From air purifiers and filters to plants that can absorb harmful toxins in the air, there are a number of products on the market promising to make your abode a healthier place.
Some people, however, have opted for a more holistic approach to cleaning the air in their homes.
Enter the Himalayan salt lamp.
On top of jazzing up your home’s decor, this decorative light makes a number of health claims, including improving air quality. Yet, as is the case with many wellness fads, the science behind them is… well, questionable.
To get the lowdown on these charming lamps, we asked the opinion of three medical professionals: Dr. Debra Rose Wilson, an associate professor and holistic healthcare practitioner; Dr. Debra Sullivan, a nurse educator who specializes in complementary and alternative medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, and cardiology; and Dr. Dena Westphalen, a clinical pharmacist.
Here’s what they had to say.
Do Himalayan salt lamps provide any health benefits?
Debra Rose Wilson: A salt lamp has a lovely glow and sets the mood for stress reduction, but there are no measurable health benefits. There’s been no research published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. In fact, salt lamps have been called pseudoscience.
Debra Sullivan: Salt lamps are said to improve air quality, help you sleep, and increase your spirits by releasing negative ions into the air when in operation. None of these claims have ever been proven. Studies from 2012 and 2015 show room ionizers have no effect on people with asthma, and these ionizers produce higher amounts of ionization than salt lamps.
Dena Westphalen: The idea behind salt lamps is that the salt will act as a natural ionizer and will attract water in the air, which can carry pollutants such as bacteria and allergens. Many of the claims associated with salt lamps are related to a non-peer-reviewed paper that was published in 2010 in the Pakistan Journal of Molecular Biology. However, research has not been performed that can confirm the benefits of salt lamps.
Can Himalayan salt lamps clean the air in your home?
DS: This is based on the theory that water molecules in the air, which contain allergens or contaminants, are attracted by the salt. The lamp then heats the water to the point of evaporation, leaving behind the contaminants on the surface of the salt. This is, again, just a theory and there is currently no research to support this claim. In addition, if your goal were to clean the air in your home, an air purifier would do a much better, and faster, job.
DW: A salt lamp wouldn’t clean the air in your home.
Can Himalayan salt lamps help with allergies?
DRW: No. But cleaning the air with an air filter can. Many people have an allergy to dust, molds, animal dander, or insect droppings. When these get in the air, allergic responses can occur. A 2014 study found that home filtration systems can reduce allergy triggers found in indoor air.
DS: For the reasons provided above, it can’t help with allergies. If the air isn’t being cleaned, there are no allergens to be removed.
DW: A 2013 systematic review — a review of a number of trials performed — showed that even in a room with negative ions present in the air, there’s no benefit to asthma symptoms or with respiratory function. It wouldn’t be expected that salt lamps can help with allergies.
Has there been any solid research conducted on Himalayan salt lamps?
DRW: None. Research may soon come out examining the effectiveness. That said, salt lamps don’t seem to do any harm to a person’s health.
DW: There hasn’t been any peer-reviewed research performed. The 2010 article from the Pakistan Journal of Molecular Biology should be examined carefully, as there haven’t been any results to prove its scientific validity.
Can Himalayan salt lamps help with respiratory issues?
DRW: No. Beyond looking pretty in the soft light, and perhaps leaving the person feeling relaxed, there’s no research to show it can help with breathing. Theoretically, ions released from the Himalayan salt benefit the body, but there doesn’t seem to be enough ions released to measure. Moreover, effects have yet to be documented. Even when a room is deliberately positively and negatively ionized, no consistent changes in mood, sleeping, or health have been found.
DS: There’s no evidence at this time that salt lamps can improve respiratory issues. It seems to be most effective at improving someone’s mood, thanks to its soft glowing light. Beyond this, there doesn’t appear to be any effects. The theory that negatively charged ions being emitted from the lamp can produce better air quality has been shown to not be very effective. As stated before, using a room air purifier is much faster and offers a better approach to accomplishing the task of cleaning the air for better respiratory function.
DW: Jack Beauchamp, a Caltech professor of chemistry, tested a very popular salt lamp and found that no negative ions were created. The wattage of the light bulb used in the lamps — 15 to 45 watts — is too small to create negative ions. Beauchamp confirmed this by using a machine to detect ions. In short: Salt lamps wouldn’t have any impact on respiratory issues.
Dr. Debra Rose Wilson is an associate professor and holistic healthcare practitioner. She graduated from Walden University with a PhD. She teaches graduate-level psychology and nursing courses. Her expertise also includes obstetrics and breastfeeding. Dr. Wilson is the managing editor of a peer-reviewed international journal. She enjoys being with her Tibetan terrier, Maggie.
Dr. Debra Sullivan is a nurse educator. She graduated from the University of Nevada with a PhD. She’s currently a university nursing educator. Dr. Sullivan’s expertise includes cardiology, psoriasis/dermatology, pediatrics, and alternative medicine. She enjoys daily walks, reading, family, and cooking.
Dr. Dena Westphalen is a clinical pharmacist with interests in global health, travel health and vaccinations, nootropics, and custom compounded medications. In 2017, Dr. Westphalen graduated from Creighton University with her doctor of pharmacy degree, and is currently working as an ambulatory care pharmacist. She’s volunteered in Honduras providing public health education and has received the Natural Medicines Recognition Award. Dr. Westphalen was also a scholarship recipient for IACP Compounders on Capitol Hill. In her spare time, she enjoys playing ice hockey and the acoustic guitar.