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‘Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.’ ~ Nelson Mandela
In some parts of the world salt was used as a unit of currency, such was its worth. Indeed ‘salary’ is derived from the Latin word salarium, which was the sum given to soldiers to buy salt. Animals are given a ‘salt lick’ to promote health and some of us are complimented as ‘salt of the earth’ people. Salt in its natural form doesn’t deserve the bad name it has been given and can actually be used to promote health.
Let’s take a closer look. Naturally occurring salt contains over 60 different minerals, such as magnesium and lithium, with over 98% of salt being sodium chloride. Refined salt, on the other hand, is over 99.9% sodium chloride.
SODIUM/POTASSIUM BALANCEIt is essential to have sodium for bodily processes such as nerve transmission, but it needs to be kept in balance with potassium for cells to function correctly. The sodium-potassium pump is a well-known physiological concept that helps cells to receive nutrients and remove waste products. Without this pump, which relies on both potassium and sodium, cells would not function properly.
Most foods contain much higher levels of potassium than sodium, and this is particularly true of fruit and vegetables. Our ancestors were estimated to receive over ten times more potassium in the diet than sodium, and the body learned to excrete excess potassium because it was so plentiful, but held onto sodium. Since the advent of table salt, and the reduction in consumption of fruit and vegetables in favour of meat, which contains more sodium, we now on average consume twice as much salt as potassium – a massive change. The body still holds onto sodium, but sodium has a strong affinity with water. This results in the body holding onto more water which increases blood pressure causing the well-documented correlation between salt consumption and hypertension.
Sometimes we crave salt and this may be a call by the body for minerals that it is lacking, but that are no longer present in most salts. Using unrefined salt may therefore reduce salt cravings. A deficiency in zinc, which is very common due to the poor quality of our soil, decreases taste sensation, and this often leads to people adding salt to make foods taste better.
SALT CHOICESAvoid table salt and refined sea salts that have lost essential minerals. Unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt are the most preferable and there are many good products available. It is not always obvious which salts have been refined, but remember that unrefined salt is normally clumpy. Salts that flow freely may have aluminium in them as a free-flow agent, which is not desirable, so always check the label. Low-sodium salts, where some or all of the sodium is replaced with potassium and/or magnesium, are particularly important for those with diagnosed hypertension. Herb salts are also an option as the herb content effectively reduces the amount of salt in a ‘pinch’, while still adding flavour.
Salt is frequently added to prepared foods and will be recorded as such on the ingredient list, but may appear as ‘sodium’ on the list of nutritional information. The best way to reduce salt intake is to prepare foods from flavourful raw ingredients and add herbs and spices for flavour – don’t add salt as a matter of course.
Unrefined, naturally occurring salt has a good effect when used externally and it is also beneficial when taken orally.Salt is an excellent preservative, even for fresh plant extracts, and does not reduce their therapeutic value.
SALT AS REMEDYGargling with salt water is an excellent substitute for the more expensive antiseptics and herbal mouthwashes sold over the counter – and the effect is just as good. In cases of catarrh or inflammation of the mucosa, tepid salt water should be sniffed up the nostrils, which should then be rinsed with clear water. This simple treatment when practised regularly will reduce any susceptibility to respiratory ailments, that is, catarrh and sore throats. Naturally, if you do live by the sea, it would be better to use sea water, provided that it is uncontaminated.
For internal use, common cooking salt, iodised or fluorinated salt should not be used if at all possible, only sea salt or herbal salt, which are much better. The trace elements found in sea salt and herbal salt benefit the endocrine glands and normalise both hypofunction and hyperfunction. Obesity is often the result of insufficient glandular function, and in such cases ordinary salt will aggravate the condition by increasing body weight.
Salt is widely used in homoeopathy too, where it is known by the name NAT MUR (natrum muricatum). The tissue salt NAT MUR is a triturated or finely diluted version of sodium chloride used to correct sodium imbalances (in homeopathy the remedy is a finer dilution called a potency of the basic substance that causes the diseased state, for example, salt).
It has been compulsory to iodise salt as part of the World Summit for Children’s plan to help eradicate thyroid disorders caused by an iodine deficiency. However unrefined sea salt and Himalayan rock salt have a natural balance of minerals including some iodine. So even in this case it would be preferred to salt that has had all the goodness taken out of it and then iodine added back in.
Salt from the sea or salt pans
SALT THERAPYSalt is reputedly an antidote for radiation, which is why salt beds have been considered for storing nuclear waste. With all the electric smog in cities this quality of salt may at last give it some good press.Himalayan salt is very rich in most of the trace elements. It makes a lovely detoxifying mineral bath, or it can be added to a sitz bath to soothe cuts, lesions or vaginal irritation, caused by candidiasis for example. Salt kills yeast overgrowth but do not use refined table salt!
The use of salt therapy, otherwise known as halotherapy, can be traced back to the mid- 18th century when a Polish health official, Felix Botchkowski, noticed that salt miners never became ill with lung diseases. In 1843 he wrote a book about his findings, and it was not long afterwards that the first Salt Spa in Velicko, Poland, was opened.
Medical researchers in the former Soviet Union tested various alternatives to drug therapy and conducted extensive clinical trials on the effects of salt therapy for the treatment of asthma and chronic bronchitis.The largest and oldest salt works in Europe is located in the royal salt mines of Wieliczka, Poland. It is here that a hospital was carved out of the immense salt mountain, 225 metres below the surface, and where asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies are treated with a staggering healing rate of over 90%.
Dr Alfred Vogel recommended the use of dry or moist salt packs at home to draw away water from the tissues, especially for oedema sufferers.
CONCLUSIONSo salt is an essential nutrient, but the body cannot produce it; we therefore need to make sure that we consume a balanced amount of unrefined salt to allow our bodies to function optimally. Do not undermine the value of salt – where possible, rely on salt’s cost-effective efficacy to heal various ailments, preserve foods, and cleanse and purify. In short, celebrate salt of the earth!
She is editor, publisher and founding member of Natural Medicine and Dreamcatcher Publications. She has a passion for knowledge and strives to share the work of the brightest minds and biggest hearts in healing. For Daleen natural medicine is more than taking a pill for an ill philosophy. Natural medicine also encompasses nutrition, lifestyle, spiritual health, exercise, and emotional and mental well-being. She is the mother of three children.
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