Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Offer Any Health Benefits?

Himalayan salt lamps have become popular in recent years. They are especially appealing to people who want to take a more natural approach to their health and lifestyle. However, there is been little evidence to support any alleged health benefits involving the use of Himalayan salt lamps.

Himalayan salt lamp on a table next to a plant

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What Are They?

Himalayan salt lamps are made of chunks of pink Himalayan salt.  Additionally, the center of the rock is carved-out for placing a heat source or light bulb.

Pink Himalayan salt is a salt rock crystal that comes of the Himalaya mountains in Pakistan. This salt is chemically similar to table salt and contains mostly sodium chloride. It also contains trace minerals of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which give the salt its pinkish tint. The minerals are also the reason Himalayan salt has a taste that is different than regular table salt.

Himalayan salt lamps have become more popular in recent years as they are often seen in spas. They are available for purchase for home use online and in most stores.

Most people use Himalayan salt lamps because they like the way they look. Others believe in the purported benefits of these lamps.

How Do They Work?

It is believed that Himalayan salt lamps work through a process called air ionization. This means they release negative ions into the air. Salt lamps may reproduce the process of ions naturally produced by the distribution of water molecules. Rain showers, waterfalls, natural radioactivity, and heat all produce air ions . Commercially manufactured air ionizers may also produce the same effect.

It is believed salt lamps produce negative ions by attracting water molecules that evaporate as the salt solution is heated by the lamp. Some studies show slight cognitive performance effects of short-term exposure to high indoor air ion concentrations. However, the idea that salt lamps may offer the same benefit is unclear because the amounts produced may not be meaningful enough.

Other studies suggest that water vapors in the air carrying toxins are attracted to the surface of the rock because of the salt. In this case, the toxins fall onto the rock’s surface, leaving only clean water vapors in the air. This claim has little evidence supporting it.

Health Claims

There are several claims about the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps. 

Improved Indoor Air Quality

Himalayan salt lamps are claimed to improve indoor air quality. They are advertised as being helpful to people with allergies, asthma, and upper respiratory problems. Of course, there is no evidence confirming Himalayan salt lamps can actually remove pollutants from the air or improve the air quality of your home or office space.

This claim is actually based on an ancient practice called halotherapy. Halotherapy is a practice said to improve chronic respiratory problems from spending time in salt caves due to the presence of salt in the air. But there is little evidence to support the effectiveness or safety of halotherapy for people living with respiratory conditions. 

One 2014 report of surveys on the therapeutic effects of a halotherapy chamber with an artificial salt-mine environment finds halotherapy does provide some benefit in reducing the inflammatory effects of respiratory conditions. However, that effect is short-lived, and treatments need to be repeated. The safety of halotherapy was not investigated by this report. No other studies provide sufficient support confirming the effectiveness or safety of halotherapy.

Testing on commercial air ionizers, which give out high levels of negative ions, don’t provide any concrete proof confirming any benefit to people with respiratory problems or improved air quality.

Improved Mood

A second claim made by people who support the use of Himalayan salt lamps is that they can improve mood.  Some animal studies show high exposure to negative ions promotes serotonin, the chemical that regulates mood. However, human studies have found no consistent effects on mood or well-being with air ionization. 

One 2013 meta-analysis and review of human studies evaluated the effects of air ionization on mood states, feelings of well-being, anxiety, and depression. The researchers also evaluated level exposure. What they found was that negative ionization did offer some improvement for depression, but the long-term effects, amounts needed, and frequency of treatments were unknown. In fact, any benefit came with very high exposure, an amount salt lamps do not provide. Overall, there was no consistent effect of ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep or personal comfort.

Improved Sleep

Few studies have examined the effects of Himalayan salt lamps on sleep. They may, however, encourage a relaxing atmosphere for sleep because the dimmed light from the lamp can promote sleepiness. Bright lights, on the other hand, including the light from electronic devices, can delay the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. While this is not specific to salt lamps, it can be an added benefit. This theory is yet to be tested.

Reduced Effect of Electromagnetic Radiation

Electromagnetic radiation (EM) is a type of energy that is all around us and takes many forms, including radio waves, X-rays, and gamma rays. Sunlight is also a form of electromagnetic radiation. Your television, computer, and cellular device all release EM in the form of unhealthy positive ions. Constant exposure to EM has serious long-term effects, including fatigue, increased stress, and weakened immune systems.

There has been plenty of research on the toxic effects of electronic fields. One 2015 report from the Archives of Medicine finds exposure to EM of even 1 kHz frequency and 150 V/m and 220 V/m intensity for up to an hour may cause “adverse effects within blood platelets’ oxygen metabolism,” leading to dysfunction of cells. In today’s world, chronic exposure to even low-level radiation from cellular devices can cause cancers, impair immunity, and contribute to numerous diseases and ailments.

Because Himalayan salt lamps increase exposure to negative ions, they may cancel out the effects of positive ions. The same process may also help to reduce airborne infections. However, there is no evidence confirming either of these theories.

A Word From Verywell

While Himalayan salt lamps continue to grow in popularity, they probably do not offer any substantial health benefits.  There is little evidence to back up claims about improving air quality, respiratory health, mood, or sleep.

There does not appear to be any research on the safety of these lamps. However, they do appear safe for use and accidents with these lamps are rarely reported. Still, you should always practice proper fire safety, including keeping lamps in a space where they cannot be knocked over and out of the reach of children and pets.

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