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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Sal, Sali Sodium Chloride Major sources: Middle East, France, Bolivia, Poland, Mali

Salt is an essential mineral for human survival and has been harvested for over 5000 years. Salt's story is a long one.

Salt was used in the process of mumification by the ancient Egyptians, and its harvest is depicted on the walls of some pyramids. Salt is mentioned in the Bible numerous times, most famously perhaps in the story of Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt. Prehistorically, much of Bolivia was comprised of salt. Home to the largest salt flat in the world, Bolivia may contain up to ten billion tons of salt.

During the famous explorer Marco Polo's time, salt was so valuable it was used as a form of currency, alongside gold and silver. As a result of a salt tax levied by a Chinese emperor in 2200 BC, salt even helped underwrite construction of the Great Wall of China.

The Romans used salt to flavor popular condiments and soldiers were given salt rations as salaries. Interestingly, the words salary, salad (the Romans added salt to their vegetables) and soldier are all derived from the word salt. The Greeks traded slaves for salt, but it wasn't until around 200 BC that anyone discovered that salt could preserve foods, and that knowledge changed everything.

Throughout Medieval times and the Middle Ages, salt become a highly sought after, expensive commodity. The French monarchy held a firm grip on its production and a lack of salt is often credited with starting the French Revolution. British kings and queens used salt taxes to support their monarchy well into the 20th century. Gandhi's famous 200 mile march to the Arabian Ocean was to gather untaxed salt for poor Indians under British rule.

Salt is available as unrefined, refined and iodized. Sea salt refers to unrefined salt that has been taken from an ocean or sea from which it has evaporated. Gathered from seawater or rock deposits, salt can be white or grey in color and is composed of chloride and sodium. Most refined salts are taken from rock salt through mining processes and then purified and refined. Salt is essential for human life as it regulates the body's fluids.

Iodized salt is iodine-enriched, a move that was initiated in 1924 as a goiter prevention program in the United States. Because many commercially available processed and fast foods are high in iodized salt, it is sometimes assumed that household use of iodized salt is no longer beneficial. It shouldn't be assumed that to be true as iodized salt levels vary by region and circumstance.

Some forms of sea salt are naturally lower in sodium than conventional iodized salt and as such are enjoying increased popularity along with other whole and natural foods. Persons with heart and kidney disease, hypertension and several other conditions, including pregnancy are often advised to follow low salt diets, or to at least opt for low sodium sea salt when salt intake cannot be avoided.  Take care not to overdo it, as too much salt spoils everything, including our health.

Today many health and beauty spas include sea salt baths, scrubs and rubs in their line up of popular treatments. It is said that Cleopatra went to great trouble and expense to gain exclusive rights to the Dead Sea, whose salty waters are said to beautify the skin, alleviate psoriasis, detoxify and relax the body.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Salt regulates the body's fluid levels, prevents water intoxication and helps cells absorb nutrients. However, too much salt intake can cause serious health problems. These include increased risk of osteoporosis, stomach cancer, hypertension, gastric ulcers, and coronary heart disease. It can also lead to high blood pressure and cause kidney, liver and brain damage.

Historically, salt has been used to:

  • Relieve sore muscles when used in the bath
  • Relieve skin disorders like psoriasis when used in the bath
  • Smooth and exfoliation the skin when used in a scrub
  • Regulate fluid levels in the body and restore balance

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Due to the negative health effects of too much salt, it is recommended to be conservative while cooking and when possible, rely on spice blends that contain relatively small amounts of salt. Many food products already contain salt, so there is usually no need to add much more. Other herbs spices can be used to improve the flavor of a dish or be substituted for salt.  Food for thought:

  • Use spice blends containing relatively low salt, instead of just salt
  • Use fresh or dried and ground lemon zest instead of salt
  • Create a salt-free blend of equal parts dried savory, thyme and parsley, marjoram for a nice salt substitute.
  • Rely more heavily on garlic when suitable as it has a sort of built in saltiness on its own.
  • Finely dices shallots can be used in place of garlic with the same results
  • Salt food in layers 'as you cook', like chefs do.  Salt the aromatics first, then the protein, etc., until you notice the flavours 'zing'. 

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