Salt is a mineral which has figured prominently in the economy, social fabric, and culinary practices of virtually every country and culture on the planet. As early as 6000 BC, salt was processed by boiling spring or sea water in Romania and China. In centuries past it was prized by Ancient Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Egyptians and Native Americans. Simple salt has been a universally desired and highly valuable natural compound since its discovery.
Primarily composed of sodium chloride (NaCl), salt has both antimicrobial and preservative properties. One well-known example of this is the use of salt to preserve foods. Salt “curing” has ancient roots tracing back to Mesopotamia. The curing process relied on salt solids or salt and water solution (brine) to dehydrate foods. Not only did salt prevent spoilage, it was capable of inhibiting the growth of food-borne pathogens.
How Salt Can Kill Bacteria
Salt particles or brines can kill bacteria on contact through osmosis. When a higher concentration of salt exists outside a bacterial cell, water from inside the bacteria diffuses out. The bacteria become dehydrated, their infectious proteins are inactivated, and the cell walls collapse, leading to death of the bacteria. Therefore, a salty material or salty environment will be much less hospitable to most bacteria.
Is Salt Anti-Viral?
In 2019 a study on the use of salt water (hypertonic saline) for nasal irrigation and gargling during colds found that saline irrigation practices reduced the duration of colds and viral shedding, and resulted in decreased transmission of cold viruses to family members.
In 2017 a study was published detailing the antiviral effects of a specialized salt coating on protective masks. Hyo-Jick Choi of the University of Alberta tested a proprietary salt coating on masks intended to deter viral penetration and transmission in the context of 3 forms of influenza. His research team found that due to the hard and crystalline molecular structure of salt, virus structures were pierced upon contact. The viruses then absorbed the salt and were ultimately rendered inactive within 5 minutes. Choi’s salt-coated mask was recently in the news again; he believes the specialized salt coating would be equally effective against viruses including coronaviruses.
Salt Therapy as a Sanitary Self-Care Practice
Breathing dry salt aerosols helps one purge the lungs and sinuses of excess mucus, the role of which is to capture microbes and germs. Therefore, salt therapy will have the effect of cleansing the respiratory system. Salt is also hygroscopic, or moisture-seeking. Thus, salt aerosols attach to any moist airborne particles or droplets easily, dehydrating and deactivating them, so germs of any kind are not easily spread through salty air. Despite this, we encourage guests to stay home at the start of and during a cold, as salt therapy at this time can exacerbate symptoms. Once the worst is over, however, salt therapy can be dramatically helpful. And made a regular practice, attending salt therapy helps to keep you well.
Ramalingam et al. Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 1015 (2019) A pilot, open labelled, randomised controlled trial of hypertonic saline nasal irrigation and gargling for the common cold.
Fu-Shi Quan, Ilaria Rubino, Su-Hwa Lee, Brendan Koch, Hyo-Jick Choi. Universal and reusable virus deactivation system for respiratory protection. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7