I entered the strange cave struggling with anxiety and congestion from severe allergies. Less than an hour later, I came out relaxed and much clearer.
The secret? Salt. Almost 13 tons of stuff, all imported from Pakistan. Since at least the 19th century, people have used salt — most commonly immersion in salt water — to cure or manage symptoms of migraines, arthritis, and more. But the salt caves are designed to concentrate the healing effects; 45 minutes spent in a Himalayan salt cave (even one built in central Jersey) can be as effective as 20 hours floating in salt water.
So I ventured out last week, traveling to the center of the popular man-made chamber inside the Himalayan Salt Cave Spa and Float in Manalapan, where queues meander on the weekends as guests hope a special salt cure. The 45 minute session costs $49.
Once you enter the dimly lit cave there is – you guessed it – salt everywhere. Blocks of salt are stacked on the walls like bricks. From the door, there is a path of salt tiles leading to a chimney-like structure also made of salt. On the ground there are large grains of Himalayan salt that you can sink your feet into, like sand on the beach.
On the ceiling, a large projector features subtle starlights while quiet music plays in the background to set the mood.
A dozen comfy chairs adjacent to La-Z-Boy await guests with spa blankets for covering up. I settled in and waited for the magic to happen.
With my feet in the salt, the soothing music, and the lights dimmed, I couldn’t help but feel calm and snuggled up. Five minutes after sitting up, I relaxed considerably and began to fall asleep. I set a timer for 20 minutes and took a nice nap. When I woke up I was surprised how much my stuffy nose had reduced. Alright, salt cave, I’m a believer!
Besides the grotto (one for adults and one for children), this spa offers services such as massages, facials, hand and foot treatments, sauna sessions, waxing, and flotation therapy. Construction of the spa, one of the few in New Jersey — others include Nature’s Salt Cave and Spa Float in Cranford and The Salt Cavern in Clifton — took about two years and they opened three days before the pandemic hit. shut everything down, owner Rachel Ozana said. After reopening in June 2020, their customer base grew rapidly — they now serve around 8,000 customers, Ozana said.
Ozana said the cave helps relieve a long list of ailments: stress, anxiety, sleep apnea, colds, viruses, flu, ear and sinus infections, allergies, asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, psoriasis, headaches. chronic and high blood pressure.
“These are just a few of the beneficial effects of the salt cave,” Ozana said. “But each person that comes between you will say different things.”
Ozana decided to open the spa after being diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) about eight years ago. The disease, for which she took 20 medications a day, causes blockage of airflow and makes it difficult to breathe.
“It took over my life and there were so many side effects,” Ozana said.
Then one day her friend took her to a salt cave. She saw a difference in her breathing during her first session she kept coming back.
When she visited her doctor for a checkup, she was stunned by what they discovered.
“I went back for three chest X-rays and they said there was no sign that I had ever had COPD,” Ozana said. “He disappeared because of the salt cave. I gave up all my meds and never looked back.
Of course, Ozana cannot guarantee such permanent cures for sick visitors to the Salt Cave, nor can I confirm that the cave has completely eliminated my anxiety or allergies. But it certainly helped. And I will come back.
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Lauren Musni can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Laurengmusni. To find NJ.com on Facebook.
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