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Education

A brief history of salt

By August 9, 2010 5 Comments

Salt has become an inexpensive and readily available commodity that most of us take for granted. But in older times salt was heavily taxed and wars were fought over it. In some ancient civilizations, salt was in such high demand that it was actually minted into coins to serve as the basic currency.

Where salt was scarce, it became as valuable as gold. As the Roman stateman Cassiodorus observed, “Some seek not gold, but there lives not a man who does not need salt.” Salt was traded ounce-per-ounce with gold – if that were still the case we’d have to pay $300-$400 per ounce of salt!

Because everyone, rich and poor, craves salt, rulers going back at least as far as the Chinese emperor Yu in 2200 B.C. have tried mightily to control and tax it. Salt taxes helped finance empires throughout Europe and Asia, but also inspired a lively black market, smuggling rings, riots, and even revolutions.

Chemically Speaking

Pure salt consists of the elements sodium and chlorine. Its chemical name is sodium chloride and its formula is NaCl. Its mineral name is halite.

Table salt is a chemically simple combination of two components, sodium and chlorine. The basic components of salt are, by themselves, potentially dangerous. Sodium will ignite immediately if it comes into contact with water, and chlorine is poisonous if ingested. In combination, though, the two elements form sodium chloride, commonly known as salt.

The Human Side of Salt

In the body, salt is as important to humans as water or air, in fact each of us contain from four to eight ounces of salt. Salt helps maintain the normal volume of blood in the body and also helps keep the correct balance of water in and around the cells and tissues. It is also necessary for the formation and proper function of nerve fibers, which carry impulses to and from the brain, and plays an important part in the digestion of food and is essential in making the heart beat correctly.

The sodium found in salt is an essential nutrient. Sodium, together with calcium, magnesium and potassium, helps regulate the body’s metabolism. In combination with potassium, it regulates the acid-alkaline balance in our blood and is also necessary for proper muscle functioning. When we don’t get enough sodium chloride, we experience muscle cramps, dizziness, exhaustion and, in extreme cases, convulsions and death. Salt is essential to our well being.

For years, many researchers have claimed that salt threatens public health, mostly by contributing to high blood pressure. Recently, though, other researchers have begun to change salt’s reputation. A recent review of salt studies conducted over the past two decades concluded that there’s no reason for doctors to recommend reducing sodium intake for people with normal blood pressure. It may be that most of us are protected from excessive salt by our kidneys, which regulate the body’s sodium level and eliminate any excess.

Salt as a Healing Agent

Salt cures aren’t new. In the early 19th Century, sick people traveled to rudimentary spas such as French Lick Springs in Indiana and Big Bone Lick, Kentucky, to soak in salt springs. Today’s more luxurious spas offer salt baths, glows, rubs and polishes to exfoliate dead skin, stimulate circulation and relieve stress.

The Source of Salt

All salts come from a sea, but not all salts come from the oceans we know today. The oceans that once covered the earth left a generous supply of salt beds and underground deposits which provide pure salt unpolluted by modern mankind. Crystaline salt deposits are found on every continent, from oceans that contained an estimated four-and-a-half million cubic miles of salt.

There are two basic methods for removing salt from the ground: room-and-pillar mining and solution mining. In room-and-pillar mining, shafts are sunk into the ground, and miners break up the rock salt with drills. The miners remove chunks of salt, creating huge rooms that are separated by pillars of salt. The room-and-pillar method requires that about half the salt be left behind as pillars. In solution mining, a well is drilled into the ground, and two pipes are lowered into the hole. The pipes consist of a small central pipe inside a larger pipe. The brine is either shipped as a liquid or evaporated in special devices called vacuum pans to form solid salt.

Salt’s Many Uses

Only about five percent of the world’s annual salt production ends up as seasoning at the dinner table. The vast majority pours into chemical plants, where it leads the five major raw materials utilized by industry: salt, sulfur, limestone, coal and petroleum.

Salt pickles cucumbers, helps pack meat, can vegetables, cure leather, make glass, bread, butter, cheese, rubber and wood pulp. Salt has some 14,000 uses, more than any other mineral.

Salt is essential. In humans, it is a basic component of taste, along with sweet, sour and bitter.

During the lifetime of the average American, he or she will use:

  • 750 pounds of zinc
  • 800 pounds of lead
  • 1,500 pounds of copper
  • 3,600 pounds of aluminum
  • 26,000 pounds of clay
  • 28,000 pounds of salt
  • 33,000 pounds of iron
  • 365,000 pounds of coal
  • 1,240,000 pounds of sand, gravel and cement

In Your Kitchen

In cooking, salt acts as more than seasoning, pulling flavors together and accenting them. As a dry crystal, it preserves meat and fish by drawing out the moisture. It also acts as a meat tenderizer. It can be employed in a dough that is wrapped around meat or fish and turns into a flavor-sealing crust as it bakes.

Not all salt is the same. The ordinary table salt that most of us eat is too refined; it lacks the minerals we need. Also, yellow prussiate of soda and other additives and preservatives are added to prevent caking, dextrose is even added to improve flavor. About half of all table salt is supplemented with potassium iodide, which wards off goiter. RealSalt contains 50 natural occurring trace minerals like calcium, potassium, sulphur, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iodine and zinc.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Terry Fischer says:

    Thank you for all this information. I love salt. I’ve tried several kinds of salt and am settling on Real Salt. I like that it’s mined rather than recovered from the surface. When I read about surface drying all I can think of is the occasional low flying bird doing what comes naturally. Then there is the sea salt that is recovered from current oceans today. Nuff said. The other salt while good is from halfway around the world. I like the idea of buying locally. I figure anywhere in the US is buying locally for me. Plus Real Salt is very tasty. As I sit here enjoying your wonderful website I have about 1/5 of a teaspoon of real salt in a little dish that I am enjoying a few crystals at a time. Better than candy! I like the little crunchees too. It is a delicious way to get some minerals. Thank you for providing this wonderful salt.

  • Trifecta says:

    I recently became aware of the value and importance of real salt, via the http://www.watercure2.org.
    I bought some at my local health food store and it’s good. I’m now back on salt after been off it for years because of bad health information.

    Continued Success

  • Thank you for this info..who knew simple as we see it…salt could be so interesting!! I was experiencing a lot of nausea, headaches..low energy..and my doctor told me with my low blood pressure, I had to increase my salt…a friend had mentioned Celtic salt..I was blown away with all this info!!! I prefer Real slat being from ancient, unpolluted by modern man deposits …
    I wanted to increase the salt in my diet with a healthy alternative…since I had eliminated salt from my diet because of everything I had heard about salt being bad for your health…….not eating salt was actually was bad for me becasue of my low blood pressure!! goes to show what is good for you isnt necessarity good for me!! I was experiencing symptoms of dehydration, even though I was drinking tons of water, I had to salt to retain it in my body!!
    I’m going to be hooked on REAL SALT now !!!

    Thanks again for all the info!!

  • Suzanne says:

    Returning to salt also! Believe it or not I have high blood pressure, but my doc told me my salt was too low and I needed more. After reading about the water cure WITH salt and Dr. B saying not having enough salt could also cause high blood pressure, it all seemed to click. I have a healthy diet, am not overweight and no other medical issues more salt made sense to me. The crazy thing is just like Janice I drank tons of water but it would just go thru me, I never seemed to retain it. Now I know why! I feel much more hydrated now that I’ve added salt to my water and back into my food and life!

    Viva Salt!

  • VideoPortal says:

    A substance needed by all humans for good health, even survival, would make a good tax generator. Everyone had to buy it, and so everyone would support the state through salt taxes, he wrote.

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