Salt facts and history, how it was used, myths and stories from the beginning of time
I’ve read a lot about this topic, what kind of salt is good and why. I actually wrote an article that dives more into this area and you can find that here.
Although I had gotten my questions answered, I still felt so curious about salt history and salt facts, so I decided to take a deeper look into this topic. You’ll read a lot of sciency stuff in this article, as well as a laundry list of the many perceived and sworn by remedies of salt. You can decide for yourself how insanely true or false these old stories are. Personally, I was fascinated with the information I found! You’ll read about the salt history and find some interesting salt facts.
Hardly any other topic from ancient folk medicine has made such a name for itself in recent times as salt. Grand salt, also known as rock salt and crystal salt, contains healing powers that have long since been forgotten. First a few words on the history of salt and on folk medicine, which for thousands of years has used salt for almost all aspects of life.
Salt History – Always a Coveted Commodity
Salt has always been an important factor in the history of mankind. It was food, was used for the preservation of food and was used in early medicine, therefore a lively salt trade developed already in antiquity, which united peoples and cultures.
Since salt was only mined in a few regions, but used everywhere, the so-called “salt roads” were created, long trade routes that served to transport salt from the extraction areas to all parts of the world. Already in the 5th century BC, these routes connected the salt deposits of today’s Salzkammergut, Halleins and Bad Reichenhalls with the Adriatic Sea, the Black Sea, the North Sea and France.
The White Gold of the Earth?
The exchange of cultural goods also flowed via these salt roads, so that salt was the decisive factor for peaceful communication between the peoples and regions of antiquity. Due to its high value (salt – the “white gold”), however, wars were also waged.
From the time of the Roman emperor Julian (331 – 363 A.D.) such a salt war has been handed down. It is said that the Alemanni and Burgundians fought wars over the brine springs of the Kocher Valley, which was located in the border area of these two tribes.
The salt deposit in the Salzkammergut was exploited for mining purposes very early on, and it gave an entire cultural epoch its character (Hallstatt period from 1200 to 400 BC).
The origin of the name “salt” lies somewhat in the dark. It is interesting, however, that the Indo-European word root “sal” is found in the terms “salt” (“pale, grey”), “hall” (Germanic: “salaz” = “house”) and “soul” (“salig” = “blessed” + “heavenly, holy”).
Although this connection is not uncontroversial, it is very probable, since it is found a second time in the linguistic usage: The Greek word “hals” (whose origin is assumed to be in Celtic, the salt road sends greetings) means “salt”, which is documented in the place names of the salt find places: Hallstatt, Bad Reichenhall, Schwäbisch Hall etc. and in today’s mineralogical name for salt crystals: “Halit”.
But here, too, there is a sudden affinity to the term “hall” (Germanic: “half-open house”) and to the heaven of gods (Germanic=”Walhalla”). What does salt and halite have to do with hall and hall, as well as soul and heaven?
Salt – A Symbol of Friendship
Already the Nordic Edda advises: “Do not change words with unsalted fools”, thus she gives the hint that salt probably brings wisdom or wisdom, or that people who shy away from salt are up to no good.
Salt has always been a symbol of goodness, gods, life, happiness, wealth and health. If one wanted to gain these attributes, one could make use of countless rites and customs, of which salt was a central component. If one shared salt with others, one showed oneself willing to share the qualities.
Therefore salt was also a symbol of friendship. Alliances were sealed with salt, also the marriage covenant. Until modern times in many regions of Europe the custom has been preserved to first entertain a guest with salt, bread and wine in order to connect spirit (salt), soul (wine) and body (bread). So also a proverb of antiquity says: “One does not know a person until one has eaten a bushel of salt with him”.
Throughout all myths, from antiquity to modern times and from the Mediterranean to the far north, there are three basic qualities of salt: its ability to protect, purify and heal.
Protection Against Negative Influences
On all important occasions in life, at birth, baptism, wedding, during meals and sleep, during Lent, when travelling, on the deathbed or at funerals, whenever man is particularly open and receptive, salt has been scattered into the air or thrown into fire as protection against negative influences, witchcraft and damage spells.
In this context, the custom of worried mothers, widespread in various areas, to add salt to their outgoing daughters’ clothes or to sprinkle it afterwards so that they do not get involved with the young men or even fall in love, is particularly nice. Salt was also sprinkled into the excavation pit before laying the foundation, before moving into new houses and stables.
