It’s hard to imagine our world without salt. In fact, it would be impossible since salt — or, sodium, rather — plays such an important role in the human body’s natural functions, and in Mother Nature. “Salt is closely tied, along with water, to the origins of life and, thus has numerous enlivening properties,” says Chaye McIntosh, the clinical director at ChoicePoint. Beyond these properties and the essential role it plays in bodily function, salt is also incredibly healing for the mind, body, and spirit.
Up ahead, we dive deeper into the healing benefits of salt and salt water for physical health, mental resilience, and spiritual protection.
How Salt Heals
“Salt has been used to prevent wound infection for millennia and, rightfully so, as salt has remarkable antiseptic properties,” says McIntosh. On a physical spectrum, salt water can be used as a way to clean the mouth and keep bacteria on the gums at bay. It can also help heal cuts and scrapes when swimming or bathing in salt water.
Another reason why salt and salt water are so beneficial is that they can “provide relief and healing effects to patients suffering from epidermolysis bullosa, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and many more [skin conditions],” McIntosh explains. Bathing in salt water can also relieve the physical aches and pains of sore muscles and promote an overall relaxing sensation in the body.
“Inhalation of salt water has excellent expectorant properties and has been implicated in improving airway diseases like asthma and bronchitis,” McIntosh says. Salt also has a mucous-guarding property, which is essential since mucous is an important aspect of the body’s natural defense system. “It is the antibacterial and mucous-friendly property of salt that its use in sore throats, tonsillitis, sinusitis, nasal polyps, nasal allergy, and dental infections is as important as allopathic medicine,” McIntosh notes.
Spiritually, salt has protective properties and is also often associated with purification. And, the symbolism of salt often relates back to themes of resilience, restoration, and adaptiveness.
The Symbolism of Salt
In addition to the healing benefits of salt and salt water, we can learn a lot from the symbolism of salt. “The salt crystal is as unique and biologically stunning as the water molecule,” says McIntosh. When looked at under a microscope, salt has a lattice-like structure that is well maintained throughout each crystal — even the teeny tiny crystals show off in this intricate way.
According to McIntosh, salt melts at incredibly high temperatures and, yet, when mixed with water, “it splits into sodium and chlorine ions, only to restore itself when the water dries up.” There is a lot to learn from the chemistry, as salt is “hard, unbreakable, unmeltable, and highly absorbent, yet adapts to the state of water when combined,” McIntosh adds. As a symbol, salt is the very definition of resilience, adaptiveness, and restoration.
Embracing Your Salty Side
To reap the benefits of salt water, McIntosh says you can start by simply drinking it — which, if done before a meal, can aid in digestion. “Take a few sips of water before you eat and your stomach will thank you,” she says.
The ocean is also full of amazing and essential vitamins and minerals (there’s a reason it’s called vitamin sea), including salt and magnesium. When swimming in the ocean, the body absorbs the salt in the water, along with other vitamins and minerals through the skin, promoting healing from the outside in. Another way to embrace your salty side is to breathe in the salty air — which is evaporated from the salt water — while at the beach. This experience can feel incredibly grounding and purifying.
If you don’t live near a coast, another way to incorporate salt into your wellness regimen is through regular salt bath soaks. Soaking in a bath is incredibly calming and helps reset the nervous system. It can also relieve achy muscles, soften the skin, and improve circulation.
Cool off and find calm this summer with Pitta-balancing practices to nourish mind, body, and spirit in Summer Renewal, a four-part Ayurveda series with Dr. Sheila Patel, available now in the Chopra App under For You.