Two-Minute Critic

A Brine Time

One Pearl District spa offers a saline solution to your stress.

By Rachel Ritchie March 16, 2010 Published in the April 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

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THE PRESS RELEASE for the Salt Grotto, a new spa in the Pearl District, landed on our desk with all the subtlety of a carnival barker. “First salt cave on the US West Coast!” it proclaimed. “Widely used all over Europe! Health is in the air!”

Since it opened in January, the Salt Grotto has promoted a brand of well-being based on halotherapy (halos is Greek for “salt”). The treatment simulates the microclimate of naturally occurring salt mines and purportedly cures everything from asthma to exhaustion. The Salt Grotto promises that one 45-minute session will be like three days at the beach. Inspired by visions of sand castles and surf, we hightailed it over for a visit.

But our seaside reverie was quickly shattered when, instead of flip-flops, we were forced to don surgical booties. With our toes encased in polyethylene, we kicked back in a futuristic recliner that sat in an amber-hued room filled with several inches of Dead Sea salt, its walls lined with salt blocks imported from Poland and Pakistan, next to five curious elderly ladies with big hair. Then, tranquilized by the rich, saline-saturated air, we fell asleep— hard.

Nearly an hour later, we woke feeling more groggy than rested. Maybe soaking up the Salt Grotto’s deeper benefits requires making the suggested two to three visits (at $20 a pop).

The big-haired ladies seemed sated. But for more stubborn stressballs like us, the Salt Grotto might consider adding a few other prescriptions: a salty dog cocktail; a warm salt bath for our weary feet; a soundtrack of rolling waves. And let’s rethink the blue booties—we’re supposed to be at the beach, not on the set of Grey’s Anatomy.

All advice the Grotto should take with a grain, ahem, if not an entire roomful, of salt.

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