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Himalayan salt lamps make for beautiful décor and emit soothing glows, but do Himalayan salt lamps work? In other words, are there actual health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps?
After hearing many firsthand reports of the environmental and health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps, I bought my first salt lamp about 10 years ago. Admittedly, I never turned my lamp on religiously for any long period of time, because I didn’t feel the personal need to do so with my health and circumstances.
Mainly, we turn the lamp on right before going to bed, as a softer, more soothing visual option to the overhead light. So, honestly, my experience with Himalayan salt lamps far from qualifies as any accurate accounting. Plus, I didn’t have a lot of health or mental woes to start, so before-and-after levels to compare.
However, as mentioned, I’ve heard from plenty of people who are true believers of the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps. They also are more heavy users of the lamps, like leaving them on for hours during the daytime and having lamps in different rooms.
This article focuses on the question, “Do Himalayan salt lamps work?” in terms of actual health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps, so that you can decide whether to try one in your home or workplace.
What Are Himalayan Salt Lamps?
If you’re unfamiliar with Himalayan salt lamps, they are basically hollowed-out slabs of Himalayan salt. The slab often sits on a wooden or metal base that holds a light bulb inside of the salt structure. Thus, when you turn the light on, it shines through the salt, showcasing a beautiful mosaic of different colors and thicknesses in the salt.
Nowadays, salt lamps come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors to enhance their visual appeal. For instance, you can get lamps in the shapes of bowls, cubes, flowers, or basket arrangements. Personally, I like the less finished, naturally cut look like this one.
The Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan is the only source for Himalayan salt in the world. Thus, if any manufacturer or seller cites a different country of origin for the salt, then the lamp either isn’t genuine Himalayan salt or the seller may have bought the salt from Pakistan to mark up for resale.
How Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work?
Do Himalayan salt lamps work? To understand whether they work, you have to understand what Himalayan salt lamps are supposed to do. Thus, we have to answer the question, How do Himalayan salt lamps work?
People believe in Himalayan salt lamps for their supposed ability to produce negative ions in the air. Two main theories exist on how this happens, which requires a little bit of chemistry. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep the chemistry simple!
One theory is that salt lamps draw water (H20) molecules from the air (i.e. hygroscopicity), which then chemically react with the salt (sodium chloride) to bind positive and negative ions. The end result between the two compounds binding is one extra negative ion, which is then released into the air.
The other theory concerns the photoelectric effect, where light particles (i.e. photons) from the light bulb collide with the surrounding salt, which then dislodge negative ions from the salt (sodium chloride). These negative ions then go into the air.
Regardless of the exact mechanism, Himalayan salt lamps are supposed to increase the number of negative ions in the surrounding air, which then cause the purported health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps that people praise.
For this reason, Himalayan salt lamp manufacturers and sellers recommend certain sizes for different room sizes. The thought is that the larger the Himalayan salt lamp, the larger the salt surface to create more negative ions for the room. Thus, if you have a larger room or living space to ionize, you should either buy a larger lamp or buy multiple lamps.
The Purported Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt Lamps
Proponents of Himalayan salt lamps list numerous health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps, ranging from improved respiratory functioning to better sleep. As explained above, the alleged health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps all stem from the purported benefits of negative ions.
I will discuss two of the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps that I think research substantiates better than the others, in terms of more supportive studies and less conflicting studies. Those two purported benefits are the ability to boost your mood and to clean the air.
Himalayan Salt Lamp’s Ability to Boost Your Mood
One study revealed that rats exposed to salt lamps for 14 days showed higher levels of tryptophan and serotonin receptors in their brain, which translates to having anti-depressant effects. Indeed, other studies like this one have supported the finding that negative ions can counter depression, such as in seasonal affective disorder.
Another study revealed that adults showed significantly improved reports of well-being and the quality of their environment after being exposed to negative ions at work.
Negative ions can also improve your recovery from stress, according to a study. (See our article, 10 Bona Fide Natural Relaxation Techniques to Combat Stress, if you’re facing stress.)
Himalayan Salt Lamp’s Ability to Clean the Air
Some studies show the ability of negative ions to clean the air of contaminants such as dust mites and allergens. However, if it matters, the linked study on dust mites showed that negative ions only affected dust mites on surfaces or in the air, not ones embedded in objects like mattresses.
One study also concluded negative ions in the air can help prevent transmission of the influenza (flu) virus. (See our article, 6 Incredible Health Benefits of Green Tea, for another antiviral or antibacterial option.)
So, Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work – For Real?
Since research shows negative ions can positively affect our environment and sense of well-being, the main question is, Do Himalayan salt lamps work – for real?
Unfortunately, as you may have noticed from the sampling of studies referenced above, no legitimate peer-reviewed study exists on the health benefits of salt lamps with humans or even on salt lamps generally. The only study I found that specifically tested salt lamps was the one involving rats, which is certainly promising for humans, but not concrete.
Also, all research showing the positive effects of negative ions used more active means to ionize the air (e.g. air ionizer machines), so did not address the question of whether a Himalayan salt lamp could ionize the air to the same degree to produce notable results.
A California Institute of Technology chemistry professor used a device to measure any negative ions that a Himalayan salt lamp emitted, but the device indicated zero ionic output from the lamp, thereby dispelling the notion that salt lamps produce negative ions. However, we must note that the lab only tested one specific salt lamp out of the hundreds of salt lamps on the market. We can’t necessarily assume all manufactured salt lamps act the same without a larger test sample.
Many people provide anecdotal evidence of the calming effects of salt lamps, and even its ability to “purify” the air to help with allergies and such. Although no scientific body has specifically validated the abilities and effects of Himalayan salt lamps with humans, no scientific body has legitimately invalidated the same either.
So, unfortunately, no definite answer exists to the question, Do Himalayan salt lamps work?
It could be that Himalayan salt lamps produce some degree of negative ions in the air, however large or minute. Or it could be that people who really believe in the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps experience a placebo effect. Or it could also be that the warm, peaceful glow of a Himalayan salt lamp soothes the nerves.
Or it could be all of the above! Until legitimate, peer-reviewed research is conducted, we won’t know for sure.
Summary of the Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt Lamps
Even though the research on the health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps is lacking, I think Himalayan salt lamps are worth a try.
Even though Himalayan salt lamps carry a lot of anecdotal versus scientific evidence of their benefits, I believe anecdotal evidence could suffice for something that can only benefit and not harm you. No negative side effects of using Himalayan salt lamps has been reported, so trying one carries no risk.
If nothing else, at least you will have extremely pleasant ambient lighting in your bedroom or office, which could produce a calming effect alone. Not to mention, salt lamps look fantastic on night stands or other tables.
(Side note: If you want to use stronger devices to negatively ionize the air, some machines specifically tout that ability, such as this negative ion generator or even this wearable air ionizer. I haven’t personally tried air ionizer machines, but some people claim positive results!)
Below are some of the many different salt lamp options that are out there. Feel free to click on the image or links for more information.
If you have any opinion on or personal experience with Himalayan salt lamps, please comment below! Inquiring minds want to know.