Health & Wellness

Salt lamps are the latest wellness trend — but are these health benefits real?

Step aside, lava lamps.

Today's bohemian-loving crowd is all about the Himalayan salt lamp, and it was a big holiday gift for teens and the 40+ crowd. Not only does the lamp look cool, it reportedly has loads of health benefits, thanks to negative ions it is said to emit.

The lamps are advertised to improve air quality, thus making it easier to sleep and taming allergies and asthma, and boost our mood and energy levels, especially for people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or depression.
One popular version of the Himalayan salt lamp.

But if you're thinking that sounds like a tall order for a lamp, you'd be right. While the lamps are certainly pretty, they're probably not a cure-all for your health, said Dr. Svetlana Kogan of New York City, who specializes in holistic and integrative medicine.

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"There has been some talk in the holistic community about the fact that electromagnetic radiation from cellphones, from microwaves, from computers, creates positive ionization of our body," Kogan explained to TODAY. "The talk has been that the negative ions supposedly produced by the lamps help to neutralize the positive charge. But to be honest with you... I haven't seen any large studies that would confirm this."

Simply put, all those health benefits really are too good to be true.

"Whenever somebody is promising you the world, it starts sounding very suspicious to me," she added.

Specifically, many people claim the lamps help with asthma or allergies by purifying the air.

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"I have never once in my career recommended a salt lamp to a patient," allergist Dr. Julie Kuriakose told TODAY. "I'm not saying it doesn't work; it's just not very well-studied."

The connection between salt and respiratory problems isn't so far-fetched, though.

"In theory, where salt goes, water goes," Dr. Kuriakose said. "You can somehow thin out mucus (with salt). But with salt lamps, I don't think the data is there."

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While salt lamps, which are available at Whole Foods, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and more, may not have proven health benefits — they do look pretty, and it's not crazy to think the orange or pinkish glow can be calming and relaxing.

"I love they way they look, the soft light, the pure aesthetic of them is beautiful," Dr. Kogan said.

So while we recommend you take the health benefits of salt lamps with a grain of, um, salt, the lamps still make for beautiful additions to any home. Though you should shop with caution: Three rock salt lamps sold under the Lumiere brand were recalled this month due to shock and fire hazards.

So if you're testing out the trend, take note and be careful. And if you're looking for a natural way to clean the air, hope isn't lost — you could also try plants!

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