Published On: Fri, Nov 1st, 2013

Greenbrier County therapy cave opens in spring

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The interior of the salt cave at Salt Cave and Spa. More than six tons of special salt from the Himalayan Mountains region coat the ceiling, walls and floor of the grotto. In studies conducted in Australia and Russia, breathing salty air has been shown to have benefits for the respiratory tracts.

The interior of the salt cave at Salt Cave and Spa. More than six tons of special salt from the Himalayan Mountains region coat the ceiling, walls and floor of the grotto. In studies conducted in Australia and Russia, breathing salty air has been shown to have benefits for the respiratory tracts.

Greenbrier County, the site of world-famous Organ Cave and Lost World Caverns, is now the home of a man-made salt cave. The new grotto was dug into a hillside along Route 92 and will house a therapeutic salt spa.

Marius and Adriana Grecu bought property north of White Sulphur Springs four years ago and moved here from Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains last year. The couple are talented artists and specialize in textured interior finishes. In addition to their artistic endeavors, Adriana and Marius are dedicated to expanding knowledge of holistic health practices.

Adriana described the couple’s goals for the new spa.

“The plan is to have a gathering place for the community to come together and look at health and our bodies in a whole different way,” she said. “We’ve constructed something that leaves behind the box and makes you look at things in a whole, new, creative way. We have here alternative processes for dealing with health issues. We want to meld together the wisdom of the past with the technology of the future – and then also to incorporate within that – the wisdom that each individual brings into this place, as they come in with their own experiences. So, together, we heal each other.”

The exterior of the Salt Cave and Spa was constructed of concrete to look like a natural cave entrance. The larger entryway on the left leads into a foyer/gift shop and the smaller doorway on the right leads into a therapeutic salt cave.

The exterior of the Salt Cave and Spa was constructed of concrete to look like a natural cave entrance. The larger entryway on the left leads into a foyer/gift shop and the smaller doorway on the right leads into a therapeutic salt cave.

Salt therapy, also known as halotherapy and speleotherapy, consists of breathing air containing a high concentration of salt micro-particles. Studies from overseas have shown salt therapy benefits. A 2006 Russian study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, concluded that salt inhalation improved respiratory defense mechanisms and reduced the amount of harmful bacteria in the airways of tobacco-smoking study subjects. Another 2006 study, from Australia, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that inhalation of a salt solution improved lung function in people with cystic fibrosis.

Artist Adriana Grecu painted examples of prehistoric cave art on the walls of the Salt Cave and Spa. Adriana and her husband, Marius Grecu, will open the spa this spring.

Artist Adriana Grecu painted examples of prehistoric cave art on the walls of the Salt Cave and Spa. Adriana and her husband, Marius Grecu, will open the spa this spring.

But no studies of salt therapy have been conducted in the U.S., and skeptics contend it’s nothing but a fad. In 2009, the Cochrane Collaboration, an international medical evidence review group, concluded that more studies, especially clinical trials, are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of halotherapy.

But salt therapy has been popular in Europe for decades.

“Halotherapy has been around for thousands of years,” said Adriana. “It all really began to come to the forefront with salt miners in Yugoslavia and Russia. During the wars, they would hide in the salt mines. They noticed that people who would go in there and the people who worked in salt mines wouldn’t get sick or, if they were sick, they would heal really quickly from asthmatic issues and pulmonary issues. So, they began to make a connection.”

A cave is not essential to salt therapy. A famous spa at Bad Nauheim, Germany, features an “inhalatorium,” where visitors sit between salt water-drenched racks of blackthorn twigs. But salt mines are plentiful in Central Europe and remain popular as spa vacation spots.

“In Europe, you have many salt caves that are partners with hospitals,” said Adriana. “The person who has, let’s say, a pneumonia, they will have them sleep in the salt cave for a week as part of the therapy for healing them. So, this is an integrated system that’s existed in Europe for many, many years.”

A New Jersey spa charges $60 for a 45-minute stay in its above-ground salt room. Adriana said the cost will be much less at the Greenbrier County cave.

“The salt therapy that we have will be anywhere from ten to fifteen dollars for forty-five minutes in the salt cave,” she said. “Forty-five minutes in the salt cave is equivalent to three days at the ocean, seaside – the benefits are equal to that. It’s a very reasonable price. I think that everybody should have access to health and benefits. There should be really no price on it but, being in the society we are, we’re just trying to make it as accessible as possible.”

Entering the Salt Cave and Spa, visitors pass into a foyer – a concrete dome – finished to appear like a natural cave. Prehistoric cave drawings decorate the walls and symbolic artwork is inscribed everywhere in the stone walls. To the left is a log stairway to an upper therapy room; to the right – the entrance to the salt cave.

The foyer of the Salt Cave and Spa, near White Sulphur Springs, includes cave paintings,  inscribed rocks and a 30-foot replica of a tree, made entirely of concrete. To the lower right is the entrance to a therapeutic salt cave.

The foyer of the Salt Cave and Spa, near White Sulphur Springs, includes cave paintings, inscribed rocks and a 30-foot replica of a tree, made entirely of concrete. To the lower right is the entrance to a therapeutic salt cave.

A warm, orange glow emanates from the interior of the salt cave. Light passes through huge, translucent salt crystals, embedded in the walls. Stalactites, made entirely of salt, hang from the ceiling and salt plaster covers the entire walls. The salt cave provides a primeval feeling of security that ancient men must have felt as they returned to their underground abodes.

More than 13,000 pounds of Himalayan salt will be plastered on the walls and scattered on the floor of the cave when it is completed. Adriana explains the special qualities of the Pakistani salt.

“It has the unique property of having the eighty-four elements and minerals that your body consists of, like no other salt out there,” she said. “It’s as pure as can be, whereas the sea salt these days is becoming very polluted, with our oceans. This Himalayan salt is untouched for millennia, so you do get a clean, pure product.”

The new spa will offer other alternative therapies.

“We’re going to have several options here, several alternative therapies, besides the conventional spa services,” said Marius. “Bioacoustics is going to be another service that we offer, which is very interesting. I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with the term bioacoustics. What it does – it’s a voice profiling. It’s basically seeing the body through frequencies. We have equipment software that records the voice and the voice tells you what the deficiencies in the body are, such as lacking certain vitamins and nutrients, that your voice has encoded into the frequency.”

Marius and Adriana don’t claim to be practicing medicine and don’t intend their holistic treatments to replace traditional medical care. But they believe in the benefits.

“We want to share what we know,” said Marius. “We want to tell people – awareness is for everybody. We want the community to be part of this experience. It’s not just a business. It’s the fact that everybody can benefit from it and it will be affordable. It will be cost-effective. It won’t be just for the few people; anybody will be able to come in here – all ages.”

There are a lot of salt caves that are popping up, so we said, ‘why not one in White Sulphur Springs?’” said Adriana.

The Salt Cave and Spa, located five miles north of White Sulphur Springs on Route 92, will open in March.

About the Author

- Geoff Hamill can be contacted at gshamill@pocahontastimes.com