In 1843 doctor Felix Boczkowski formulated that the presence of the air in the salt mines in Wieliczka in Poland saturated with dry salt particles caused healing effects on people with pulmonary and respiratory problems.
Today the Wieliczka Salt Mine is operating as the largest Underground Rehabilitation and Treatment Center. They are the world leader in providing innovative rehabilitation and treatment of respiratory diseases by combining both the natural microclimate of the underground salt excavations and the best practices of contemporary medicine.
Salt contains elements essential to life: iodine, calcium. magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron , selenium, and copper. These are just some of the micro-elements whose lack or shortage in the human body lead to serious problems with physical and mental health. For example, the selenium contained in salt has a huge impact on halting skin aging processes. This is why treatments involving selenium saturated salt solutions are included in the offering of Polish health resorts and health and beauty centers. Many guidebooks on Poland feature detailed descriptions of the tourist and therapeutic value of the natural salt caves in Wieliczka and Bochnia. They offer comprehensive treatment of asthma, allergies, respiratory diseases, skin diseases/blemishes, and obesity. The part of this health spa (located 135 meters under the surface), in a chamber called Lake Wessel, offers unique therapeutic benefits, as well as, having a great aesthetic. Seven hour stays in absolutely pure air saturated with therapeutic sodium choride, ions of magnesium and calcium, in the expert care of doctors and physiotherapists, are not cheap. This treatment for the body and soul cannot be compared with anything available at the conventional sanatorium.
The salt mine in Wieliczka is unique on a global scale, but the therapeutic properties of salt are successfully used by other centers, in artificial caves built exclusively from timber without any metal parts, filled with salt. The special atmosphere of these artificial caves is due to the great care taken in recreating the landscape forms of natural caves, appropriate lighting that brings out the structures of lumps of salt crystals, soft music, and a pleasantly higher temperature and humidity compare to natural caves. Saturation with bio-elements precious to human health is many times higher than caves' climate is conducive to absolute relaxation, as obviously, they are free of the unpleasant wind and noise of a raging storm.
The list of therapeutic effects of staying in artificial salt caves includes positive results in treatment of neuroses and neurotic states, rehabilitation after injuries sustained in sports or accidents, and in alleviating the effects of physical and emotional exhaution resulting from working in jobs that involve, for example, a high level of responsibility for the lives of other people or financial accountability.
Sources: www.poland.travel.en/us and kopalnia.pl
The Wieliczka Salt Mine Underground Rehabilitation and Treatment Centre
“Salt makes us strong, it is a balsam for all things”
-Schroetter (Polish-Latin poet)
"We want all our actions, dictated by the patient's health needs, to be supported by the knowledge and skills of the highest level, and the provision of our health services to be based on professionalism and quality."
These are the words of the mission statement which the Wieliczka Health Resort puts into practice. They set the direction of the development of the whole institution, but are also an expression of the ideals and the passion which all its employees carry in their hearts. In order to understand the meaning of these words in-depth, we should go back many centuries to the beginning of treatment in the underground of the salt mine.
The treatment properties of salt have been known since antiquity. It is no wonder; after all, salt is one of the elements which every living organism needs to live. The use of the Wieliczka salt in medicine was commented upon by humanists visiting the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine, who recommended the use of salt-based medications for a variety of ailments. However, the real development of the town of Wieliczka as a health resort started in the nineteenth century thanks to the-then saltworks physician Dr. Felix Boczkowski. Taking advantage of the medical advances and the fashion for health resorts which prevailed at that time in Europe, he opened in the 1839 the first bath facilities in Wieliczka, offering brine baths, baths in salt mud and sulphuric waters brought over from the Swoszowice spa, as well as steam inhalations. Boczkowski was a good manager and thought not only about the patients' treatment, but also made sure that their stay in Wieliczka was pleasant and interesting, ordering the town and establishing a park where patients, in accordance with the tradition of world-famous resorts, could relax to the music of an orchestra. In Wieliczka, naturally, it was the miners' orchestra. This splendid development of the Health Resort was interrupted by the turmoil of history, which did not spare Wieliczka, putting an end to Boczkowki's lofty plans.
His ideas were revived... only a century later, by Professor Mieczyslaw Skulimowski, who became in 1958 the official physician of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine and started regular treatment in the salt chambers, thereby initiating a new field of medicine - subterraneotherapy. It consists in exposing the patients to predetermined elements of the microclimate of salt excavations. After a period devoted to experimentation and the development of a unique therapeutic method, Poland's and the world's first underground health resort of its kind was created at the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine in 1964, which was then transformed into the "Kinga" Health Resort Hospital. The hospital enjoyed a growing fame, and gradually Skulimowski's creation started attracting patients not only from Poland, but also from around the world.
