Dr. Feliks Boczkowski, who was not only a great doctor but also a very smart businessman, founded and opened the first health resort facility at the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland in 1839. He offered salt baths by utilizing natural brine from underground and mentioned in his book, that staying underground can be even more effective in asthma treatment than inhalations.
In 1949, the German physician, Dr. K.H. Spannahel, who had observed during World War II that the people who were hiding in salt mines and caves from the bombs had respiratory health benefits. He proposed the creation of the Klyutert cave as an inpatient department to confirm the medical effectiveness of underground environments. The results of these studies, along with the teamwork of the Hungarian geologist, Dr. H. Kessler, laid the foundation of modern Speleotherapy, which is a modality utilizing the environmental benefits occurring underground.
In 1958, Professor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski became the official physician of the Wieliczka Salt Mine and started regular treatment of patients in the salt chambers, initiating a new field of medicine – Subterraneotherapy also called the Skulimowski method, which refers to underground “salted” environments exclusively.
Shortly thereafter, in 1964 the world’s first facility of its kind, the underground Kinga Allergy Treatment Spa was created in the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, then renamed to the Kinga Health Resort Hospital, where Professor Skulimowski became its first Director and focused on helping people with mostly respiratory conditions as well as explored other overall health benefits.
His method proved to be successful and spread to neighboring salt mines and caves in Europe as well as to former Soviet Union states. In 1968, the first speleo-hospital was opened in the Solotvyno salt mine in Ukraine.
Having the attention from the medical community, the need for more convenient access became a necessity, in order to conduct specific studies and do more specific research. In 1985 in Odessa, Russia, the Institute of Balneology, in collaboration with the salt caver’s from Uzhgorod, developed the first Halotherapy device. This was a device that was replicating the grinding and crushing of salt that would disperse the particles into the air.
One could say that Halotherapy was “born” in the medical environment, in the former Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the knowledge of the halotechnology and established Halotherapy protocols became accessible to the rest of the world. Soon Halotherapy claimed its place in more commercial and wellness settings outside of the USSR in Eastern and Western Europe, Canada, Australia and finally the United States.
Throughout history, pure, unrefined rock salt has long been recognized for its antibacterial and antimicrobial benefits. Also, medieval monks would take patients deep into salt caves to inhale fine salt particles. Nowadays, in Europe, more and more medical institutions are being built around salt caves and patients with chronic respiratory diseases are successfully treated. The air found in underground caves is rich in salt microns and ions. These microscopic salt crystals enter deep into the lungs where they absorb and neutralize harmful bacteria and allergens, reducing swelling in the lung tissue. As a result, breathing becomes much easier for anyone suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma, shortness of breath, cystic fibrosis, hay fever, allergies, bronchitis, bronchiectasis, COPD and other ailments of the lungs.