We’re on a flawless beach, shoes off, breathing the salt air. Only there’s no ocean. And the air is being pumped with pharmaceutical-grade, micronized particles of sodium chloride. The luminous walls are pink salt dug from the Himalayas, and so are the fine pebbles under our socks. This is a salt cave, a sterile microclimate in a busy Summerlin shopping center.
Ava Mucikyan wanted the foot traffic, the daily pop-ins asking, “What is this place?” It happens while we’re in the lobby of her wellness center, Salt Room LV, and she talks a man through body treatments, yoga classes and the flagship service—salt therapy. She says it goes back to ancient Egyptians bathing in the Dead Sea, though the first clinical observation was made in 1843, when a Polish physician noted that salt miners had incredibly healthy lungs. Salt is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, Mucikyan explains, so a 45-minute session in the cave ($35 drop-in) purportedly alleviates respiratory and skin conditions ranging from asthma to psoriasis. Her husband’s allergies and her own eczema drove them to try salt therapy in California, and the results inspired the banking exec to open Salt Room LV in November.
The space glows with hand-cut, ionizing salt lamps. You can pick up a culinary salt slab or natural salt deodorant, but the cave is what brings Cory Patterson every single day. The 35-year-old suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic lung disorder causing heavy mucus buildup and chronic infection. There’s no cure, and the Mayo Clinic puts life expectancy around 50. He’s been coming for a month, and he says his usual fit of coughing in the morning has diminished.
“It’s almost been a life-saver,” he says. While his pulmonary function still went down 5 percent in a recent test, he thinks it would have been worse without salt therapy. It makes sense to him because he already uses a saline treatment, and because salt therapy is common in Eastern Europe, though little English-language research has been done on its effectiveness. It’s too new in the U.S. to have FDA approval, Mucikyan says. That means Patterson’s doctors can’t endorse it, but he says they encouraged him to keep coming if he feels it helps. “It gave me a positive outlook. ... Deep inside I think it’s improving, but I think it’s gonna take some time.”
Whatever its curative properties, “Cory’s cave,” as Mucikyan calls it, is soft light, soft music and a reason to stop and just breathe.
Salt Room LV 1958 Village Center Circle #7, 702-228-7258. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.