A Guide to Salt: Its History, Uses, and Wellness Benefits
Salt is one of the most profoundly unique and essential things in our lives. Salt amplifies flavors, preserves our food, and acts as an essential component to our vital hydration. It is also so much more layered, as it can help to boost circulation and provide an exfoliant that softens our skin. But despite how common it is, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this vital mineral. Allow us to break it down for you.
What Is Salt?
Salt is one of the dozens of essential minerals that we need to fully function. Sodium chloride, salt is a crystalized mineral comprised of just that: sodium and chloride. While we do not naturally produce sodium, we need this electrolyte to keep many of our bodily functions running, including maintaining a healthy balance of fluids. (This is also the case for animals and also many types of plants.) But here's where it gets tricky: Too much salt can be detrimental to our health, which is why we need to be mindful of our intake.
Where does salt come from?
Essentially, all salt comes from the ocean but there are two ways to extract it: from evaporated seawater or from underground deposits. When ocean water evaporates and leaves salt crystals, this is referred to as sea salt. Depending on where in the world it comes from, sea salt is often abundant in various flavors and colors, as well as trace minerals. When a salt deposit or bed underground is tapped, this produces what is called table salt, which is usually processed to strip it of the minerals.
What is its history?
This may be an obvious answer, but it is still fascinating to explore as salt has a rick history. Today it is primarily used to enhance the flavor of food. However, the exact time of when humans started to use salt varies between historical sources. Some sources date its use as far back as around 2000 BC. The Egyptians used it as part of their religious ceremonies and trade deals. It was also a profound part of Chinese heritage. "The earliest written record of salt production in China dates to around 800 B.C. and tells of production and trade of sea salt a millennium before, during the Xia dynasty," writes Mark Kurlansky in his critically acclaimed book, Salt. And the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda has touted the uses of salt for its medicinal properties. In the New World, Samuel Winslow received the first patent in North America by the General Court of Massachusetts for a new method of making salt. This unique and vital substance has played an integral role in shaping economies and medicinal systems.
What are the different types of salt?
Rock salt. Sea salt. Table salt. Epsom salt. Kosher salt. The list goes on and on. There are dozens of different types of salt, too many to list in on breath. These below tend to be the most popular and common types, each with varying elements that make them unique.
- Himalayan Pink Salt: An UMA favorite for its gorgeous color, rocky texture, and trace mineral content. Himalayan pink salt is technically a rock salt that comes primarily from Pakistan at the base of the Himalayan Mountains. It is substantially more expensive that table salt because it can only be found in a few places around the world, buried way beneath the ground. Thick chunks of halite—the rock salt—are mined and later splintered into smaller chunks. There are more than eighty minerals in Himalayan pink salt.
- Table Salt: This is usually your traditional salt on find in a restaurant next to the pepper. It's extracted from drilled sea beds and later refined. (Table salt often has added iodine.)
- Sea Salt: Just what it sounds like. Sea salt is the salt that remains from evaporated ocean water. It is usually unadulterated and still has its natural minerals.
- Fleur de Sel: A popular finishing salt, fleur de sel is sea salt that has a lighter, flakier consistency. This is due to the way it forms a thin crust over shallow pools of ocean water.
- Kosher Salt: Free of any additives, kosher salt is generally a coarser salt that is much thicker than regular table salt.
- Epsom Salt: This salt is quite different from the above. Epsom salt is a natural combination of magnesium and sulfate. Used for external purposes, Epsom Salts has long been touted for its anti-inflammatory and relaxing qualities.
How can salt impact our health and beauty?
Ayurveda has long looked to salt for its therapeutic and wellness benefits. Salt plays a role in helping to increase our natural salivation and, in tandem, aid in healthy digestion and absorption of other essential minerals. Salt is vital in keeping our electrolytes in balance, our organs lubricated and hydrated, and our bloody optimally flowing.
On the exterior, salt is a beauty wonder. It helps to physically exfoliate the skin, ridding it of expelled toxins, pollution, dirt, ingrown hairs, and dead cells. Both the Pink Himalayan and Epsom salts in our Absolute Anti Aging Body Scrub aid in healthy circulation and give the lymphatic a nice boost, resulting in better water drainage and the reduced appearance of cellulite. Overall, it is a cleansing, purifying, balancing wonder of an element.