Salt of the Earth

Salt is the new black. But then black salt might refer to sea salt that is mixed with activated charcoal or to Kala Namak, the deep purple salt from India with an odor telling of its sulfur content. Whether it’s pink salt from the Himalayas or matcha green tea salt, recently I’ve seen a number of recipes that call for a specific salt pedigree.

Peruvian Salt in the Sacred Valley

Despite it’s routine presence at my dinner table, salt actually has a more vibrant history than most cuisine elements. It’s been the best-known food preservative for meat, for thousands of years. Ancient salt mining operations have been discovered from Romania to China and salt was often an offering in ancient Egyptian tombs. It is the source of the name for Salzburg, Austria meaning literally the “salt city” and for everyday English words such as salary (money paid to a Roman soldier for salt) and salad (from the ancient practice of salting leafy greens).

My two middle school sons are quick to remind me that salt elevated the Indian Independence movement from an elitist battle to a national struggle when Mahatma Gandhi led at least 100,000 people on the “Dandi March”. The protesters made their own salt from the sea which was illegal under British rule, as it avoided paying the “salt tax“.

As a child, I remember my grandmother having me gargle with warm salt water when I had a sore throat although admittedly, it was never enjoyable. As an adult, I’ve learned the virtues of the netti pot and have dissolved salt in warm water to run through my nostrils during a sinus infection. I suppose it’s because of these uses that I wasn’t entirely skeptical when my tour guide, Romulo suggested that I dissolve a pound of salt in water and bathe in it as a cleansing before visiting Machu Picchu. This idea is not uniquely Peruvian as salt has been used in spiritual practices around the globe for centuries.

Salt’s first known appearance in literature is in the old testament book of Job (Job 6:6) where Job asks, “Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the slime of the purslane?” In one of the narrations of the prophet Mohammed, we are told that together with fire, water and iron, salt was a gift handed down from the heavens. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all invoked their gods with offerings of salt and water.

Peruvian pink salt comes from Maras, a natural spring located higher than 12,000 feet in the mountains of Perú. Warm spring water seeps into terraced salt ponds where it has been hand-harvested for over 2,000 years. The crystals have a high moisture content and a light pink color.

Detoxifying Salt and Ginger Bath
From Quest for Advanced Condition
Serves 1
  • 1/8 cup of Ginger (either fresh grated or powder from the supermarket)
  • 1 cup of Epsom Salt
  • A Vegetable brush (optional)
  • Hot bath water
  • 30 minutes

Before you jump into your hot salt and ginger bath, brush your skin with a vegetable brush (purchased at any health food store). Brush all parts of the body toward the heart.

Stir one cup of Epsom salts and the 1/8 cup of ginger together first then add to running warm water in bath. Get in the bath and increase the water temperature to as hot as you can bear it. Do not remain in the tub for more than 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes you will likely be sweating. This may get quite uncomfortable so have a glass of drinking water handy.

After 30 minutes, get out of the tub, dry yourself off vigorously with a clean towel. Wrap up in a large towel or sheet and crawl into your bed and. You will then usually sweat for approximately an hour and feel really “hot”, but you will likely fall asleep. If you happen to wake up later on and feel the need, you can place a dry towel under you or put on a robe so that your cover sheet isn’t damp.

It’s important not to apply routine post-bath lotions and creams before you go to bed. This includes the face and scalp areas as well. It’s also recommended to remove nail polish from both fingers and toes while detoxing as your nail beds absorb toxins from the paint.

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  1. I received black salt and a small grinder as a ‘favor’ at a wedding. I love it! I’ll try the bath detox. Thanks

    • Oh, I’ve forgotten which culture but one of them does do salt at weddings. Perhaps your friends are of that Ilk?

  2. Gosh, how informative, going out on a black salt hunt!

  3. As a die-hard foodie, I am well aware of the virtues of salt! I have no less than a dozen different salts (in grinders) that I use regularly, including, but not limited to: Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Grey Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt (coarse grind and a flaked ‘finishing’ salt), Alderwood Smoked Salt, Applewood Smoked Salt, Roasted Garlic Salt, Red Pepper/Garlic Salt, Vanilla Salt (wonderful for baking!) and perhaps, my current favorite, Porcini Salt.