Salt protected the harvest during storage and the cattle during budding. Thrown out of the window, it was supposed to protect against the approaching thunderstorm and keep away evil spirits during baking and cooking. These customs are already recorded in the oldest writings.
The Greeks and Romans used salt water as holy water and as a protective and defensive spell. In the Middle Ages it was said to have the power to drive out demons, for which it was used in both the Catholic and later Protestant rites.
Therefore the original baptismal rite was not only a baptism in water, but a purification with water, a process of opening and blessing by anointing with oil and finally the restructuring and protection by salt followed. Salt was always kept sacred as a symbol of protection and thus a guarantor of happiness and wealth.
To spill it carelessly brought misfortune, to deliberately scatter it against or throw it over the shoulder, brought luck and saved it from harm. This belief has also been maintained to this day and, with the “Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn” (Mark Twain), is still being felt in most children’s rooms today.
Salt as Cleaning Agent
Just as negative influences by salt were to be averted, existing difficulties could be solved by salt: In order to free the atmosphere of a house from strife and discord, a circle of salt was drawn around it, or the room was sprinkled with salt and then swept away.
Dead souls were also to be freed from their attachment to earthly existence so that they could leave apartments and houses. Releasing arrest is a major theme in the mythology of salt. To facilitate a peaceful death, salt was sprinkled into the fire when a relative was lying on his deathbed. It was supposed to help him say goodbye and find his way to heaven.
But also the letting go of habits, fears, worries, depressions, all “tormentors” of the people, should cause the salt. These customs continue to this day, and modern esoteric literature refers again and again to the cleansing power of salt. Especially for minerals and gemstones it is recommended to put them in salt or salt water to free them from negative energy.
Salt As a Remedy
Since salt has the property of protecting the dead from decay and decay, it has always been assumed to have a special preserving and life-giving power. Even the Teutons saw in salt the otherwise impossible combination of two opposing elements: The fire and the water.
Salt was therefore something directly divine for them. In Germanic tradition, salt springs were “close to heaven” places of prayer, where desires were heard and diseases cured. We find this element again in the Middle Ages, where salt is called the “transmitter of divine blessing”, as well as the Christian baptism rites, which speak of the “salt of wisdom”.
Salt was also considered a disease oracle: If salt in the hand quickly became damp when entering the hospital room, this was seen as a sign that the disease could not be cured, but if it remained dry, the speedy recovery was certain. Salt was considered a general remedy for all diseases.
It was used for baths, foot baths, abrasions, washes and wound disinfection. Thrown over the patient, it was supposed to dispel fever. The internal ingestion helped against fainting and weakness attacks, externally it was used against itching, ulcers and rashes.
Carried as protection in a bag, it was intended to prevent infection. Saltwater foot baths were used against headaches, lack of menstruation and impotence, and in food it helped to alleviate homesickness and heartache. This may be the root of the old wisdom that concludes that a cook in love is a cook who is in love.
The Salt in the Sea
No matter from which source salt comes today, whether from salty rinses (brine), from artificially created evaporation basins for sea water (salt marshes) or from the mine, the salt always comes from the sea. The huge salt deposits of today can be traced back to sea deposits of past epochs, e.g. the best qualities date back to the Zechstein period (280 – 220 million years). Seawater contains a large number of dissolved elements, so far more than 40 different elements have been found.
However, only a few elements or compounds can be found in large quantities. Four positively charged metal ions (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium ions) are essentially opposed by three negative ions (chloride, sulphate and carbonate ions).
Rock salt consists of sodium and chloride ions and, with a proportion of approx. 78% (weight percentages), forms the majority of the salts dissolved in seawater. To get an idea of the enormous amounts of salt dissolved in the oceans, we imagine that all sea water would evaporate. Then a 60 meter thick salt crust would remain on all seabeds!
But How Does This Huge Amount of Salt Get Into the Sea?
This question has not yet been completely clarified scientifically. While the origin of the positive metal ions is largely clear, the origin of the negative chloride, sulphate and carbonate ions remains a phenomenon that is still discussed today. Most of the metal ions originate from continental rocks, which consist of more than 75% silicates, mainly feldspars, which contain the required positive metal ions.
Weathered and washed out, they reach the oceans via the rivers. Negative anions are thought to originate from the Earth’s urate atmosphere as well as from submarine volcanic eruptions.
