business. The oils are concentrated essences derived from different parts of plants. Many of the oils promote relaxation while others have anti-inflammatory properties.
To learn more about Salt of the Earth, visit the Facebook page or call (276) 477-4101 for reservations.