    Some I still want to try are Black Salt, Truffle Salt and Chilli Lime Salt, tho your purple salt and green tea salt sound intriguing.

    Two years ago we switched our pool filtering system to a salt system and it is so much nicer than a DE system. The water has an ever-so-slightly salty taste and wonderful feel on our skin. No harsh chemicals to mess with swimsuits and hair.

    Oh, the virtues of salt!

    You didn’t mention in your post how you felt after your salt detox. Do you do this on a regular basis?

    • I haven’t done this regularly and enjoyed the soak butnit was not the ginger soak that I have mentioned here. We also changed our pool to salt water a couple of years ago and I also really enjoy it.

      Oh, and I love chili lime salt!

  4. Wow. I cannot wait to try that bath. I love a crazy hot bath and then falling asleep right afterward! Maybe I wil try that this weekend!
    Great post.

  5. This is a bath healing “Ceremony” ~

    This sacred and healthy experience may not have chased the snakes out of Ireland, yet it will suredly make any poison living in ones body extremely uncomfortable enough to find the closest escape 🙂

    Thank you Tammy!

  6. Fascinating read, Tammy.

    This is why I don’t use nail polish:

    It’s also recommended to remove nail polish from both fingers and toes while detoxing as your nail beds absorb toxins from the paint.

    Au naturelle . . . c’est moi!

  7. I love that you give a recipe for a hot bath on here. And the ingredients list is absolutely adorable: hot water bath 😀 😀 😀 30 minutes 😀 😀 😀

    I was born and grew up in Lübeck, a city in northern Germany that’s famous for having been the main city of the Hansa, the trading league of the Baltic Sea in medieval times. Salt was incredibly important for preservation of food and perishable goods on the long ship journeys.

    For some years now, I use mostly Himalayan salt for cooking. Regular salt tends to give me painful bloating and water retentions, and this one doesn’t, but I have no idea why.

    • The Himalayan seems to be recommended quite often. As someone who works to shop closer to home, I don ‘t do that but then, I really have no idea where my salt comes from.

  8. My, what a sight those salt ponds are! A very long-standing tradition!

  9. If you’re interested in the history of salt, Mark Kurlansky wrote a very good book – it’s called “Salt: A World History.” :o)

  10. Tammy, you are a never ending supply of information and recipes . . .even for baths. Thank you so much!

  11. what a photograph!
    I really value all the different salts that I have sampled (hope to add black salt to that roster at some point) each brings something distinct in texture or taste to a dish–especially in the finishing.

    your detox bath salt recipe really appeals in its simplicity.

    • I am not sure that my palate is sophisticated enough to determine the difference in some of them but I’ll have to figure it out.

  12. Absolutely captivating post, Tammy. You remind me of the Indian fairy tale where the daughter got herself banished when she told her father she loved him as much as salt.

    Thanks for this reminder of the aristocratic leanings of something often branded so humble…

    • Oh Kate, I do not know the tale of the Indian daughter but it doesn’t surprise me a bit that you’re offering me yet another literary reference to catch up on. Thank you for your readership.

  13. Tammy, I am looking forward to hearing more of your spiritual journey in Peru. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Love it Tammy!

    I’m curious. Is this spiritual cleanse or just a physical cleanse? In which way are you suggesting it be used? In which way do most people do this cleanse?

    Is this a healing bath? I know that baths can be healing, but didn’t know just a salt bath could be.

    • Isn’t that a good question!! What I’ve presented as a recipe here is supposed to be a physical cleanse. However, me being asked to do this prior to Machu Picchu was likely meant as a spiritual cleanse. I, however, was not astute enough to clarify. Great job Ollin.

  15. I had not thought of adding ginger with the Epsom Salts in a bath. I look forward to adding it. Epsom Salts baths are an old, old practice in my family – often for aches and pains for the elders or hard working souls.

    I’ve even stopped nail fungus with a combination of Epsom Salts and Baking Soda – as opposed to the expensive prescription meds that are a threat to the Kidneys!

  16. Great Post. Loved reading it. I see a bit of India here…yes, kala namak is great if had with yogurt or curd. It is a summer staple in India…

    if you wish, you can try this out:

    Mix curd with cumin powder and kala namak, and let it rest for 20 minutes. Give it a whisk and try as dip.

