Speleotherapy (Greek σπήλαιον spḗlaion "cave") is a respiratory therapy involving breathing inside a cave. Modern use of this therapy started in Germany by Karl Hermann Spannagel. Research is ongoing what health conditions can be treated with this technique. A 2001 Cochrane summary concluded that as no trials had been done, there is no evidence to determine whether breathing air inside a cave is useful in treating asthma.
In a classic form, speleotherapy was the use of underground mineral and hot springs – underground balneo and hydrotherapy. The ancient Greeks practiced salt-based remedies. Hippocrates (460 BC) had documented salt based therapies including inhalation of steam from salt water. According to Hippocrates procedure was providing relief of respiratory symptoms. There are claims of improvements in the breathing of miners in Roman times and medieval times. Speleotherapy hospitals existed in Italy in the 19th century. In the middle of the 19th century, an attempt has been made to use the air of caves for diseases treatment. The clinic, founded in Mammoth Cave (Kentucky, USA), was intended for tuberculosis patients. A few months after the death of one of the patients, the hospital was closed.
The history of modern speleotherapy dates back to the 1950s. At this time, speleotherapeutic hospitals arise in several countries of Eastern and Central Europe. Unitil recently speleotherapy was not practiced in the US and Great Britain.
The emergence of speleotherapy as a therapeutic method in Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science is associated with the episode World War II. Residents of Ennepetal (Germany) used the nearby Klüterköhle cave as a bomb shelter. Dr. Karl Hermann Spannagel drew attention to the improvement of well-being of asthmatics who were in the cave. After the war, he began research into the therapeutic effect of caves in treating bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, and whooping cough a. The research results were published in 1949. After this, speleotherapeutic facilities under the natural conditions of karst caves arise in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The success of the method led to the birth of the international speleotherapeutic society. In 1969, the Speleotherapy Commission was founded at International Union of Speleologists.
In 1968, in Solotvyn (now in Ukraine), the first speleotherapy clinic was opened on the territory of the USSR, and the next year its territory was expanded for the first time in the world after the construction of additional development on a special project. In 1977, in the Perm Region, the world's first speleotherapy clinic was opened in a potash mine. In 1982, another important step was taken in speleotherapy in the USSR: the first climate chamber was patented, equipped with a salt filter-saturator and recreating the conditions of salt mines on the earth's surface.
- Cáp, Josef; Slavik, Pavel; Pecen, Ladislav (2007), Stanovení endogenního kortizolu u dìtí (PDF) (in Czech), archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2011
- Beamon, S; et al. (2001). "Speleotherapy for asthma". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2): CD001741. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001741. PMC 6435215. PMID 11406004.
- History of Salt Therapy Illawarra Salt Therapy