When someone calls you the "salt of the earth," they mean that you are fundamentally good; that you are reliable and not pretentious.
But that just scratches the surface when it comes to the history of salt. Ancient saltworks operations have been dated as far back as 6000 BC in China.
Salt also has a long history of medicinal and healing applications. Salt therapy -- also known as halotherapy or speleotherapy -- became popular in the mid-1800s, when Polish physician Feliks Boczkowski discovered that, unlike coal miners, workers in the Wieliczka salt mines seldom suffered from respiratory ailments. Ever since, people have sought out the antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal qualities of salty cave air.
Hence the Peace, Love & Zen Holistic Wellness Center in East Liberty. Scheduled to open Sept. 7, the center will offer a menu of natural, noninvasive healing therapies featuring an unusual salt cave.
Owner Susan Coe has created a salt cave room of pure Himalayan salt.
Under the guidance of an expert on salt caves, Margaret Smiechowski, and with the help of East Liberty developer Eddie Lesoon, 16,000 pounds of salt bricks, boulders and chips were meticulously crafted to line the walls and floor of the room. Salt boulders, lit from the inside, fill the room with a soft pink-orange glow. A halo-generator feeds salt-enriched air through a climate-controlled ventilation system. There are six reclining lounge chairs, and the room comfortably holds a dozen.
And beyond the aesthetic beauty of the room, there are other benefits.
Salt has been with us for more than 8,000 years and has more than 14,000 uses. In addition to the preparation and preservation of food, salt has been used as money; to melt snow on icy roads; and in the manufacturing processes of soaps, medications, PVC pipes, cell phones, cosmetics, protective suits for scuba divers, digital cameras, flat-panel TVs, electron microscopes, solar panels -- and more.
It has also been employed as a tool for social protest (Mahatma Gandhi, 1930) and as a punishment from God (Lot's wife in Abrahamic religions).
"Halotherapy is used to help reduce inflammation, treat respiratory problems and reduce the severity of colds or asthma," Ms. Coe said. "It calms, cleans and revives the cells of the respiratory system, easing the symptoms of diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis and rhinitis from allergies."
According to Ms. Coe, the practice of using salt mines or caves for healing is found mostly in Eastern and Central European countries. Only recently have salt caves and rooms appeared in the U.S. Ms. Coe's cave is one of four in Pennsylvania and the only one in the western portion of the state.
Ms. Coe said she believes that if you build it they will come. While she has yet to get referrals for halotherapy from local doctors, she said she can provide patient testimonials to the effectiveness of the treatments.
"I believe there is a trend toward maintaining wellness instead of recovering from illness," Ms. Coe said. "Our mission is to educate and offer access to therapies that help you heal from the inside out.''
Ms. Coe's journey to East Liberty began in Beaver. After graduating from high school, she served for two years in the U.S. Army and did a 12-year stint as a flight attendant. After another 12 years as the owner of Howlers, a neighborhood bar in Bloomfield, she was ready to expand her horizons. Initially she was drawn toward massage therapy, but after hearing about salt caves in Central Pennsylvania, curiosity led to a visit, which inspired more research. A year later, Peace, Love & Zen is ready to go.
Other New Age treatments available at the center include: acupuncture, massage, aroma touch therapy, dry hydro water immersion and a chroma light sauna. Most of the therapy sessions are scheduled for approximately 45 minutes and cost around $30. Packages for multiple sessions are also available.
Like many nontraditional health treatments, there are not enough controlled test data on salt therapy for validation from the scientific medical community. The National Institutes of Health conducted a review of known studies in 2001 and concluded that the available evidence does not permit a reliable determination as to the effectiveness of halo-therapeutic interventions for the treatment of chronic asthma.
The wellness center is at 6023 Broad St. You can follow the firm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PeaceLoveZenWellnessCenter.
Freelance writer Tim Means: firstname.lastname@example.org,