Jewish Journal


January 29, 2010

Mining salt's potential

Wellness Center Brings Powers of the Dead Sea to Encino


Photo by Yaniv Sardal

Photo by Yaniv Sardal

The Dead Sea has some competition — in Encino. Salt Chalet, the first wellness center of its kind on the West Coast, has brought the healing properties of the Dead Sea within reach of Southern California residents in the form of rooms coated and infused with Dead Sea salt.

Salt Chalet is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team David Mashiah and Dikla Kadosh, who first read about salt-room therapy in an Israeli magazine article about a mother who used it to treat her children’s debilitating respiratory problems when conventional treatments failed.

“We were impressed,” said Mashiah, an Israeli native and entrepreneur who lives in Woodland Hills with his wife, Kadosh, an editor with The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

The couple partnered with Kadosh’s father, Naftaly Kadosh; Michaela Bercu, an Israeli supermodel in the 1980s now based in Los Angeles; and Bercu’s husband, businessman Ron Zuckerman, to bring the concept to the West Coast.

The possible health benefits of a salt-infused environment were discovered more than a century ago in Eastern Europe when some salt miners experienced dramatic improvements in respiratory health. Known as speleotherapy, a mine’s salt-permeated air is believed to help dissolve phlegm in the bronchial tubes and kill infection-causing microorganisms. Some salt mines in Eastern Europe currently double as medical tourism destinations for patients seeking relief from asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Replicating the atmosphere of salt caves, halotherapy uses salt rooms, salt pipes and portable salt ionizers to infuse the air with natural salt particles. Salt rooms, like those at Salt Chalet, are common in Eastern and Central Europe, and are gaining popularity in Canada, England and Israel. But the practice is only starting to catch on in the United States, and Western medical experts remain skeptical about the effectiveness of salt therapy.

The Dead Sea’s healing effects are renowned, drawing a steady stream of tourists seeking relief from the symptoms of psoriasis and eczema as well as respiratory ailments and rheumatism. The Dead Sea’s therapeutic qualities are tied to a combination of factors, which includes a mineral-rich atmosphere from the Dead Sea’s evaporating waters. This process leaves behind a unique array of chloride salts, including high concentrations of bromine, which is known for its calming effect.

In Los Angeles, mineral-coated rooms are popular at Korean spas, with some featuring Himalayan salt rooms that emit negative ions to relax and detoxify the body. Similarly, Salt Chalet disperses mineral-enriched, microscopic Dead Sea salt particles into its rooms.

The walls of the two adult rooms in Salt Chalet are coated with several inches of coarse Dead Sea salt, and salt deposits hang from the ceiling like stalactites. A children’s room is designed like a salt “sandbox” with toys, books and games. During a session, clients can relax on recliners and watch television, read or listen to music.

Each session generally lasts 45 minutes and costs $55, with discounts given for family members and multiple sessions.

Lauren Faye, a science professor, says the changes in her health have been immediate and life changing since visiting Salt Chalet.

The Burbank resident suffered from headaches and sinus inflammation due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a leak in her home in 2004. She tried all forms of conventional therapies to relieve the symptoms, including steroid sinus sprays and antibiotics. One doctor even recommended surgery.

After three visits, she says her symptoms are gone.

“I have my life back from three times in the stupid salt, and I’m not one of those hippies [who say] ‘it’s good for the energy,’” she said.

As a science professor, she has observed how the chemistry of salt lends to healing. “Look at the cooking channel. [Salt] absorbs the moisture and shrinks tissues.”

Woodland Hills resident Mike Blumenfeld, 28, tried Salt Chalet to treat his psoriasis, a skin condition that leads to extreme dryness and redness of the skin.

“I tried everything under the sun from creams and lotions,” he said. The only real improvement he noticed to the stubborn skin problem occurred after soaks in the Dead Sea in Israel — until Salt Chalet.

“The psoriasis has gotten much more under control,” he said. “It’s not as visible. It’s definitely calmed down.”

Now, he doesn’t feel the need to travel to Israel for natural treatment.

“It really has made quite a big difference,” he said.

Salt Chalet is located at 17401 Ventura Blvd., Suite B17, Encino. For more information, call (818) 907-9512 or visit saltchalet.com.

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