Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Warsaw salt cave gives rustic ‘flavor’ to relaxation

Columnist is ‘shaken’ by perceived health benefits


Steve Penhollow

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 7, 2021

My doctor had just told me to cut back on salt. And here I was about to wallow in it.

But I am nothing if not a daredevil. Which is to say, I am nothing if not the sort of person who thinks visiting a salt cave makes him a daredevil.

Since I hit middle age, I have tried to get out of my comfort zone more. But salt is firmly ensconced in my comfort zone. In fact, my doctor believes I need to kick salt out of my comfort zone and extend a dinner invitation to salt substitute.

But the salt you sprinkle on already salty foods because aging seems to have neutralized your taste buds has nothing to do with salt cave therapy.

Getting Salty

What? You’ve never heard of salt cave therapy? Have you been living in a cave? A saltless cave?

I’ll tell you this: A salt cave is not the same thing as a salt room. There are a number of so-called salt caves in Indiana that are really more like salt rooms.

For the real deal, you need to travel to Warsaw and visit Himalayan Salts & Scents.

Salt cave therapy was allegedly invented by a 19th century Polish doctor who noticed that salt miners didn’t suffer the same respiratory problems as other sorts of miners, which made those other sorts of miners insanely jealous. Luckily, they were too winded to seek revenge.

Thanks in part to that Polish doctor, the accidental act of breathing in fine salt particles is now purposefully called dry salt therapy or halotherapy. You may feel some skepticism about its efficacy, but chances are you are a firm believer in wet salt therapy, even if you aren’t aware of it. Who among us has not gargled with salt water, soaked in a salt bath or used a salty nasal rinse?

Who, I ask you?

Sorry, I got carried away.

Himalayan Salts & Scents is your one-stop shop for everything having to do with therapeutic salt.

Therapeutic salt is as different from table salt as brie is from Cheez Whiz. Pink Himalayan salt has beneficial minerals that table salt has been cruelly robbed of.

Luckily, table salt is too inanimate to seek revenge.

Shaken and Stirred

Peg Custer, the owner of Himalayan Salts & Scents, is also a therapeutic salt wholesaler. She sells salt to people who want to sell salt.

To misquote the late Sy Sperling, Custer is not just company president; she is also a client.

Years ago, Custer knew a friend who carried smooth orbs of pink Himalayan salt in her pockets to treat hip pain.

“I thought she was cuckoo,” Custer confessed. Confessed to me, not to the friend.

In time, Custer, who was then a bookseller, started experiencing her own hip pain caused by the sort of arduous tasks that common are to the profession of bookselling: putting books in boxes, lifting the boxes, lifting large reference books about the history of boxes, lifting boxes full of large reference books about the histories of boxes and large reference books, etc.

In desperation, she bought smooth orbs of pink salt to carry in her pockets. And they worked.

The benefits of pink Himalayan salt go beyond breathing it in. Himalayan salt devotees believe it emits negative ions, especially when heated.

If you are as old as the same hills that I am as old as, you probably remember the old Harold Arlen standard that went, “You’ve got to ac-CENT-chu-ate the positive and eliminate the negative.”

That’s good advice for life, but it’s not good advice for ions.

Negative ions are the accentuate-able ions. Only a Negative Nelly would doubt it. They are molecules charged with electricity. And there is compelling research to suggest that they convey real health benefits although perhaps not as many benefits as some devotees claim.

So I was forced to conclude that doing almost anything with salt is good for you as long as it doesn’t involve swallowing a lot of it.

Reason for the Seasoning

What makes Custer’s cave unique is that it was made to resemble a natural salt cave. Without the mining.

Custer’s cave has four thousand pounds of salt in it. The walls are made of salt. Some of the furniture is made of salt. There is crushed salt in the ceiling and on the floor. There is a bed made of salt.

There are salt domes to place your feet on.

Not only does it resemble a natural salt cave, it also evokes an oceanside resort and an Old West set on a Hollywood studio backlot.

All these seemingly disparate elements combine to create a very pleasant place to be for an hour.

There are high-end deck chairs, toys for kiddos, and a salt “beach” to feel between your toes.

And let me tell you about that bed: You might think a bed made of crushed pink salt would be uncomfortable.

But the minute you lie down on it, you start thinking about launching a bedding company to compete with Purple. I’m calling mine Pink.

If you go with a group of people, you will probably fight them for access to the bed. Luckily, the salt bed seems like it would be a good place to convalesce from injuries.

So what’s my final verdict? After an hour in the salt cave, I not only was breathing better but I was euphoric.

I am being serious here. All my middle-aged ailments were quieted, and I felt giddy for hours afterward.

I believe the salt cave works exactly as advertised.

But if you must, take that with a grain of salt.

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