Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Salted Woo …

Family and Friends who live in these parts face winter challenges that us Tropic Types have forgotten, one of the prime reasons for becoming a Tropic Type. Among those challenges are aches, pains, coughs, illness, and various pathogens that all seem to thrive as temperatures dip. People spend hours indoors and huddled together, seeking light and warmth while offering bugs and viruses of every stripe easy access to plenty of new hosts. The crew of Kintala were resigned to sharing some of the misery, an acceptable trade for time with Family Most Important and Friends Closest. But, so far, we have escaped with just a touch of the cough that plagues the area this year.

Normally I would cope using the simple edict, “Better living through applied pharmaceuticals” and reach for the nearest cough syrup. Those of us who entered this world's stage in the mid 1950s are generally not shy of drugs. In addition to the more traditional reasons for taking such, like being sick or suffering from injury, in our youth we ingested various chemical compounds for fun, adventure, altered perceptions, enlightenment, and … well, just for the hell of it. For those who survived such excess basically unscathed, washing down various colored pills for “whatever ails ya” garners no second thoughts. Nowadays said pills come in government approved bottles. The advertisement claims of some of the world's largest and most trusted corporations endlessly attests to the effectiveness and safety of their products. Drop by any store and peruse aisle upon aisle of the best meds money can buy, with each box boasting a detailed list of every component contained within. (Never mind that most of us have no idea what a leukotriene inhibitor might actually be inhibiting.) Mix and match as required, wash down with a cold one, and enjoy near instant relief. Who would protest such a blessing offered to a long suffering human kind?

Yet, somehow, the generation after mine latched onto a nearly opposite opinion. They suspect government does as instructed by the large pharmaceutical companies. They actually believe Honorable elected officials will put a seal of approval on nearly any OTC or prescription medicine likely to generate large enough profits, all in exchange for something as base as a few campaign dollars or the promise of a cushy job at some point in the future. In addition this next generation imagines these large pharmaceuticals, aided and abetted by insurance companies, are mostly interested in continuously providing drugs and treatments to the chronically ill. According to the young adults, curing or encouraging healthy life styles that require no drugs for maintenance will never be part of the any drug or insurance company's mission statement. Keeping people sick and making it easier for them share a sickness with family, friends, and co-workers, is good for the bottom line. Curing them cuts into the profit potential.

I'm not exactly sure how this next generation grew into such a skeptical lot, but they did. As a result they turn to more holistic and ancient paths to health rather than reaching for scientifically researched and supported medical elixirs. Some such paths do appear intuitively sane with a long history of benefits, like better eating and regular exercise. Other such paths seem less sane but still boast a long history of people claiming health benefits. Acupuncture comes to mind, as does herbal medicine and chiropractic therapy. But, to be totally honest, most such paths look to plunge deeply into the very heart of the Land of Woo. Here find the crystals, chants, healing energies, potions, magic spells, and conspiracy theories of the alternative medicine fanatic.

Daughter Middle is not an alternative medicine fanatic, but does shy away from ingesting high dosages of non-naturally occurring elixirs, scientifically researched and supported or no. A shyness reinforced by the caring and feeding of month old Grand Daughter Youngest and years spent dealing with the adverse reactions of her children to much of the food and medicine offered in the USA of today. However, with her entire family suffering from the aforementioned cough for getting on several months now, some sort of more direct intervention was needed.

Image courtesy of
And so it came to pass that a van transporting Daughter Middle, Grand Kids (five), and Grampy T pulled to the curb in front of the St. Louis Salt Room. Here we would find a path to “sustainable, effective respiratory wellness” one opened to the good people of St. Louis since 2010. A few minutes later the kids were playing in a layer of pure sea salt that covered the floor of our Salt Therapy Room, the larger of two Salt Cabins housed in the facility. (Four kids, one baby, and two adults take up a bit of space.) Not only was the floor piled deep enough with white stuff to be mistaken for a beach, the walls and ceiling also glistened with their own thick layers of NaCl. Once the door was closed, minute particles of sodium chloride were periodically injected into the room's atmosphere so the healing could be breathed deep into the furthest reaches of every infected lung.

Such injection was accompanied by the continuous flow of Hindu sounding New Age music wafting gently through the softly lit room. Who am I to suggest that such music isn't likely to enhance the healing powers of natural sea salt being wedged into my lungs? Though I suspect a little ZZ Top would have been just as effective while falling easier on my rock-n-roll ear. Such opinion is not likely shared by Daughter Middle. She is no more a fan of ZZ Top than she is a fan of Hindu Sounding New Age music. We compromised by having Grampy T read Dr. Seuss stories to the young ones for most of the session. Though you may not realize it, Grampy T is a world class reader of Dr. Seuss stories; one who can easily get through Fox in Socks with nary a stumble. Better yet, even a half-assed rendition of any Dr. Seuss story will easily overpower the discomfort inflicted by having Hindu sounding New Age music bounced off one's eardrum.

New Age Music and wooish ambiance aside, I really am a big fan of salt. When it comes to making the unpalatable edible, salt is even more powerful than cheese. But sodium and chloride are not two chemicals that immediately come to mind in response to the word “healthy”. (Come to think of it, neither is the word "cheese".)

Sodium is a highly reactive element that, when mixed properly with other chemicals, will blow just about anything somewhere deep into next week. Chloride is often a component of stuff that is, quite simply, lethal. More apropos perhaps, all sailors are intimately familiar with sea salt. It will eat just about anything on a boat; stanchions, rigging, leather, and fasteners of all types included. What chance soft human tissue set against an acid that can melt steel and dissolve an aluminum hull? Is there any sailor who hasn't read of the agony suffered by those who survived a sinking only to be sentenced to days or weeks sitting in the salt water of their life raft? That stuff starts shredding skin within hours of exposure, additional woe being piled on anyone with an open wound. And yet …

After our allotted 45 minutes of sitting in the Salt Box everyone seemed to be breathing a little easier, something that held true throughout the rest of the day. Some lingering improvement might even have lasted into the evening as everyone seemed to fall asleep with less of the hacking-up-a-lung sounds we have come to expect. I still suspect the Salt Box is more woo than not. Any health benefit could easily be matched simply by living near, or on, the ocean. But the ocean is far away, and a little woo is an acceptable trade to feel salt on my skin and its tang in my nose. It reminds me of home.

Maybe that's why I feel better.

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