The Salt Cave’s unpalatable health claims linger on

The Salt Cave aren’t letting the Advertising Standards Authority grind them down.

A ruling earlier this year was brushed off, leaving their website still peppered with dodgy health claims. Although the adjudication had led to a brackish article in the Daily Mail, the Salt Cave are now sending out eyewateringly implausible press releases in the hope of some rather more savoury press.

Seasoned quacks just love Awareness Days. If their promotional material is regurgitated in the press it’s not just great publicity, but also puts the misleading and unsubstantiated health claims beyond the reach of the ASA.

Should you wish to raise your own awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), I suggest you look here. The Salt Cave’s press release for World COPD Day is here but needs to be taken with a large pinch of sodium chloride.

I give you a sprinkling of quotes to whet your appetite:

It has achieved amazing results!  It has allowed COPD sufferers to ‘enjoy life again’, without the hindrance of being constantly out of breath and living in fear of picking up a cold or a chest infection.

A COPD sufferer, Clara Buffong, took part in the project and explains,

“The Salt Cave changed my life.  Before I visited the Salt Cave I was on lots of antibiotics and steroids, none of which made me feel much better.  I was basically confined to my house, and hated to be around people as my breathing was so noisy.  However, this has now changed thanks to salt therapy.  I know I will never get completely better, but the Salt Cave lets me live again and manage my illness in a way that I can enjoy my life again.  When I walk out of the Salt Cave I feel high on life.  I call it my heaven on earth.  If salt therapy can work for me it can work for anybody, so I urge all COPD sufferers to give it a go”

Salt therapy can be used to treat: Asthma, Sinusitis, Coughs, Rhinitis, COPD, Bronchiectasis, Hay Fever, Tonsillitis, Viral Infections, Cystic Fibrosis, Eczema, Psoriasis.

The Salt Cave website boasts of over 50 press releases published in the mainstream media.

They also claim that salt therapy is an NHS approved therapy for COPD, but I was unable to find any mention of salt therapy on the NHS Choices page on treating COPD.

In their ruling on 17th April 2013, the ASA noted that the Salt Cave website featured various claims that related to the ability of salt therapy to treat asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, psoriasis, respiratory diseases and tonsillitis.

They considered that those were conditions for which qualified medical supervision should be sought, and noted that the CAP Code stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for such conditions by offering treatment for them, unless that treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

They also concluded that the Salt Cave had not substantiated their claims in respect of any of the medical conditions mentioned on their website.

They concluded that the ad (which is currently online) must not appear again, told the Salt Cave to ensure that they did not discourage essential treatment for medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, and told them to ensure that they held robust evidence to substantiate any other claims.

When questioned about this, Salt Cave manager Grace Hart told the Daily Mail:

There’s always a war between traditional doctors and alternative therapies,’ she says. ‘The medical world is like a Mafia. You can’t patent a natural thing like this, so there’s no money in it for them

She also claimed sitting near her Evaporation Tower of Polish brine can change your positive ions to negative ones, which will make you feel better.

In the city, there are a lot of positive ions — which make you feel anxious, angry and agitated.

Negative ions make you feel refreshed and fantastic.

Professor Edzard Ernst said:

I know of no good scientific evidence about this approach and see no reason why this should be any better than relaxing in any other quiet environment

Which is what I think I need to do right now. Too much salt can raise the blood pressure.


7 responses to “The Salt Cave’s unpalatable health claims linger on

  1. Pingback: Daily Overload – News in short (19-10-2012) « The Skeptical Bear

  2. She makes a great point; you can’t patent a naturally occurring thing (e.g. salt or silver). Therefore common sense suggests that even where such a product does show positive effects, these will be played down by the medical and pharmaceutical industry, who profit from patent/generic licenced products.

    Prior to the pharma industry and “modern medicine” there were thousands of natural treatments that worked (and continue to work).

    There will always be crooks trying to take advantage of any market, whether they be in the legitimate pharma industry or in the alternative/complementary industry.

    The pharma/healthcare industry isn’t as rosy as you would like to believe. I propose people read some of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma to get an idea, or just read the press about pharma companies settling or being forced to pay millions/billions for corruption etc. But don’t take all that Ben says to literally, as he is a man that totally dismisses homeopathy yet accepts a placebo effect without any true understanding of how/what/why placebo effect occurs. Think about it!

    Relax a bit. These people are trying to help those with COPD and studies even suggest it may be a useful treatment – Besides, they will never be making the billions pharma companies make in profit. And where there is money there is sure to be corruption.

    Constant attacks on natural products like this only alienates natural medicine further and risks the synthetic mass-produced pharma industry tightening its grip even further on healthcare options, which I am not sure is a good thing. We need a balance.

    Take care – the worm

  3. @The Worm. I think you’ll find that many of the readers of this blog are familiar with the writings of Ben Goldacre. The failings of the pharmaceutical industry do not validate the claims of quacks. The single study you cite was published six years ago and the conclusion contains this telling statement: “However further studies are probably needed to exclude a placebo effect which could not be quantified under present circumstances.”
    I fail to see how that study can be used to support the sort of treatments that the Salt Cave is selling.

    • Yes, I too propose people read some of Bad Pharma. I think this particular bit is of relevance here:

      “At this moment we should take a brief moment to mention quacks: alternative therapists who sell vitamins and homeopathy sugar pills, which perform no better than placebo in fair tests, and who use even cruder marketing tricks than the ones described in this book. These business people often like to pretend, with some swagger, that their trade somehow challenges the pharmaceutical industry. If they profit at all from the justified anger that people feel about the problems you have read about here, then it comes at the expense of genuinely constructive activity. Selling ineffective sugar pills is not a meaningful policy response to the dangerous regulatory failure in the pharmaceutical industry.”

  4. If you can’t make money out of natural products, am I to assume these salt caves and all other “alternative therapies” are free, or at least non-profit? It’s never looked that way to me.

    Also, I never understood the positive/negative ion claims. Surely if Cl- from the salt is sucking all the nasty positive ions out of the air, it must be leaving an equal number of nasty Na+ ions hanging around somewhere, ready to be unleashed into the same air.

    And, if the negative Chlorine ions so want to bond with positive ions, why don’t they save a lot of messing about and stick with their positive Sodium partners?

  5. Pingback: Healthy Evidence for tackling unhealthy news | Josephine Jones

  6. I tried the salt cave in Liverpool a few weeks ago, it was a free trial for 1 hour otherwise it is £35.00 per hourly treatment. I had hoped it would give me relief from congestion and headaches and had a view to long term membership (unlimited) at a cost of £1400.00. While I did feel some short lived relief after the session I really cannot condone the outrageous price as the salt cave itself is a small room with 10 chairs and everybody sits in close proximity whilst half the group are constantly coughing and spluttering and others have shorts on exposing their skin ailments etc I really could not relax. The dim lights are not dim and the relaxing music could not be heard over the constant gruntings of smokers coughs. No not for me, thank you for the free session but no thanks not for £35.00 I shall stick to my local leisure centre sauna for £3.75 and relax in peace.

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