The traditions of treatment in Wieliczka were continued by the Underground Rehabilitation - Treatment Centre, created in 2003, and operated as a branch of the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine. Thanks to the passion and commitment of those creating the centre, a unique program of pulmonary rehabilitation using subterraneotherapy methods was created, included by Poland's Ministry of Health in the "guaranteed services" package. In 2011, by the decision of the Minister of Health, the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine achieved the status of an underground health resort. A year later, it was renamed the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine Health Resort.
The next pages of Health Resort history are still to be written. New development directions are determined on a grand scale and basing on the best practices of modern medicine. But it is the patients' needs which always determine the final direction of development!
About The Mine
The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is one of the most valuable monuments of material and spiritual culture in Poland. Each year it is visited by more than one million tourists from all over the world.
It is also a world class monument, featuring among twelve objects on the UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
Today, the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine combines many centuries of tradition and modernity, the history of several hundred years and an underground metropolis with extensive infrastructure.
The mine is a product of work of tens of generations of miners, a monument to the history of Poland and to the Polish nation – a brand, present in Polish consciousness for centuries.
Crumbs of Knowledge
As the Polish saying has it – to know somebody, you must eat a barrel of salt together and, after all, it is work that is the salt of life. Salt has been an inseparable companion of humankind, however, this sentence can be reversed. After all, it is so much older than the humankind itself. The salt in Wieliczka is nearly fourteen million years old. It falls in the category of Miocene salt-bearing series consisting of rock salt deposits and (to a significantly smaller degree) potassium-magnesium salts. They stretch along the arch of the Carpathians, starting in the area of Silesia to carry on as far as the Iron Gate region of Romania.
The Wieliczka salt deposit was formed over thousands of years as a result of multiple processes. It has a diversified and unique geological structure.
The deposit is formed of two different parts – the upper and the lower one. The upper block or lump deposit was formed as marly claystone and claystone with halite crystals (called zubry) with plugs of rock salt, known as green, located between them. The lower deposit consists of layers of rock salts alternating with interlayers of gangue – it is a bedded deposit.
To the south, the Wieliczka deposit borders with Carpathian flysh formations. Its northern limit and, partly, overburden consist of Machow formations (Chodenice layers). Subsalt rocks are Skawina formations (Skawina layers). The deposit is surrounded with the lagging of claystone and gypsum and covered with quaternary formations.
To the west, the Wieliczka deposit undergoes gradual transition into the Barycz deposit while in the east into the Sulkow deposit, tested only with boreholes.
The Health Resort
The "Wieliczka" Salt Mine offers treatment services in the underground mining chambers with the use of a unique micro-climate: an air free of pollution and allergens, rich in micronutrients, with a constant temperature, high humidity, and free from harmful radiation.
This innovative treatment method - subterranotherapy - was created right here and active rehabilitation of the respiratory system is still conducted at the mine, using the medicinal properties of the underground environment.
The activities of the Health Resort base on the best practices of modern medicine and are conducted in co-operation with the most eminent scientists. They are beneficial to patients suffering from asthma, COPD, recurrent infections of the upper and lower respiratory tract and allergies. Increasingly, also people who do not suffer health problems choose to rest in the depths of the earth to improve their fitness, attain psycho-physical balance, and regenerate the body.
It is worthwhile to visit the "Wieliczka" Salt Mine to take a deep healthy breath!
The Lake Wessel Chamber
The Lake Wessel treatment chamber, located on Level III of the Wieliczka mine, 135 underground, was excavated in the second half of the nineteenth century, and since 1909, it contains a salt lake, which is the main attraction of the chamber. The chamber was created as a result of exploiting a block of green salt. The Wessel Lake Chamber mass is composed of medium and coarse salt contaminated with a clayey substance.
The Lake Wessel Chamber offers 60 rehabilitation places located on the shore of the brine lake.
In the chamber, spaces have been set out for:
group breathing exercises,
patients' rest (tables and chairs)
repose (4 couches)
group general fitness exercises – a "gym" equipped with ladders, mirrors, benches, gymnastic mattresses
educational classes, complete with audio - video equipment
inhalation (3 inhalation stations)
storage of patients' personal belongings during stays (lockers) and
medical station with the medical - nursing duty office
The chamber is equipped with equipment for physical exercise: multigyms, ergometers, treadmills, and a stepper. Health Resort guests can also enjoy playing billiards or table tennis, and take walks or jog around the brine lake.