How do Himalayan salt lamps work?
Salt is hygroscopic, so the lamps attract water molecules from the air; this means the lamps trap dirt, pollen, and smoke particles which are carried in water vapor.
Once these airborne contaminants have been locked in the salt, clean water is re-released and thus it has a purifying effect on the air. Theoretically that is.
Scientists know that salt does absorb water from the air but that it quickly reaches an equilibrium state (it doesn’t take up anymore water because it is saturated). This is the same for silica packets. Both can be revitalized by drying, which a burning and warming lamp does. So there is merit to this claim.
What’s more is that the heat from the bulb inside that warms up the lamp releases negative ions. And there are the health-boosting effects of salt itself too.
Attributed Himalayan salt lamp health benefits
Natural living proponents and other fans of Himalayan pinksalt lamps (HPS lamps) claim that the negative salt ions released by heating can boost blood flow, improve sleep, increase levels of serotonin in the brain, and calm allergy or asthma symptoms.
These negative ions are said to neutralize electromagnetic radiation from household electronics, and even prevent the build-up of static electricity.
1. Neutralizing electromagnetic radiation
There is a theory that the much-debated sick building syndrome is due to a build-up of positive ions from electronic equipment.
We are embedded in a vast sea of electromagnetic (EM) radiation emitted by our electronics (smart phone, computer, television, tablet, appliances, etc).
Nobody knows for sure what the long term effects of EM exposure will be. What is known is that constant EM radiation exposure can cause chronic fatigue, increases stress levels, and decreases the body’s immune response, to name a few.
Negative ions will certainly cancel out positive ions; however, to counteract electromagnetic radiation entirely, you would need to wrap yourself in lead sheeting, not just light a lamp next to the TV.
To what extent Himalayan salt lamps emit negative ions into the air remains to be seen. It’s not sure if they are powerful enough to neutralize electromagnetic radiation, also called ‘electro-smog’ at all.
Neutralizing may be a gross overstatement. Helping reduce seems more appropriate.
But if you’re looking for a nice lamp anyway, why not keep one next to your computer or TV if it can potentially reduce harmful side effects of our gadget-focused lifestyle?
2. Purifying the air
Natural living afficionados boast that the core benefit of these lamps is “their incredible power to remove pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, and other contaminants from the air”.
And even though devotees admit “it’s just a big chunk of salt with a light bulb inside” they claim that their efficacy stems from hygroscopy, attracting and absorbing water molecules with contaminants inside, from the surrounding environment, trapping them into the salt crystal.
It is absolutely true that the salt lamps are hygroscopic: they do suck water vapor from the air. Salt in the air has long been seen as a health booster, and sea air has been proven to help clear the airways.
In the 19th century, Polish salt miners (working in the same mines which now produce “Himalayan” salt) were known to have fewer pulmonary health problems than the general population.
There is ample scientific evidence of the health benefits of breathing salty air. However, rock salt isn’t particularly effective at spreading salt particles through the air.
There are ‘salt spas’ around Europe, which people visit for help with their respiratory problems, but these are rooms lined with blocks of salt like mosaic tiling. It seems unlikely that a 10-inch lamp would affect the air of the whole room.
3. Reduce asthma and allergy symptoms
The fact that special Himalayan pink salt inhalers exist, and that they seem to have tremendous beneficial effects on asthma, bronchitis, and other respitory ailments rules in favor of the exotic salt.
HPS lamps are said to filter microscopic mold, mildew, dust, and pet dander particles from indoor air. People swear that adding one or two lamps to their room helped alleviate allergy symptoms tremendously. Even asthma sufferers claim to benefit from HPS lamps.
Others think that a saline nasal spray will have a more immediate effect if you’re hoping to clear your airways with salt.
4. Improve breathing
Studies show that negative ions increase cilial activity while positive ions have a negative effect. Cilia are the microscopic hairs lining the windpipe (trachea).
In other words, more negative ions in the air means your lungs are kept cleaner from foreign particles. So theoretically, a HPS lamp helps you filter the air you breathe in and keep your lungs clean.
5. Increase energy levels
One of the boldest claims. Because positive ions sap your body of energy, HPS lamps can make you more energetic. Often the link between being out in nature (where negative ions are abundant) and feeling invigorated is attributed to these lamps too.
Two caveats; is the amount of negative ions emitted sufficient and are the energizing effects of being in nature solely caused by negative ions or are there other factors such as beautiful scenery, fresh air etc. in play?
Read the full list of benefits at CriticalCactus