Himalayan salt lamp: allergen trapper, insomnia cure or just a fancy light?

Salt is magic. Is there anything it can’t do? Back in my pirate days, we used it instead of a fridge, so I always had two barrels of it to hand. One was for pork and beef, the other for flounders and goatfish, and all our meals were washed down with a hardtack cracker. This was 2004, mind you, and I wasn’t a proper pirate – I downloaded one Killers album over LimeWire, then decided I couldn’t live with the danger.

These days, I still reach for coarse, fine, koshering, pink, smoked and celery. I have salts for the bath and the dishwasher, I use salt to soak up stains and gargle away sore throats. This week, I’m trying it for lighting.

Himalayan salt lamps are blocks of halite (AKA rock salt), containing incandescent bulbs. You have probably seen these glowing alien rocks of aspiration lined up on a shelf behind the till at a posh health shop.

Glow Himalayan sells its lights (from £11.99) in sculpted form – including penguins, pyramids and heart-shaped candle-holders – but these look silly and have no dignity. I prefer the rough, menhir-shaped, natural-looking product, with its rough finish and unique variations. These blocks come in various sizes, from a single kilogram up to a hulking 30kg. I stay modest with an 8kg version.

Like most Himalayan salt, this has been chipped out of the Khewra mine in Pakistan, the trace minerals of which give it a salmon tinge. The base is a classy disc of dark wood. For an idea of the size of my “extra small” lamp, picture the BFG enjoying a bowl of gazpacho with multigrain croutons. My lamp is roughly the mass of half of one of those croutons. If you are not a visual thinker, that is 24cm tall.

Inevitably, the lamp comes with a host of claims. Salt absorbs these folk legends. From feng shui to Voodoo, different cultures have always believed simple salt can keep us safe. We draw ritual circles with it to keep out demons, or chuck it over our shoulders into the face of the devil. (The devil hates salt. This is why you don’t go to a dinner party at his house. He has the best tunes, but the food is underseasoned.)

The wellness industry encourages equally fanciful notions concerning the white stuff, although more up to date. We prefer it pink, for one. We wonder if it will purify our energy and cleanse our respiratory systems. How have we been breathing at all without a 30kg chunk of Pakistani mountain squatting on the bottom of the bookcase?

Glow Himalayan’s website claims that the lamps balance positive and negative ions, reducing radiation and airborne infection. It also states that its lamps promote sleep, neutralise odours, and trap allergens, mould and bacteria. It doesn’t mention the devil, but I sense he is in these details.

Is there any truth to these claims? Well, a salt block is unlikely to be an effective ioniser. The lamp gets a little warm from the small bulb, but this can hardly compete with the high electrical voltages used in commercial ionisers, the health benefits of which have not been proved anyway. The large lamps could plausibly help to dehumidify or neutralise odours in a room because salt is a dessicant and so absorbs moisture from the air.

As for being a sleep aid, it is as effective as any light-limiting method, such as a dimmer switch or avoiding screens, but is far nicer. It glows with lambent beneficence, a soothing amber presence in the corner of the room. Lit from within, the rugged structures reveal depth and mystery, and the light is truly lovely. Mineral hardness transformed by radiance; a connection to the breath of Gaia in the rock of the Earth. It also looks pretty banging on a sideboard, if that is the deepest concern you are willing to mine.

The lamp earns its place in any relaxing space, although I would take the pseudoscience of salty blocks with a pinch of: “Sorry, what?”

If you like this, you might also like: White-pepper wallpaper paste. Beanbags full of quinoa.

Wellness or hellness? Himalayan salt lamp? Him a-layin’ some BS. 3/5


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