Intriguing Salt Option

By Marc Braman, MD, MPH
salt course in hand 

Take Home:

A non-standard "salt" preparation has interesting anecdotes for not producing some of the negative effects of "standard" salt.  However, the science is extremely limited and we can't make any general recommendations at this time.

Works For Mom

For over 10 years I have known that my mother, in her 70s now, has used a product called BioSalt.  She uses it because it doesn't produce the edema (leg swelling) that regular salt does for her.  I called her to see if she was still using it.  "Oh, absolutely!" she replied.  "I don't use anything but my special salt."
She went on to tell me a little more history than I had previously known.  Even when she was a teenager she had problems with symptoms in her legs.  A doctor at one point told her she would have to lie down and elevate her legs for 15 minutes out of every hour for the rest of her life.  Regular salt not only produced edema, but she also had intense itching.  She would scratch her legs until they bled.  Many years later she discovered BioSalt.  She says all of her problems and symptoms associated with salt continue to be gone as long as she uses this kind -- no swelling, no itching, no discomfort.  She says she can use as much as she wants and doesn't have to worry about quantity (what Mom said, not what I am recommending).  She had trouble for a while getting "BioSalt" and has therefore been using a very, very similar product (we compared ingredient lists) and has still been getting good results.


A web search quickly got me to the website for "BioSalt" -- a super simple, plain-Jane site with the barest of basics.  I went to the ingredient information but found it really didn't tell me anything at all about proportions of ingredients.  Even natural sea salt is about 99% sodium chloride -- same as regular salt -- so we really need specific details.  So I called and immediately spoke with Mildred Packard herself.  She told me she had turned 90 years old earlier this year.  I asked about the ingredients and she told me it was a "closely guarded formula" -- she wouldn't tell me much of anything about the ingredients, except that they were blended in a special way for them in what indirectly sounded like a lab or manufacturing facility.
I told Mildred about my mother's experience with BioSalt and she said that was pretty typical.  She said she has heard many stories about health benefits and apparently people still wanting to continue using it -- some for taste issues and some for health issues.

The Story 

She said the formula came from work done by a doctor in England many decades ago.  The story is that this doctor figured out the mineral balance of human plasma (the liquid part of human blood) and made a salt preparation to mimic it.  I asked how it compared to sea salt.  She said that research purportedly had shown that sea salt was good for ocean animals but land-based animals had a somewhat different makeup of their blood and needed a mix a bit different.  I asked for any scientific references, books, or other resources she might be able to direct me to to verify these things scientifically.  She could not provide anything except that it was a "Dr. Gilbert" in England who had done the original work.
To me it felt a lot like a classic "legend" story that many concepts and systems and books in the "natural" health world seem to be built on.  Even so there may be some useful reality here -- legend or not.
She was careful not to make any medical claims and specifically stated that she didn't intend to diagnosis or treat anything.  She said she just tells people to try it for themselves and use it if it works for them. 
They used to buy it from a source in England.  Companies bought out companies many times over and somehow they now produce it fairly directly.  My mother says she has been paying $16 a pound for similar salt product with the word "balance" in the name.  On Mildred's website a pound is $3.95 -- though you do have shipping also.


The implications are actually huge here.  If many of the negative effects of salt can be avoided with a more "whole" or "natural" salt, it would be a big deal.  If you could "treat" some conditions, such as some kinds of edema, with one of these salts, it would be a real breakthrough.
Next week we will look at one of the most popular "sea salts" and see how much reality we can muster.  Thus far I'm very nervous about the "eat as much as you want because it's natural" concept.  Some people with serious cardiovascular issues could "go down the tubes" if they really jumped on this and it isn't true.
PS - Mildred talked me into ordering some BioSalt to try for myself.  I've consumed it periodically with my mother for years, but never really paid attention.  I'll pay attention now.
PPS - I have no financial interest in BioSalt or its sales -- just for the record.

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Written 7/16/12.