All things natural and new-age have been trendy for a while now (hello, ‘healing’ crystals), with Himalayan salt lamps quickly gaining their place in the mix. Chances are, you know friends or coworkers who own one and swear by its ability to provide calming vibes with its ambient pink glow. Or maybe you sometimes add a pinch of pink salt to your food…and you want to know how the stuff works when you’re not eating it.
First, some education: Himalayan pink salt comes from underground mines in Khewra, Pakistan, sitting on the Western edge of the Himalayan Mountains. The Khewra mine complex, reported to date back to the 13th century, is the second-largest salt mine in the world, with 25 miles of tunnels snaking across 11 levels.
But these sculptural hunks of hand-carved, natural salt might be more than just pretty faces. Proponents claim the lamps can also promote health and well-being—from supporting sleep to purifying the air around you.
Ready for a quick chemistry lesson? All salt is hygroscopic, which means it attracts and absorbs water molecules from the air.
In theory, a heated Himalayan salt lamp attracts water molecules full of any dirt, pollen, smoke, or other airborne pollutants that may be inhabiting your living space. Once the salt locks onto these contaminants, it cleans them and purifies your space. (Sometimes you’ll see your salt lamps ‘sweat’, or become coated with a fine layer of water—and that’s because of the water it’s drawing in from the air.) And the heat, of course, is generated from the bulb placed inside the lamp.
The research is limited around salt lamps’ effects on the air, however. “While I haven’t found scientific evidence supporting Himalayan salt lamps’ health benefits, there are loads of people who say they’ve benefited from these lamps for various reasons,” says Lindsay Coldrick of UK-based NRGhealing.
Additionally, bathing in the glow of the lamps’ light can turn a sterile office space or dorm room into a peaceful oasis.
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For one, the light they emit—orange, pink, or golden, depending on the lamp—helps to counteract the sometimes-harmful blue light wavelengths that we’re exposed to all day via our phones, TVs, and other devices, according to the American Optometric Association.
Better yet—when you bask in the gentle sheen of a low-light lamp, it might even promote a more restful state or peaceful sleep. According to the Journal of Healthcare Engineering, colored light, especially low-level light, is closely associated with healthy sleep patterns.
Not to mention, keeping a salt lamp nearby is a great way to connect with nature. And according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, being near nature can help relieve stress and decrease cardiovascular issues, so if you can’t get to the great outdoors, Himalayan salt lamps could be the next best thing.
If you’re looking to add salt lamps to your life, you’ll want to put them in key places: “I suggest putting one lamp in your living room to start, as this is likely where you spend most of your time,” Coldrick says. “If you choose to get a second one, put it in your bedroom.”