Salt Cave's Massage Therapist Steve Graves and Assistant Manager Sara Gibson. (Dec. 21, 2012).

Paul Wellman

Salt Cave's Massage Therapist Steve Graves and Assistant Manager Sara Gibson. (Dec. 21, 2012).

Sucking in the Salt Cave

Santa Barbara’s New Speleotherapy Center

Saturday, December 29, 2012
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Shoes off, we ducked into the dark cave and walked in socks across the crunchy salt rocks that covered the floor. We eased into our zero-gravity lounge chairs, reclined gently, and adjusted blankets, our eyes focusing through the dim light and onto the pink hues of the surrounding walls’ crystalline bricks. Then came a bit of narration, some mellow tinkling music, and the hiss of steam from somewhere in the corner. As we inhaled in the strange scene, my companion exhaled, “Well, this is easily the weirdest thing I’ve done all day.”

Salt Cave's Massage Therapist Steve Graves and Assistant Manager Sara Gibson. (Dec. 21, 2012).
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Salt Cave’s Massage Therapist Steve Graves and Assistant Manager Sara Gibson. (Dec. 21, 2012).

It was easy to concur, for in a career of sampling fringe wellness regimes, the 45 minutes we spent sitting still inside the Salt Cave — a carefully contoured basement beneath De la Guerra and State streets — took the cake as most curious, at least in terms of immediate effects. Of course, even ardent speleotherapy proponents — who believe exposure to the dry, minerally rich air of salt caves and mines confers health benefits, an idea around since at least Roman times — admit that extended visits are required to alleviate the various respiratory ailments that a salty atmosphere can counteract. The practice got a boost in the 1840s when a Polish doctor realized that salt miners weren’t afflicted with the dominant lung diseases of the era, and again during World War II, when German patients who hid from bombers in a salt cave got healthier. About five years ago, as studies began to show that salt sessions do help folks with asthma, bronchitis, and other conditions related to mucus and sinus inflammation, the trend emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States, where it’s grown steadily since.

In October, after a year of development — which required 70 days of mining to get 90,000 pounds of pink salt out of the Pakistani Himalayas and meticulous construction to create an authentic space, rather than the spray-on technique used by other American facilities — Santa Barbara’s own Salt Cave opened its doors. Sister-in-law owners Pamela McCaskey (background: bodywork) and Kelly Egan (background: business) have been offering treatments ever since, ranging from salt scrubs with massage to exercise classes in the cave, as well as use of the unique venue for champagne spa parties and birthday bashes. They also have a retail store stocked with all things salt, from foodstuffs and crystals for cooking to skin care, candles, and more.

The Salt Cave
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

The Salt Cave

Business, they say, has been steady, so perhaps Santa Barbara is already stoked on speleo. And despite our initially dubious thoughts, by the end of our 45 minutes, my friend and I did note at least one marked benefit: We hadn’t checked out cell phones once while sucking in the salty air. If that’s the very least of what the Salt Cave promises, it was a session well spent.

See, call 805-963-7258, or stop by 740 State Street.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Junk science in action, but better than the cost of two apple-tini's. Do you just suppose Polish salt miners where healthier than Polish coal miners because they were not mining coal?

Try this at home: 45 minutes in a zero-gravity lounger in a quiet dark room, tinkling music, fragrant incense and all electronic devices turned off.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

With Oblati on this one, but it could be a great tourist trap. Maybe they can put a fiberglass dinosaur in the parking lot.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 12:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Cochrane reports on the science behind this - in a laboratory setting, calibrated doses of saline infusions were administered twice a day to cystic fibrosis patients who registered some, but not lasting benefit.

But mind and body often weave pleasing systemic benefits, regardless of the science. Particularly for those pulling the levers behind the scenes. This is more benign than talking on cell phones so I say, go for it. For goodness sake, it is better than smoking pot.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 1:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You should have quit while you're ahead Oblati, you just convinced me the Salt Cave must have some validity because you're anti-marijuana stance is primitive.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 2:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Pot has obviously diminished your powers of observation, KV. Suck in some NaCl and see if you can exorcize those demons.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So now you're fantasizing about what I may or may not do in my sparetime? How long before you ask me out on a date?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oblah blah blah blahti at it again, ...fantasizing about KV, speculating about his inhalation patterns...
see, O lost so many contests on Nov 6 s/he rants and rants...looky how Melinda burns went down! (on another thread, 6 posts); up with News-Suppress... you just can't get over your Prop 30 and other losses... ya got a lotta demons of your own to exorcize O blah

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's supposed to rain cats were rolling around on the floor. I gotta vacuum.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 4:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good thing they hauled all these tons of rock salt all the way from Pakistan before California imposes cap and trade January 1, 2013.

Oh, the carbon footprint of it all when they could have supported the entire surviving economy of Detroit instead. I suppose there is more cachet dealing with alleged foreign terrorists than mere domestic ones.

BTW: these places can be franchises, the #3 spa trend for 2011. Best both KV and self stay away. I am already seasoned enough for one life time and KV need not get any saltier.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You flatter me, Oblati. Happy New Year.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 29, 2012 at 4:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I visited the 500-year old Bad Reichenhaller salt mine in Salzburg awhile ago. All the workers looked really healthy.

Then again, Austria has universal health care :)

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 30, 2012 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Austrians eat pastry and cream puffs. There is a connection.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 30, 2012 at 7:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"For goodness sake, it is better than smoking pot."
-- Oblati

Hey, hey, hey. Cut the trash talk. :-))) HNY!

SezMe (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2012 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BTW, one of my wishes for the new year is that the INDY installs new and better comment software. The current system blows big time.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2012 at 5:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm with SezMe on that.
1. Ability to delete one's own comments.
2. Like or even a dislike button. You can suggest a removal (negative action) but not give a thumbs up (positive action.)

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2012 at 6:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Woo" comes to Santa Barbara yet again.
P.T. Barnum was right.

taz (anonymous profile)
January 1, 2013 at 7:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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