    We love it here 🙂

    • Is curd similar to cottage cheese or to yoghurt?

      • Hey Tam, Curd is similar to yogurt!! It really helps to beat the tropical heat with its cooling properties. 🙂

        Thank you for your comment! Did you try the prawn recipe that you were goin to make? Best of luck for that.


  17. Now I want to try Matcha Green Tea Salt

  18. applec

     /  May 14, 2011

    What an interesting post.
    I have stood and starred at the Netti pots. But I just can’t get into the idea of anything getting in my nose. I’ve never been able to use an inhaler.
    As for the salt cleansing, I completely believe in the benefits. Will have to try it…and NOT buy that stuff in a jar.

  19. And what’s the deal with the USDA trying to lower our salt intake? 🙂
    Seriously, it’s amazing the qualities of this little mineral, we take it so much for granted.

    • There is an issue with salt intake but surprisingly, I found equal evidence of there being iodine deficiencies.

  20. Amazing photo! I have been using organic sea salt and we always used to use warm salty water to gargle with. Good old time remedy. Lots of good info.

  21. In Hindi Kala = Black, and Namak=Salt.
    I am still trying to figure out what is a veg brush.

  22. how exceptionally cool – and I am a little bit of a “salt-aholic” I must have 8 different kinds of exotic and unusual salts – at least.

  23. I can’t wait to treat myself to that salt bath. It sounds fantastic! Thanks for enlightening me on one of my all-time favorite minerals!

  24. And hopefully more people are moving toward non-toxic nail polish, so this isn’t an issue as they take their salt soak… If you’ve never checked out the skin deep database with product toxicity ratings (from the Environmental Working Group), it is definately worth a look at:

  25. Very interesting! Salt has many virtues indeed.



  26. Hi
    I never heard of black salt before. However I won’t live without my nail polish like someone said above. I just bless it and love it and believe I am safe. It’s all about my thoughts.
    I think I just got a little off track here;)

    • The Lucky Duck has actually just released a safe nail polish. I had no idea that the old variety was so bad.

  27. Salt which are not white? Oh, I have never heard about that. I have visited in Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá in Colombia and if I remember correct the color of salt was not “abnormal”.

    Thank You for this post which I find very informative and interesting.

  28. I’ve never heard of Peruvian Salt before.

  29. I have a couple of different kinds of salt in my pantry, but nothing really exotic. Did you try the bath?

  30. My mother-in-law thought salt is the world greatest medicine. She always give warm salt water to treat stomach each to skin problems 🙂
    I rise my mouth with warm salted water when I have infection, too.

  31. What an amazing adventure to go to Peru! How does the salt bath detoxify exactly?

  32. Tiffany Anderson

     /  May 16, 2011

    From another fellow salt-gargler, working with a variety of foodies and naturopaths, the salt array has been vast for cooking and remedies. I’ve now been asked to use a sea salt from Nature’s Sunshine ( that has a pink to yellow hue with a little going a long way. Thank you for bringing home a Peruvian taste to show us your salt of the earth.

  33. Never even thought to try something like this at home. Awesome!

  34. More than anything, I want to be able to take that photo of the Peruvian salt sacred valley, from that exact same spot! But I quite like the idea of that ginger and Epsom salt bath too!
    Thank you for visiting, Tammy, and for your lovely comment. I recognise your photo from Rukmini’s blog.

  35. I love that picture! this is so fun to know about!

  36. Great post!

  37. Naomi

     /  May 24, 2011

    Wow, this is all so interesting, thank you, and what a stunning photo! We use the pink Himalayan rock salt, for all its supposed virtues and because it’s pretty 🙂 That salt detox sounds excellent…

    • I need to learn more about the benefits. I have a beautiful pink salt lamp that someone dear gave to me a couple of years ago.

  38. This picture of the “salt terraces” is just breathtaking ! Thank you so much for sharing the salt and ginger bath. I can imagine how well one must feel afterwards ! A very interesting post, as always 🙂 thank you.

  39. I did a post on salt last year, and found the history fascinating. I’ve since wanted to check out the salt mines near Salzburg where they hung chandeliers and held balls.

    What always struck me as funny was finding the term “organic” salt. What about salt is organic?

    • I remember your salt post and should probably have referenced it when I wrote this. Or shall we say, what is not organic?


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