Himalayan salt is also known as Deltic rock salt or Indian rock salt. It was first used by the ancient Indians to treat stomach ulcers, wounds and other ailments. A wide variety of ailments can be relieved with this salt including arthritis, shingles, piles, muscle cramps, gastric disorders and heart conditions. Himalayan salt has been used in the western world too as a medicinal treatment. In the 1800s a renowned Harvard scientist, Alexander Bain, discovered the mineral content of Himalayan salt and named it after him.
The name Himalayan comes from the word hemal which means “down hill”. The salt is mined from the valleys of the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern region of Pakistan and is one of the oldest salts still used commercially. The largest deposits are located in three mountainous areas near the village of Kinnaur Kila in the Lahaul district of KP. To extract the salt, high altitude tunnels are built where the dry stone walls fall down. The mined veins can take many months to dry and need to be pumped regularly to keep them open.
Like all the other minerals in the world, the nutritional value of Himalayan salt has not been fully examined. There is no scientific data to prove that its mineral contents improve diet quality or prevent any disease. However, the salt does contain a large amount of potassium, magnesium, sodium, iodine and chloride. These minerals can help in many ways like treating nausea, improving digestion, strengthening the immune system and reducing muscle spasms. Some of the minerals found in himalayan salt include calcium, phosphorus, chromium, zinc and iron.
Many people are now using himalayan salt deposits for water purification and as a salt alternative. A few decades ago, the water industry was built on the backs of these mineral deposits. However, the water quality in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world has been seriously compromised owing to mining, contamination of waterbodies by mine effluents and dumping of toxic chemicals. It has become evident that mineral extraction needs to be controlled to preserve our environment and protect human health.
In spite of the serious environmental pollution, hydrocarbon extraction from the megalithic rock faces no problem as there is no high pressure or chemicals needed to extract it. Therefore, the alkalinity and sodium content of the himalayan salt range is suitable for use in various applications. The most prominent mineral in this range is khewra salt.
Khewra salt is the most abundant mineral in the alkaline salt family and it comes in over 60 different varieties. Its crystal structure allows it to be formed into salt. It is a highly soluble crystal salt which does not have any caking agents and thus it forms a protective layer on the surface of objects being cleaned. Other minerals which find application in the cleaning industry include gypsum, an abrasive detergent; calcium carbonate; magnesium chloride; potassium salt, used in cookery; and magnesium sulfate.
There are also other varieties of minerals in the alkaline range like coral salt, black sea salt and himalayan salt. These minerals are extracted through natural processes such as rainwater, ground water extraction and river water harvesting. The cayenne pepper is also another popular alkaline mineral and is used in cooking and as a spice. Some of the salt products are derived from seawater, mostly in the form of salt water fish soap, and marine vegetation which is used to enhance the color and flavor in various foods.
Pink salt also contains additives which are used to increase the flavor and nutritive value of certain meals. Among these additives include potassium monohydrate, magnesium sulfate, and sodium nitrate. Although pink Himalayan salt does not contain salts of trace elements like sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride or phosphorus, it does contain sodium nitrate which has been proven to have cancer-fighting properties.