No salt deposits can develop from the open ocean; flat seas and a warm, dry climate with little rainfall are needed for this, so that the dissolved salts can be separated by the evaporation of the sea water.
Fresh salt water flows in via a natural barrier (e.g. a coral reef), which separates the shallow sea area from the main ocean, and with additional slow subsidence of the ground due to movements of the earth’s crust, a layer of salt is deposited on top of the other, accompanied by the deposition of other minerals such as lime, dolomite or gypsum (anhydrite).
Due to the displacement of the continental plates and the resulting unfolding of the mountains over millions of years, some of these salt deposits get deep below the earth’s surface. The enormous pressure of the rock layers on the salt causes it to “flow” underground, it gives way to the pressure and moves to where there is still room, i.e. in crevices, cavities and cracks in the rock, not only horizontally, but above all upwards, so that the characteristic salt domes form in this way.
If the salt penetrates to the earth’s surface, it swells like a dome and forms salt domes.
Above ground, “young” salt deposits are the salt lakes of Utah (USA) and North Africa, mighty underground deposits can be found in the USA, Pakistan and the Alpine region, salt domes in Northern Germany and Poland.
Mineral Class and Chemistry – Science Stuff
Halite is sodium chloride (NaCl) with traces of potassium, calcium, bromine, iron, zinc, iodine and magnesium and belongs to the mineral class of halides. Iron (reddish tones) is the main colouring element. Salt belongs to the cubic crystal system, i.e. its inner structure resembles the geometric figure of the square and thus embodies a maximum of symmetry and order. It forms cube-shaped crystals.
The most perfect halite specimens – transparent and with up to 20 cm long cube edges – represent the highest salt quality, analogous to the pure, clear rock crystal specimens within the quartz family. Such collector’s items are however very rare. Much more frequently one finds coarse crystalline to fine-grained masses, colourless and in the colours white, yellowish, pink, orange and through organic inclusions brown to black. Salt is rarely found in the colours blue and violet.
Use and Trade
Rock salt is extracted by mining from various salt mines. Another method is brine pumping from the salt deposits and evaporation of the brine. In both cases, the main further processing takes place in the chemical industry to obtain chlorine, hydrochloric acid, soda, fertilizers, caustic soda, PVC, paints, detergents and countless other products.
Beneficiaries – Pharmaceutical Industry
Beneficiaries and winners are also the pharmaceutical industry. 93-95 % of the worldwide salt production is used for industrial purposes. The remainder is used as road salt in winter, regeneration salt for water treatment and cattle salt.
In the refining processes of the chemical industry, rock salt is turned into the waste product sodium chloride (NaCl). It is used in almost all finished food products as a preservative and seasoning in this form. Less than 6 % of it ends up on the shelves of our shops under the name of (refined) common salt, table salt or table salt.
Table Salt with Questionable Ingredients
Table salt has absolutely nothing to do with the biological quality of the original natural rock salt. The refined common salt, or sodium chloride, is added various chemical substances to make it free-flowing and for processing, depending on the manufacturer. Likewise the enrichment with inorganic iodine is rejected by many nourishing scientists. From a health point of view, this is a scandal and a chapter in itself.
Natural Salt is Alkaline
Natural primal rock salts have a basic character. Alkaline organic salts help to deacidify the body water and thus maintain the acid-base balance. Urstein salt of the Zechstein period, for example, has an average PH value of 7.0 ± 0.1, which is below the ideal blood pH value of 7.35 and is bio-friendly, right-turning.
Medicinal Effects – Centuries-old Wisdom
Natural rock salt helps to dissolve attachments to thought and behaviour patterns and to change unconscious mechanisms through conscious actions. It lifts the mood and has an encouraging effect on melancholy and depression. A little rock salt on the tongue helps to overcome weakness and fainting spells. Brine baths provide relief from skin diseases, improve skin circulation, stimulate the metabolism and harmonise the vegetative nervous system which controls the internal organs. Salt rich atmospheres are in many cases good for the skin and healing for respiratory problems.
Cures in salt galleries have long been indicated as particularly suitable in these cases.
In Germany, Austria and Poland there are corresponding healing galleries.
All specialist authors recommend internal and external salt applications for many symptoms of illness in order to become healthy and, above all, to stay healthy.