A Salty Salvation for the Sinuses

People who visit Louisville Salt Cave are hoping to breathe easier one way or another. Kim Rash, who owns the cave with Nicole Bartlett, says the primary reasons visitors give her for coming are to relax and to alleviate allergy and sinus problems.

“It’s kind of like a mini-vacation,” Rash says of halotherapy sessions – the main service the business offers.

Most “vacation” sessions last for 45 minutes, but they also can last 30 for patrons who prefer the Lunch Express option. During their grotto getaway, visitors lay in one of the cave’s six reclining chairs as a halogenerator – a device that grinds pharmaceutical-grade salt and disperses it into the air – hums rhythmically.

Walking into the room isn’t so different from walking on the beach. Small crystals of pink Himalayan salt cover the floor, gathering in sand-like mounds. But unlike beach combers, Louisville Salt Cave visitors are required to take their shoes off and keep their feet covered before sessions. The cave provides socks to patrons who need them.

The walls of the cave are also made from pink Himalayan salt, albeit bigger chunks of it than are on the floor. Some of the salt chunks have lights behind them, but for the most part, the cave is brightened only by lights that twinkle on the ceiling during halotherapy sessions as calming music plays. The business also offers sessions during which visitors can listen to a guided meditation.

Each recliner comes equipped with a basket in which visitors who don’t want to bring home a salt-encrusted purse can put their belongings, in addition to a blanket for people who might find the cave’s 65-to-70-degree temperature a bit nippy.

As Rash ushered in the final arrival at a recent halotherapy session, she let us know that salt by its nature is antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

Indeed, my fellow cave-dwellers cited hope for health benefits or other visitors’ reports of improved well-being as reasons for coming to the cave. Mary Bellino said she thought the sessions sounded fascinating after a friend who comes regularly described Louisville Salt Cave to her.

Bellino said she hoped the session might alleviate inflammation. Kathy Carroll said she decided to try the cave after a work colleague reported finding the sessions to be helpful for allergies.

Returning visitor Angie Schulte said she came because she needed to relax.

“I’m so stressed right now,” she said. “I need this.”

The benefits visitors experience from halotherapy vary, as do the behaviors of visitors during the sessions. If you’re like the others in my group, you might lay quietly or fall asleep until an employee rings a bell to let you know the session has ended. If you’re like me, you fidget, breathe clearly for the first time since you moved to Louisville and equivocate over whether you should call the aunt who repeatedly tried to stop you (not always successfully) from drinking beach water during childhood vacations so you can let her know you were ahead of the curve on salt’s therapeutic effects.

Rash said much of the cave’s business comes from repeat customers. Once our session ended, a first-time visitor bought a session package.

Though halotherapy is the main service Louisville Salt Cave offers, visitors also can attend special events such as drum circles and guided foot massages. Additionally, children and a guardian can play in the cave together (with plastic dinosaurs!) the first Saturday morning of each month. VT

For more information about Louisville Salt Cave, visit louisvillesaltcave.com or call 502.996.7000.

STORY BY JESSICA STEPHENS