TOGETHER, WE VENTURE
INTO THE CAVE.
THE GROUND CRUNCHES.
I don’t know what to expect heading into the salt cave at Aura Salt Caves and
Wellness, but I keep thinking about all the characters in Jane Austen novels who go
to the seaside for the healthy air and water. Maybe they knew something we’re just
Accompanying me is my brother, John, who, when I told him I was going to visit a
salt cave that afternoon, said, “I’m coming with you.” As the owner of a salt lamp, he
Salt carpets the ground about three to four inches thick. We leave our shoes behind,
our feet now clad in cloth booties.
The lights are dim, but I make out ten chairs arranged in a semi-circle, each with a
soft blanket draped over the back.
We settle into the antigravity chairs, pushing the bottom with our feet so that we’re
resting at a comfortable angle. Tadji DeBerg, co-owner, comes in and explains
that we’re to relax in an electronics-free environment, and she’ll return in forty-five
minutes to let us know the session is complete.
It’s cool inside, around sixty to sixty-five degrees, and the sound of water trickling
over branches and dripping onto rocks mingles with soothing music. Although it’s
dim, interspersed salt lamps bathe the room in a warm hue. Above, twinkling blue
lights mimic stars shining through a cave. Branches poke through the ceiling in
twisted shapes, and scattered around are trunks of white birch trees.
Salt drips down in stalactites and gathers in corners in the 330-square-foot space.
I close my eyes. A few minutes later, the machine dispersing salt into the air begins,
and soon I can feel it on my skin. I slip into a restful state, cool, relaxed and only
thinking about the deep breaths I’m intentionally taking.
When we leave, I ask my brother if he feels better. He says he does, and I do, too.
Although I had no ailments going in, coming out I feel what I can only describe as a
clean sensation in my lungs and a wonderful calm around my entire body.
Salt, a mineral that’s been around since time
immemorial, is not only a ubiquitous food season-ing; it’s also—purportedly—a healing agent.
Salt caves exploit the mineral’s therapeutic
properties, allowing people to relax and rejuvenate in a spa-like environment. These manufactured caves are popping up around the United
States in greater numbers, with around 400 or so
in the US alone.
Erie County’s first salt cave, Aura Salt Cave
and Wellness, opened last year at 6429 Transit
Road in East Amherst. A few months later, one
opened at 5020 Armor Duells Road in Orchard
Park in the Southtowns, and there's been one
operating in Ellicotville for some time.
Aura co-owners Tadgi and Kelly DeBerg say
that visiting the salt cave can help alleviate asthma, chest tightness, sinus problems, colds, and
the flu. Salt, they say, is a natural immune booster and can help increase lung capacity. They also
say it can help with skin problems, such as acne
or psoriasis, and even migraines.
“Something as simple as salt can help people
in so many ways,” says Tadgi, who notes that its
four main properties are antibacterial, antifungal,
antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.
Exactly what is a salt cave? It’s an environment created to look like a cave, complete with
stalactites, cool temperatures, and trickling
water. Visitors sit for varying periods of time
while breathing in salt particles
that have been pumped into
the air. For the Aura cave,
20,000 pounds of pink
salt were brought in from
Although halothera-py—the inhalation of
air infused with salt—is
catching on in the US, it’s
been a well-established
practice in Europe for
some time. Treatments
there are even covered by
insurance, notes Tadji.
The use of salt for therapy began in Poland. During the mid-1800s, Polish
doctor Feliks Boczkowski noticed that men working in the salt mines were
than those working in the
coal mines. The respiratory disorders plaguing the
coal miners were nonexistent in the salt miners.
After years of research, he
concluded that the difference was not in the men but the environment.
The miners were healthy due to years of chipping
away at the salt, during which time they were
breathing it into their bodies. Boczkowski would
go on to open the first salt therapy resort, where
people could come and take salt baths.
Although science conclusively proving salt’s
health benefits is scant, the testimonials from
people who claim it’s helped them are many. Take
Williamsville resident John Theal, seventy-one,
“I could actually get on the treadmill and do a forty-minute walk at a
brisk pace, and I could do that without any problems breathing,” he says,
adding, “I can take deep breaths now. I couldn’t do that before.”
For more information on Aura, visit aurasaltcave.com.
Naomi Sakovics is a freelance writer, Buffalo lover, food enthusiast and unabashed book nerd.
get on the
— John Theal,
seventy-one years old
that have been pumped into