Salt Crystals image courtesy of Flickr/JKeith

Scientific advances have developed a huge range of innovative drugs and medical treatments. That said, there are some treatments that date back to antiquity that can still be effective. Salt is one such common substance that offers medical benefits.

In Victorian England, there were medical treatments available, but one common prescription for those of ill health was to visit the seaside. City dwellers who were weak and ill would take time out to leave the city for the coast because the thought was the salt air would do them good. Instead of breathing in the polluted air of industrial England, the patients would breathe in the fresh air of the less populated coastal regions. Besides being less polluted, the seaside air offered another potential health benefit: salt.

Salt seems like such a common, simple substance compared to the complex drugs developed today. While it cannot cure every medical problem, salt can benefit patients in various ways. Salt helps disinfect wounds, helping to remove potentially harmful bacteria. If someone suffers from an ingrown toenail, for example, the first recommendation by a doctor is often to soak their toe in a bath of salt water. While more severe cases may require part of the toenail to be surgically removed, often the action of simply soaking the affected toe regularly in salt can solve the problem without resorting to more extensive measures.

Salt is also a folk treatment for colds. If a patient suffers from a sore throat, gargling warm salt water can help soothe the throat pain and wash away bacteria. This can be used to supplement treatments such as antibiotics, if applicable for the particular type of sore throat, or as a treatment for colds and other types of sore throats that cannot be treated with antibiotics. With antibiotic resistance a growing problem, doctors can recommend treatments like gargling salt water for their patients to soothe their sore throat.

Salt water can also help rinse out blocked nasal passages, although this can potentially be awkward and inconvenient. Products like Hydrasense can help patients keep up with a daily nasal rinse, or more frequent rinses when they are suffering from a cold or allergies, in a more convenient way. Hydrasense consists of naturally-sourced sea water, which includes salt but also other beneficial minerals found in the sea. For those that do not live near the ocean, this provides a convenient way for them to get the benefits of visiting the seaside and breathing in the salt air. For most of the Hydrasense formulations, aimed at adults, the salty sea water comes in a bottle with a special applicator shaped and sized to fit in the nose. The cold or allergy sufferer simply inserts the applicator into the opening of their nose, squeezes out enough Hydrasense to rinse their nasal passages, then blows their nose to remove any remaining residue. When they do this regularly, they can unblock their clogged nasal passages as well as rinsing away bacteria and viruses from the inside of the nose. Studies by the manufacturer of Hydrasense have found that doing this daily, as well as more often when they have a cold or allergies, helps the user reduce both the duration and severity of their cold or allergies. Because there are no antibiotics involved in the Hydrasense formula, users do not have to worry about increasing antibiotic resistance or finding that the product becomes less effective over time.

Although those suffering from a cold or allergies could mix their own salt formula, the table salt found in most homes does differ from the mineral content of Hydrasense's sea water. The user would also have to mix their own salt water, allow it to cool enough not to hurt the delicate lining of the nose, and either mix new salt water with each use or switch out a batch of salt water frequently so it does not become contaminated over time. Hydrasense offers them a more convenient way to store and use the salt water mixture, with the specific mix of sea water minerals.

Some people swear by Hydrasense as they use it daily to prevent and reduce symptoms of cold and allergy. Others turn to salt water first as a treatment for conditions like a sore throat or an ingrown toenail. While salt cannot cure all, this humble mineral does have its medical benefits for minor ailments.