Himalayan sea salt is noted for its pink color, and is considered to have numerous health benefits that go well beyond seasoning food. But what are the health benefits, really, and how can you use it?
What is Himalayan Sea Salt?
Himalayan sea salt is primarily sodium chloride like other forms of salt, but is different in other ways. Himalayan sea salt is unique in that it is naturally pink in color. It is harvested from Pakistan, and is found in massive salt mines that are around 5,000 feet below the Himalayan mountains.
While it is mostly known to be pink, it has several variations on the color spectrum, ranging from almost red to almost orange, or much paler in color and even sometimes pure white.
The difference in specific mineral content is what causes the range in color, and it’s thought that the iron content causes the pink-to-reddish hue.
Himalayan salt is also known as pink salt, rock salt, or crystal salt, and comes in several different grinds.
What Are the Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt?
Himalayan salt is considered to be the purest form of salt and it also has several health benefits. It contains anywhere between 60 to 84 trace elements, minerals, and trace minerals.
Celtic salt is the only other salt that is comparable to Himalayan salt in mineral content, but Himalayan salt has the most. These include:
While Himalayan salt still has sodium, like regular table salt, it is considered healthier because it has several nutrients and doesn’t affect blood pressure in the same way that iodized table salt does, although when eaten in excess it can still be problematic for some.
Salt is actually necessary for a healthy body, and too little salt can be far more serious than eating too much salt for most people.
Salt is required for ensuring that the cells function properly, that the nervous system is communicating, that digestion is effective, that nutrients from foods are absorbed, and that waste is eliminated from the body.
Himalayan salt can specifically benefit the following:
Himalayan salt is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and is used in a therapeutic healing process known as halotherapy.
Halotherapy is a natural means of improving lung function and helping address breathing or lung-related issues like pneumonia and bronchitis, and is conducted in rooms or caves that are entirely made of blocks of Himalayan salt, typically with a loose salt floor, much like walking on sand.
Sitting in a room like this can help to loosen mucus, open airways, and decrease immune system reactivity, as in autoimmune disorders. Some modern spas now include salt rooms so that members can breathe in the deeply purified air as part of a rejuvenating cleanse.
If digestion is problematic, such as with low stomach acid, reflux, or indigestion, mixing Himalayan salt with warm purified water and drinking it first thing in the morning can help to improve digestion over time.
This mix can also help to improve the muscle movements of the digestive system, known as peristalsis, helping to improve elimination in people who struggle with constipation or irregularity.
It can also boost metabolism. This should not be done by people who have high blood pressure or otherwise need to be on a low sodium diet.
People who eat an excessively low-sodium diet tend to have more trouble sleeping. The nervous system needs adequate amounts of salt to go into a proper state of relaxation, and when it doesn’t have enough salt or minerals (which Himalayan salt also provides), it remains in more active state, leading to more frequent wake ups or difficult falling asleep.
While everyone differs in their sodium needs, people tend to be afraid of sodium and salt and many default to not having enough, especially if they eat a diet low in processed foods.
Himalayan salt contains natural electrolytes and can help to provide a stable amount of fluids for cellular use. When we become low in fluids or electrolytes, our fluid balance within cells can become disrupted.
While there are many electrolyte drinks available to buy, most if not all contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other unhealthy ingredients. Balancing electrolytes naturally with Himalayan salt provides more benefit with less side effects, and Himalayan salt actually contains all of the required electrolytes: chloride, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
You can make your own electrolyte drink by pairing a pinch of Himalayan sea salt with 4 ounces of coconut water or purified water, a ½ teaspoon of raw honey, and a drop of liquid stevia.
Himalayan salt lamps are popular and often seen in health food stores, but what do they do? To a smaller degree than a salt room, Himalayan lamps can help to purify the air in individual rooms of a home or office.
As the lamp heats, it actually draws dust and other allergens and impurities into it, leaving cleaner air in the room, and reducing the amount of pollutants or irritants that you breathe in. This only works as the salt warms from the heat source of the lamp.
Himalayan salt lamps never expire, since they are made of salt that is hundreds of thousands of years old, but some experts believe it’s best to replace them after a few years to ensure their purity.
Himalayan salt contains magnesium and potassium, which can both help to alleviate muscle cramps or Charley horses, especially when part of a regular diet.
Many headaches are caused by a deficiency in magnesium, which is a mineral found in Himalayan salt. Magnesium and calcium in proper balance help to relax tight blood vessels, which can be a cause of recurring headaches.
When the body is too acidic, any number of health issues can creep up. Himalayan salt helps bring balance to the body’s pH levels, which is good for immunity and healthy digestion.
When digestion isn’t good, no matter how healthy we eat, we won’t be able to absorb the nutrients that our bodies desperately need.
