January 25, 2016

Monday Geology Picture: Salt Lamp

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Our Himalayan salt lamp, illuminating our living room at night.

My beautiful Himalayan salt lamp, illuminating our living room at night.

Although I haven’t yet featured such a gift on my annual What to Buy a Geologist for Christmas list, some of my wonderful relatives recently bought me a rock lamp for Christmas. Specifically, they bought me a pink colored Himalayan salt lamp. The lamp consists of a large crystal of salt, or sodium chloride, that is mounted on a pretty wooden stand. The lamp provides a lovely, soft, pale pink light. We turn the lamp on every evening to illuminate our living room, and we sometimes leave the lamp on overnight as a night light.

I absolutely love my salt crystal lamp. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a rock that’s also a lamp, and that in and of itself is awesome. I really like the look of the lamp and its soft light. I even find looking at the lamp somewhat peaceful. It’s nice to have such a beautiful object in our living room.

All that said, unlike many people I do not believe that my salt crystal lamp has any healing powers… or that it has any substantial health benefits at all. Despite what many people say on the internet and elsewhere, Himalayan salt lamps do not emit significant quantities of ions, nor any sort of other magical “positive energy waves”. Most (probably all) of the supposed health benefits of Himalayan salt lamps are absolute rubbish. I say that as a geologist and not a medical professional, but several people agree with me – for example, see here and here. As someone with geochemical expertise, I can attest that Himalayan salt lamps are certainly not emitting special streams of ions. That is, they’re not emitting any special ions nor high quantities of ions – and turning the lamp on or off won’t significantly impact how many ions the salt crystal in your lamp releases.

At most, my salt crystal lamp slightly decreases my stress level by being a beautiful object to look at. And, really, isn’t that enough?