Himalayan salt lamps have grown in popularity in the United States in recent years. They are often marketed as natural air purifiers that can also help with respiratory issues, mood, and sleep.
Salt has been used in treating ailments for centuries, especially in “halotherapy”, which involves breathing in salt-rich air.
Few scientific studies have been done on the subject of in-home salt lamps, but research into some of the claims made by salt lamp producers has been mixed.
Here’s an overview of the reported benefits and some studies that have looked at the claims associated with salt lamps. This information can be helpful to consider when thinking about adding a salt lamp to your home.
How Do They Work?
Salt is a natural ionizer when it’s heated, which means that it can change the electrical charge of the air around it. Other natural ionizers include waterfalls, waves, and storms, though these produce much larger numbers of negative ions than salt lamps can.
The idea is that as salt blocks are heated, they release negative ions into the air, which “attract particles of pollution and give them a negative charge, making them seek an electrical “ground,” and causing them to fall harmlessly to the floor.”1
Salt is also naturally hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water molecules from the air. Some salt lamp producers claim that the water molecules that are trapped by the salt block contain harmful impurities that are then removed from the air.2
Benefits and Evidence
The claims about benefits for people with respiratory issues like asthma probably come from the use of halotherapy, which has been shown to improve respiratory health in some cases.3
However, the concentrations of salt used in halotherapy are much greater than those found in common salt lamps. And no studies have focused directly on salt lamps and respiratory health.
Other claims about removing impurities from the air are based on hygroscopy, which is a known process. But it’s unclear if common salt lamps are capable of removing significant amounts of contaminants like dust, pollen, smoke, and mold from the air.
Research has shown that people report improved feelings after exposure to large concentrations of negative ions, though this can vary based on the person’s initial mental wellbeing.4
It’s unclear how many negative ions salt lamps can produce when heated by a light bulb, and if those levels of concentration would compare to what was shown in the study.
Beyond negative ions, salt lamps look nice in a room and can make it feel cozier. This can help improve your mood, and make your environment more relaxing for others.
Bottom line, the lamps can add a calming presence to any room in your home and their production of negative ions may be beneficial to mood.
At this time, there have been no studies that analyze the effects of salt lamps on quality of sleep. And there is no known association between higher levels of negative ions and better sleep.4
However, the lamp’s warm, inviting glow is a great alternative to glaring overhead lights as you wind down at the end of the day. And this may help you fall asleep faster.
Though salt lamps are not a proven method for air purification, they may help improve your mood and make it easier to fall asleep at night if used as an alternative to other light sources.
More scientific studies are needed to analyze the health claims associated with salt lamps, and few studies have been done on the specific types of salt lamps that are gaining popularity in the United States. But their potential to improve your mood and the comfort of a your home environment can make them beneficial for you and your family.5
1 Solay Wellness, Inc.: http://www.natural-salt-lamps.com/howdosaltlampswork.html
2 Mind Body Green Lifestyle: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-health-properties-and-benefits-of-himalayan-salt-lamps
3 Journal of Medicine and Life: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391365/
4 BMC Psychiatry: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23320516
5 Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/mind-and-mood
Live Science: https://www.livescience.com/59328-himalayan-salt-lamp-faq.html