Most people tend toward being overly acidic, which can cause any number of issues, ranging from digestive issues to vaginal infections to even cancer, as some health experts have suggested.
Himalayan salt contains naturally occurring iodine which is essential for thyroid hormone production. Hypothyroidism can occur when the body lacks enough minerals or nutrients to make enough hormone or to convert it to the active, usable form.
Regular use of Himalayan salt instead of table salt may help to support the thyroid in normal, healthy function.
The adrenal glands make hormones that help the body cope with stress, as well as reproductive hormones. They rely heavily on the right amount of nutrients to be able to make these hormones, but when the body is overly stressed or undernourished, adrenal hormones can be some of the first to get off balanced.
Sodium and potassium are especially critical to adrenal wellness, and they’re found in Himalayan salt. Maintaining adrenal health is essential for thyroid health, balanced sleep, and energy problems like chronic fatigue.
How Can You Use Himalayan Salt?
Himalayan salt has numerous uses, which is why it is available for purchase in varying levels of grinds. Ultra fine is perfect for seasoning food, whereas coarse rock salt is ideal for things like body scrub or bath soaks.
Himalayan salt is not only healthy, but has a distinctly deeper flavor than basic table salt. Less salt can be used to achieve a deeper flavor profile. It can be used before, during, or after the cooking process depending on the type of dish.
In ancient times, Himalayan salt was often used to cure meat or fish. You can also use Himalayan salt when making fermented foods at home.
Using in drinks or with water
As mentioned above, Himalayan salt contains natural electrolytes and can be used to boost regular water, or can be combined with warm water as a digestive system support.
If you need extra electrolytes but don’t want to make an actual electrolyte beverage, you can just add a pinch of Himalayan salt to a glass of 12-16 ounces of water. Note: do not add salt or salt liquids to stainless steel or metal bottles.
Slough off dead or dry skin with a homemade body scrub recipe. While many use sugar, coarse Himalayan salt is magnesium-rich and can nourish the skin better than sugar.
Combine with coconut oil and a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a luxurious smelling scrub that will nourish your skin from the top down.
Pro tip: make small batches of the body scrub so that the salt doesn’t break down over time.
To provide relief to sore muscles, add one half to 2 cups of Himalayan rock salt to a warm or hot bath. This can be especially useful for athletes or people with chronic joint or muscle pain.
Allow the salt to dissolve for a few minutes before stepping into the bath, and soak for at least 10-20 minutes to achieve optimal effects.
If you struggle with seasonal allergies or postnasal drip, then an occasional neti pot flush of the sinuses with lightly salted water can have a cleansing impact. This is especially true if Himalayan salt is used thanks to its pH balancing and anti-inflammatory properties.
This is also a great way to manage or recover from a sinus infection. If you’ve never done a nasal rinse with a neti pot, follow the neti pot’s instructions for mixing the liquid, but swap in Himalayan salt instead of pure sodium chloride.
Similar to a bath soak in method, a detox bath focuses more on soaking to draw toxins out of the skin. When Himalayan salt is mixed with water, it has an ionic balance that can help to pull toxins from adipose tissue, or body fat.
Since most toxins are lipophilic, meaning they are stored in fat, this can be an effective method of removing certain kinds of toxins. You can increase the benefits of a detox bath by dry brushing before.
Using a natural fiber brush, sweep the skin in the direction of the heart, starting with legs, then arms, and then trunk.
How to Buy Himalayan Salt
There are lots of pink salts on the market, but not all of them are pure Himalayan salt. When purchasing, ensure that the label says that it was harvested in Pakistan.
Additionally, salt needs to be kept in cool, dark places to maintain mineral content, so purchasing from discount stores often means that it wasn’t always stored in a temperature controlled environment, like a grocery store or health food store might offer.
While Himalayan salt is certainly more expensive than white table salt, its health benefits make it so much more than just basic salt. Investing in Himalayan salt, whether to season your food or to use for other purposes, will address more health issues and provide more positive effects for the body.
Himalayan salt will last indefinitely if stored properly. Always keep it in a sealed container, away from moisture, in a cool, dark area. Most pantries work well unless they’re close to the stove.
If salt does get exposed to steam, it will clump together and may not be as easily used for cooking, but could still work for scrubs or baths. So even though salts will have “best by” dates when purchased, if stored properly, salt can be used long after this date has passed.
Best by dates are not the same as sell by or expiration dates.
Himalayan salt is an ancient mineral-rich salt that is often pink, red, or orange. It contains magnesium, potassium, and other minerals, and can be beneficial for many health conditions.
It can also be used therapeutically for conditions like breathing problems, muscle aches, and headaches, and can be used to make DIY body scrubs, bath soaks, and more.
Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.