Himalayan salt is rock salt (halite) mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan. The salt, which often has a pinkish tint due to trace minerals, is primarily used as a food additive to replace refined table salt, but is also used for cooking and food presentation, decorative lamps, and spa treatments. The product is often promoted with unsupported claims that it has health benefits.
Himalayan salt is mined from the Salt Range mountains, the southern edge of a fold-and-thrust belt that underlies the Pothohar Plateau south of the Himalayas in Pakistan. Himalayan salt comes from a thick layer of Ediacaran to early Cambrian evaporites of the Salt Range Formation. This geological formation consists of crystalline halite intercalated with potash salts, overlain by gypsiferous marl and interlayered with beds of gypsum and dolomite with infrequent seams of oil shale that accumulated between 600 and 540 million years ago. These strata and the overlying Cambrian to Eocene sedimentary rocks were thrust southward over younger sedimentary rocks, and eroded to create the Salt Range.
Local legend traces the discovery of the Himalayan salt deposits to the army of Alexander the Great. However, the first records of mining are from the Janjua clan in the 1200s. The salt is mostly mined at the Khewra Salt Mine in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab, Pakistan, which is situated in the foothills of the Salt Range hill system between the Indus River and the Punjab Plain. It is primarily exported in bulk, and processed in other countries for the consumer market.
Mineral composition edit
Himalayan salt is a table salt. Analysis of a range of Khewra salt samples showed them to be between 96% and 99% sodium chloride, with trace presence of calcium, iron, zinc, chromium, magnesium, and sulfate, all at varying safe levels below 1%. Some salts mined in Pakistan are not suitable for food or industrial use without purification due to impurities. Some salt crystals from this region have an off-white to transparent color, while the trace minerals in some veins of salt give it a pink, reddish, or beet-red color.
Nutritionally, Himalayan salt is similar to common table salt. Although a study of pink salts commercially available in Australia showed Himalayan salt to contain higher levels of a range of elements, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, aluminum, barium, silicon, and sulfur, and reduced levels of sodium, compared to table salt, the authors concluded that "exceedingly high intake" (a level in excess of the recommended daily salt intake by almost 600%) would be required for the differences to be clinically significant, levels at which any potential nutritional benefit would be outweighed by the risks of elevated sodium consumption such an intake would entail. One notable exception regards the essential mineral iodine. Commercial table salt in many countries is supplemented with iodine, and this has significantly reduced disorders of iodine deficiency. Himalayan salt lacks these beneficial effects of iodine supplementation.
Himalayan salt is used to flavor food. Due mainly to marketing costs, pink Himalayan salt is up to 20 times more expensive than table salt or sea salt. The impurities giving it its distinctive pink hue, as well as its unprocessed state and lack of anti-caking agents, have given rise to the unsupported belief that it is healthier than common table salt. There is no scientific basis for such claimed health benefits. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration warned a manufacturer of dietary supplements, including one consisting of Himalayan salt, to discontinue marketing the products using unproven claims of health benefits.
Slabs of salt are used as serving dishes, baking stones, and griddles, and it is also used to make tequila shot glasses. In such uses, small amounts of salt transfer to the food or drink and alter its flavor profile.
It is also used to make "salt lamps" that radiate a pinkish or orangish hue, manufactured by placing a light source within the hollowed-out interior of a block of Himalayan salt. Claims that their use results in the release of ions that benefit health have no scientific foundation. Similar scientifically unsupported claims underlie use of Himalayan salt to line the walls of spas, along with its use for salt-inhalation spa treatments. Salt lamps can be a danger to pets, who may suffer salt poisoning after licking them.
See also edit
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- Richards, L.; King, R. C.; Collins, A. S.; Sayab, M.; Khan, M. A.; Haneef, M.; Morley, C. K.; Warren, J. (2015). "Macrostructures vs microstructures in evaporite detachments: An example from the Salt Range, Pakistan". Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. 113: 922–934. doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2015.04.015. S2CID 129485400.
- Hadid, Diaa (22 September 2019). "Pakistan's Pink Himalayan Salt Has Become A Matter Of National Pride". NPR. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
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- Weller, J. Marvyn (May–June 1928). "The Cenozoic History of the Northwest Punjab". The Journal of Geology. Chicago Journals. 36 (4): 362–375. Bibcode:1928JG.....36..362W. doi:10.1086/623522. JSTOR 30055696. S2CID 129105623.
- The Salt Range and Khewra Salt Mine whc.unesco.org, accessed 19 October 2021
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- Ada McVean (20 June 2017). "Is Himalayan Pink Salt Better For You?". Office for Science and Society, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
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- Schwarcz, Dr Joe (2019-10-08). A Grain of Salt: The Science and Pseudoscience of What We Eat. ECW Press. p. 281. ISBN 978-1-77305-385-1.
As is often the case with nutritional controversies, pseudoscience slithers into the picture. In this case it is in the form of "natural" alternatives to table salt with insinuations of health benefits. Himalayan salt, which is composed of large grains of rock salt mined in Pakistan, is touted as a healthier version because it contains traces of potassium, silicon, phosphorus, vanadium, and iron. The amounts are enough to color the crystals, giving them a more "natural" appearance, but are nutritionally irrelevant. Some promoters make claims that are laughable. Himalayan salt, they say, contains stored sunlight, will remove phlegm from the lungs, clear sinus congestion, prevent varicose veins, stabilize irregular heartbeats, regulate blood pressure, and balance excess acidity in brain cells. One would have to have a deficiency in brain cells to believe such hokum. It doesn't even rise to the level of taking it with a grain of salt.
- "Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations Herbs of Light, Inc". Food and Drug Administration (FDA). June 18, 2013. Archived from the original on April 24, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
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- Hadid, Diaa; Sattar, Abdul (3 October 2019). "Pakistan Wants You To Know: Most Pink Himalayan Salt Doesn't Come From India". NPR. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
- Scozzaro, Carrie (January 10, 2019). "Salt blocks can be used as a versatile cooking alternative". Spokane, WA: Inlander. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
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- Scott, Ellen (4 July 2019). "Vets warn how dangerous Himalayan salt lamps can be for cats". Metro. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
- Media related to Himalayan salt at Wikimedia Commons