Nice to look at, but is it good for what ails you?

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Nice to look at, but is it good for what ails you?

Could the next home decor fad in Korea be a glowing rock?
Since last April, the domestic distributor of what’s known as the Himalayan Salt Crystal Lamp reports selling more than 17,500 of them in Korea.
Basically, it’s a roughly cut, hollowed-out salt rock with a light bulb inside. The lamps come in salmon pink, bright ruby and pale peach, among other shades. Made from salt crystals mined in the Himalayas, they come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
According to believers, these lamps aren’t just something pretty for a corner of the living room. Salt lamp enthusiasts claim they can cure respiratory ailments.
Charles Lim, who imports and distributes salt lamps in Korea, says he was introduced to the product two years ago by a sister in Los Angeles.
His sister, Park Chul-sook, said her minister loaned her a salt lamp, saying it might alleviate her asthma. After a few months of having it around the house, Ms. Park claimed, she showed “miraculous” improvement.
Mr. Lim said his sister contacted a company in Germany and ordered four of the lamps for her brothers in Korea, who also struggle with the disease.
He said he dismissed the idea at first, but that after he put the lamp in his son’s bedroom, the boy stopped snoring.
When friends and relatives began asking for lamps of their own, Mr. Lim said, he contacted the German company to order 500 lamps.
That turned out to be too small an order for the German company to fulfill. But the company referred Mr. Lim to the factory and mine in Pakistan where the lamps are manufactured.
Salt crystals have traditionally been used as air purifiers in Himalayan villages, according to Mr. Lim. The salt rock used in the lamps is mined near Gilgit, in northern Pakistan.
Such crystals come in a wide range of colors; the Himalayan crystals are pink because of the particular minerals captured when they were formed, he says.
In Gilgit, the rocks are cut, shaped and polished by skilled workers. The lamp’s wooden base is made from local trees, Mr. Lim says.
The theory behind the lamp’s alleged healing powers is this: The light, passing through the crystal, emits “negative ions” into the air, neutralizing pollution and making breathing easier. Mr. Lim adds that the lamp is soothing to look at.
He says 33 retailers, 13 of them in Seoul, are carrying the lamps now. “Most sellers sold the lamps on the side, but they began to turn the lamp into their primary business,” says Mr. Lim, who retails them himself at his small jewelry store in downtown Seoul. A lamp weighing from two to four kilograms starts from 59,000 won ($49); one weighing 40 kilograms goes for as much as 750,000 won.
Has keeping four lamps at home, and working around many more of them during the day, cured Mr. Lim of his asthma?
Not completely, he admits. In fact, he coughed a bit during his interview. But he’s sure it’ll improve soon.

by Ines Cho
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