The ‘Impossible’ benefits of Salt Lamps
We’ve all seen the clickbait articles; they always seem to use catchy lines such as, “You’ll never believe this amazing fact!”, or “Here is the number one thing to do to …”. They often show up as advertisements on sketchy websites or popups on bootleg news sources. If you’re anything like me, anytime you’ve seen these, you may have thought, “There’s no way people fall for this garbage, is there?”, yet you yourself are somewhat drawn to view the article or advertisement. In my mind I know that there must be some misleading information that completely demerits the claims made in each and every one of these articles, but obviously enough people seem to believe them, otherwise their existence would be scarce. In this paper, an article that uses these factual tropes will be dissected and proved as pseudoscience. The article being examined is written as promotional content by The Jerusalem Post titled, 12 reasons to keep a Himalayan salt lamp in every room of the House.
Although only a single article is being examined, most articles pertaining to the benefits of salt lamps and their subsequent explanations as to why or how, can be referenced when reading this paper. Almost all articles, promos, and advertisements for this topic contain the same blanket statements and unverified factual information seen throughout this paper. As an example, I will also reference a separate article by Stephanie Watson (2020) titled, “Himalayan salt lamp health benefits”, alongside the main article of examination.
Salt lamps, also commonly known and addressed as Himalayan salt lamps, are exactly what they sound like; they contain natural salt crystals that, when paired with a light inside a hollow cavity of the large crystal, supposedly has the ability to provide numerous health benefits in many aspects of everyday life.
Negative Ion Generation. Other than for aesthetic looks, the light inside is mainly used as a heat source rather than a light source. The ‘science’ stated in the article by Watson is as follows, “water molecules from the air attract to — and then evaporate from — the warmth of its surface” (2020). The heat from the incandescent bulb causes water molecules on the surface of the salt to evaporate, producing negative ions in the process (“12 reasons to keep a Himalayan salt lamp in every room of the House,” 2020; Watson, 2020). Negative ions, also called an anion, is what many claim to be the main benefit of the lamps. Although, there is another significant process that the salt lamp is claimed to utilize.
Cleanse, Deodorize, and Purify. The lamps are also said to employ the use of hygroscopy, “which attracts and absorbs contaminated water molecules from the immediate environment and locks them into the salt crystal” (“12 reasons to keep,” 2020). This helps to remove any foreign body from the air, such as cigarette smoke, dust, mold, pet dander, and many more harmful substances. Overall, better air quality is the secondary reason that salt lamps are a popular natural health booster.
The greatest reason that everyday individuals purchase salt lamps are primarily for benefits that fall into the category of personal mental health. These reasons are that anions can, “Enhance Overall Breathing… Boost Blood Flow… Raise Energy Levels… Sharpen Concentration and Performance… Enhance Mood… Reduce Stress and Promote Relaxation” (“12 reasons to keep,” 2020). If you’ve read through the article, many, if not all, of these benefits are a direct result of the anions emitted. Under all the headings in the article found in the previous quotation, the explanations include anion generation as evidence of the vast variety of health advantages. There are many peer-reviewed articles on the subject of whether anions help with wellbeing, of which many have found favorable results that state they are beneficial, such as Arora and Batra’s (2014) study, as well as the systematic review done by Morgan and Jorm (2008). Their findings were as such:
The results obtained in the present study have shown an improvement in attentional processes for simple tasks i.e. Selective and Sustained attention. Thus, the hypothesis stating that negative air Ion therapy would enhance the selective and sustained attention has been verified. (Arora & Batra, 2014, p. 1315),
A small number of studies suggest exposure to high density negative ions (at least 2.7 × 106/cm3) is helpful for seasonal affective disorder and depressed mood in non-clinically depressed individuals. (Morgan & Jorm, 2008).
Yet, an even greater number of articles and meta-analyses have reached a different conclusion. The most influential of these is one conducted by Perez, Alexander, and Bailey (2013), in which they reviewed over 35 separate studies on the topic at hand, and concluded with the results that, “No consistent influence of positive or negative air ionization on anxiety, mood, relaxation, sleep, and personal comfort measures was observed. Negative air ionization was associated with lower depression scores particularly at the highest exposure level. Future research is needed to evaluate the biological plausibility of this association”. Already we have found that the science in The Jerusalem Post’s article does not sync with the most recent and prevalent studies that we compared. However, we have only looked at one aspect of the article and its science so far. We’ve only looked at whether anions improve wellbeing, but not at whether they’re generated by the salt lamps in the first place. In all my searching, I could not locate a peer-reviewed article that tests whether salt lamps put off anions. This is also verified by Ferreira (2019) in an article where she writes, “So far there are no scientific studies on the ability of Himalayan salt lamps to produce negative ions”. That means that the advertisement for rock lamps cannot truthfully state that their product emits anions, as no studies have been found to conclude this. If that isn’t proof enough, there are several independently published findings that have tested the output of salt lamps, which have disproved the pseudoscience in articles for salt lamps (Negative Ion Information Center, n.d.; Muller [Veritasium], 2019, February 6). Although we cannot trust their findings until they have been peer-reviewed, the fact remains that all who have tested the myth have found it to be false. Results
The results are clear; the evidence used by many individuals as to why and how rock lamps are good for your health is simply false. Nearly all the benefits can be completely nullified by disproving a single statement. Even if that weren’t the case, the validity of their claims are still uncertain at best.
Nobody can trust everything that is read or heard. We must always find out for ourselves what is true by looking further into a concept of questionable science. Due to the careless research of products, millions of people make purchases under the impression that it will improve their health, including the purchase of salt lamps. They’re marketed as ‘good for health’, but as we have seen, this is not the case. My greatest takeaway from all I have researched, and what I hope you, the reader, takes away as well is that if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is, but it doesn’t hurt to do your own research and find out the truth. After all, the truth will set you free.
Alexander, D. D., Bailey, W. H., Perez, V., Mitchell, M. E., & Su, S. (2013). Air ions and respiratory function outcomes: a comprehensive review. Journal of negative results in biomedicine, 12(1), 1-16.
Arora, D., & Batra, P. (2014). Impact of negative Air Ion exposure on attention. Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing, 5(11).
Bailey, W. H., Williams, A. L., & Leonhard, M. J. (2018). Exposure of laboratory animals to small air ions: a systematic review of biological and behavioral studies. Biomedical engineering online, 17(1), 1-32.
Ferreira, M. (2019, March 8). Himalayan salt lamps: Do they really work? Healthline. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/himalayan-salt lamps#ionization.
Morgan, A. J., & Jorm, A. F. (2008). Self-help interventions for depressive disorders and depressive symptoms: a systematic review. Annals of general psychiatry, 7(1), 1-23. Muller, D. [Veritasium]. (2019, February 6) Do salt lamps work? [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ–scjcAZ4 Negative Ion Information Center. (n.d.). The Truth about Salt Crystal Lamps. The truth about salt lamps and the amount of negative ions they produce. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://web.archive.org/web/20120208094543/http://www.negativeionsinformation.or g/saltcrystallamps.html.
Perez, V., Alexander, D. D., & Bailey, W. H. (2013). Air ions and mood outcomes: a review and meta-analysis. BMC psychiatry, 13(1), 1-20.
12 reasons to keep a Himalayan salt lamp in every room of the House. The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. (2020, March 3). Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.jpost.com/promocontent/12-reasons-to-keep-a-himalayan-salt-lamp-in every-room-of-the-house-443379.
Watson, S. (2020, July 21). Himalayan salt lamp health benefits. WebMD. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/balance/himalayan-salt-lamps.