I walked into the odd cave saddled with anxiety and congestion from severe allergies. Less than an hour later, I emerged feeling relaxed and much clearer.
The secret? Salt. Nearly 13 tons of the stuff, all of it imported from Pakistan. Since at least the 19th Century, people have used salt — more commonly saltwater immersion — to cure or manage symptoms of migraines, arthritis, and much more. But 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 saltwater.
So in I ventured last week, journeying to the center of the popular man-made chamber inside the Himalayan Salt Cave Spa and Float in Manalapan, where lines snake out the door on weekends as customers hope for some salty special healing. The 45-minute session costs $49.
Once you enter the low-lit cave, there is — you guessed it — salt everywhere. Blocks of salt are stacked on the walls like bricks. From the door, there’s a salt tile pathway leading to a chimney-like structure also made of salt. On the floor, there are large granules of the Himalayan salt into which you may submerge your feet, similar to sand on the beach.
On the ceiling, a large projector features subtle starlights as calm music plays in the background to set the mood.
About a dozen comfy La-Z-Boy-adjacent chairs await customers with spa blankets for cover. I settled in and waited for the magic to happen.
With my feet in the salt, the soothing music and the dim lights, I couldn’t help but feel calm and snuggled in. Within five minutes of sitting down, I relaxed significantly and began to fall asleep. I set a timer for 20 minutes and took a lovely snooze. When I awoke, I was surprised how much my stuffy nose had actually subsided. Okay, salt cave, I’m a believer!
Besides the cave (one for adults and one for kids) this spa offers services such as massages, facials, hand and foot treatments, sauna sessions, hair removal, and flotation therapy. Construction for the spa, one of only a handful 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 shut everything down, owner Rachel Ozana said. After reopening in June 2020, their clientele grew quickly — they now serve about 8,000 customers, Ozana said.
Ozana said the cave assists in easing a long list of ailments: Stress, anxiety, sleep apnea, cold, viruses, flu, ear and sinus infection, allergies, asthma, COPD, cystic fibrosis, psoriasis, chronic headache, and high blood pressure.
“Those are just some of the beneficial effects of the salt cave,” said Ozana. “But every person that goes in will tell you different things.”
Ozana decided to open the spa after she was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) about eight years ago. The disease, for which she took 20 daily medications, causes airflow blockage 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 continued to go back.
When she visited her doctor for a checkup, she was stunned by what they found.
“I went back to do three chest x-rays and they said there was no sign that I ever had COPD,” Ozana said. “It went away because of the salt cave. I gave up all my medications and never looked back.”
Of course, Ozana cannot guarantee such permanent cures for ailing salt cave visitors, nor can I confirm the cave fully eliminated my anxiety or allergies. But it certainly helped. And I’ll be returning.
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Lauren Musni may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Laurengmusni. Find NJ.com on Facebook.