Entering the cavernous interior of the main attraction at the new Montauk Salt Cave, a refreshing wave of coolness hits you. A pink field of salt crystals massages your feet as you make your way to the rows of anti-gravity chairs gathered around a fireplace carved out of the same rosy salt, lit by lamp sculptures, also made of salt.Covered by a soft blanket, you lay back in the chair, seemingly floating over the hills of salt below. Then, with the start of a calm orchestra of sound, the salt therapy begins.
Montauk Salt Cave owner Shannon Coppola said her life changed for the better when she first discovered the benefits of salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, a year ago when she took her 4-year-old son, Oliver, to a “salt room” in Northern New Jersey.
Since he was an infant, she said, Oliver had trouble breathing and sleeping through the night. She said his condition improved when his adenoids—small glands at the back of the throat and nose that work as a line of defense for the immune system—were removed, since they were swollen and taking up 90 percent of his airway.
However, a month later, his breathing troubles returned. An allergy test revealed that he was allergic to virtually all environmental allergens except for mold, said Ms. Coppola.
After going through countless medications and over-the-counter products, she decided to investigate a more holistic approach.
“I found out about a salt room in the town where I grew up,” she said. “I took him one day, and [her husband] Peter took him the second day. It was the first time he slept through the night, at 4 years old, and it was the first time we didn’t hear him cough.”
Ms. Coppola said the miraculous results left her family with two options. They could either move to the New Jersey town where the salt room was located, keep commuting to the cave, or create a salt therapy center of their own. The couple decided to pursue the latter option and open a business in Montauk. However, they took their venture one step further by building a salt cave in which the entire space, ceiling to walls to floor, is made of salt.
The salt cave is lit only by the glow of the salt lamps on the fireplace and the fiber-optic, star-like lights above on a dark blue background. While relaxing and taking in the soft meditation music, aerosol pink Himalayan salt is pumped into the cave through a tube-like vent connecting to the lobby.
The idea is that all the vitamins and minerals within the salt—including calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iodine, bromine, copper, selenium and iron—are inhaled and absorbed by the body, offering therapeutic benefits. “There has been research done where people have gone to caves once or twice a week,” said Ms. Coppola. “You can’t really oversalt yourself.”
The key to the Montauk Salt Cave, which opened three weeks ago, is its pink Himalayan salt, as opposed to sea salt. Imported from Pakistan, proponents say the salt can successfully treat asthma, Lyme disease, arthritis, dry skin, digestive issues, the common cold and other ailments.
To build the unique space, they called in Dr. Margaret Smiechowski as a consultant. Ms. Coppola said Dr. Smiechowski is the nation’s expert in building pink Himalayan salt caves and travels all over the country building structures with her own crew. The cave in Montauk took approximately two weeks in July to be completed.
The Montauk Salt Cave offers the public an opportunity to purchase pink Himalayan salt to use for everyday cooking. They also sell salt lamps to be used at home to yield similar healing benefits. “[They] help purify your living space,” she said. “I have one above everyone’s bed at home.”
In combination with sessions in the cave, Ms. Coppola said her son thrives even without medication during the high-risk goldenrod blooming period. Goldenrod is similar to ragweed in that it gives off lots of pollen—a bane for allergy sufferers.
As the days grow colder, Ms. Coppola said she hopes to assist East Hampton residents with seasonal depression through the salt cave—especially after last year’s record-breaking winter. “I never had seasonal depression before, but last winter I got into such a funk,” she said. “This will help people who go through that. It’s always gray and dark—and why not go into a beautiful salt cave to listen to the ocean waves.”
One session in the salt cave is equivalent to four days at the beach, according to research, Ms. Coppola said. She hopes the cave will fill the gap during colder seasons, when residents are missing the salty air of the local beaches.
Many Montauk visitors and locals say they are already reaping the benefits of the salt therapy.
“It was the most relaxing time I ever had in my life,” said summer resident Valerie Flynn after her session last week. “It’s self-enforced relaxation, which I never do, and it’s lovely. It’s way better than yoga, because you don’t have to move. You can just fall asleep.”
The cave operates Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 9 to 11. There are also hour-long kids session on weekdays at 4 p.m. Sessions are $40, with discounts for Montauk residents. Adults may accompany their children to the kids session free of charge.