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Chemical Reaction: The Salt of the Earth

By: Steve Herman
Posted: August 28, 2008, from the March 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Skin gets wrinkly when submerged in water, but this does not happen in concentrated salt water. The solute concentration in skin cells is greater than that of tap water; thus water will flow into the cells in an attempt to equalize the concentration. This excess water makes the skin wrinkle. The solute concentration of salt water is greater than that in the cells, so water will leave the skin, making it tighter. That is how bath salts, used in adequate quantities, work.

Dendritic salt is crystallized with a trace of yellow prussate of soda, producing star-shaped crystals. The micropores created by this structure have superior absorbance, and can hold relatively high levels of essential oils. The purity of the crystal also increases the oxidative stability of bound oils; thus it can be a good carrier for fragranced products.

Salt and the Sea

The ocean is composed of “salt water.” If the salt in the sea could be removed and spread evenly over the Earth’s land surface, it would form a layer more than 500 feet thick—about the height of a 40-story office building. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was the first to discover the therapeutic virtues of seawater by observing the beneficial effects it had on the injured hands of a fisherman. Prompted by the fact that contact with seawater restricted infection risks, he encouraged his patients to follow treatments involving its use. The contemporary process, called thalassotherapy (from the Greek, meaning “treat with the sea”), claimed to be an effective treatment for the rejuvenation of cells. The fresh heated seawater is presumed to induce an exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and water.

The ocean is approximately 3.5% salts, of which about 2.6% is sodium chloride. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, is an entirely different entity. The salt levels there are an amazing 27%. The greatest difference is in the relative sodium content. Many beneficial claims have been made for the specific composition of Dead Sea salts, mostly due to nonsodium components such as magnesium and bromine, dating back thousands of years. Galen, for example, promoted the salts for the treatment of rheumatism 2000 years ago.

Marketing Discoveries

Despite the high praise for Dead Sea salts, cosmetic marketers have moved on to discover the wonders of bamboo salt and Himalayan crystal salt. Bamboo salt is made by roasting sea salt in bamboo cylinders plugged with yellow mud.  It is used in traditional Korean medicine as an antibacterial product, a counteraction to poison and aid to the immune system. Lest thou art skeptical, serious literature3,4 attests its therapeutic claims, such as the control of certain allergic reactions.