It seems that Himalayan salt lamps are all the rage these days, especially among members of the alternative community. Carved from pieces of salmon-colored Himalayan rock salt, with an incandescent light bulb embedded in the middle, you’ll find them in people’s homes, offices, and just about everywhere else. When switched on, they emit a warm, comforting glow. What’s more, it is claimed, they provide numerous health benefits, from improving sleep and concentration to boosting immunity and relieving migraines. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But do any of these claims hold water?
The reason put forward to account for the supposed health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps is that they generate negative ions—those so called “vitamins of the air.” An ion is an atom or molecule with a net electric charge. Negative ions are negatively charged as a result of having gained one or more electrons. Positive ions are positively charged as a result of having lost one or more electrons. The air we breathe contains both positive and negative ions, though not necessarily in equal ratio.
Various factors in the environment, both natural and artificial, give rise to either positive or negative ions. Have you ever undergone an experience whereby you felt strangely oppressed and irritated just before a thunderstorm, then suddenly refreshed and invigorated once it had passed? Ions can account for this phenomenon. Prior to a thunderstorm, the air is heavily charged with positive ions. Afterwards, the air is heavily charged with negative ions.
Places near moving water—such as waterfalls, rivers, fountains, and seashores—are hotspots for negative ions. This explains in part why we tend to feel healthy and uplifted when we visit such locations. “Once they reach our bloodstream,” according to WebMD, “negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.”
Furthermore, high concentrations of negative ions have been linked to enhanced concentration and learning, improved sleep, easier breathing, and faster recovery from, as well as greater resistance to, illness. Whereas some of these effects remain questionable, others are backed up by convincing scientific research.
Unfortunately, due to the presence of synthetic carpets, central heating and air conditioning, and other factors that favor the production of positive ions, it’s common for the typical home or office to be saturated in positive ions yet depleted in negative ions. The best way to counter this problem is to equip your home or office with a negative ion generator. So what about using a Himalayan salt lamp for this purpose?
Salt attracts moisture, and this holds true for Himalayan salt lamps, which are often damp to the touch. When switched on, any moisture absorbed by the salt will evaporate reasonably quickly, due to the heating effect of the globe. The evaporation of water releases negative ions. This, then, is the most likely mechanism by which salt lamps supposedly generate negative ions.
Although little research has been conducted on the effectiveness of salt lamps as negative ion generators, the available evidence suggests that they emit very low levels of negative ions. So if your main reason for purchasing a Himalayan salt lamp is to use it as a negative ion generator, you’d be better off selecting a device build specifically for that purpose.