Northwest Indiana's first salt cave opens in St. John

Halotherapy of St. John opened at 8241 Wicker Avenue.

Northwest Indiana's first salt cave, a spa-like setting where people sit and breath in salt air for relaxation or for therapeutic purposes, has set up shop in St. John.

Halotherapy of St. John, at 8241 Wicker Ave., lets visitors come in for 45-minute sessions during which they relax in a zero gravity chair while ambient music plays in the background and they inhale "micronized, pharmaceutical-grade salt from a state-of-the-art generator." Alan Updike, Marcia Autry and a third partner own the business.

Salt caves — which have been used as an alternative medicine for centuries — are common in Europe and Canada, but relatively new to the Midwest. Several have opened in Chicago recently, but apparently the only other dedicated salt rooms located in Indiana are in Bloomington and Warsaw.

Customers rent time in rooms that have salt-laden air and salt crystal-coated walls in an effort to imitate salt caves that occur naturally in the world, such as in Poland and Eastern Europe.

"Sitting in our salt cave is similar to spending a day at the beach, breathing in the salty sea air," Halotherapy of St. John says on its website. "However, you’ll receive many more benefits than that. Our salt comes from the Himalayan Mountains and is the cleanest and purest form of salt you will experience. You’ll feel it under your feet, feel it cleanse your system, and feel the relaxation that encompasses your body."

The experience is supposed to clear the respiratory system. The owners tout halotherapy as a potential treatment to a laundry list of ailments, including allergies, colds, asthma, dry skin, muscle cramps, rashes, acme, eczema and headaches.

The Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America cautions that while salt caves may be safe and relaxing, there's not a lot of clinical research to support health claims. The nonprofit noted researchers were not able to draw conclusions about its purported health benefits after 150 academic studies and that it could have side effects, such as potentially inducing bronchoconstriction in some people.

Halotherapy of St. John said in a press release salt therapy was intended to be done "in conjunction with your medical caregiver," not as a substitute for medical treatment.

"Active salt caves are just another tool in our quest for better health," Halotherapy of St. John said in a statement.

In addition to salt therapy, Halotherapy of St. John also sells Himalayan salt lamps, essential oils and CBD hemp oil.

For more information, visit www.saltcaveindiana.com or call (219) 365-2283.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.