There is much controversy about who, when, and where salt originated in history. Still, it is generally agreed upon that salt was used long before the beginning of recorded time. It has played an important and integral part in the world’s history, interwoven into countless civilizations as religious offerings, currency, food preservatives, medicine, and religious ceremonies.
Salt was first documented in China around 2700BC in what is considered the first treatises on pharmacology and was seen in Egyptian artifacts around 145oBC. The Morton Salt Company states that the first written reference to salt was found in the book of job around 2250 BC, with 31 other references in the bible. It is believed the Phoenicians (300-1500BC) proved to be masters in the extraction and trading of salt, but it was the Romans (31-476BC) who truly exploited the processing of salt and subsequent trade in a worldwide network.
As one of the first exchange commodities, the first “salt routes” were established, allowing merchants to transport and sell it to countries where it was not produced, and in turn, it gave rise to new cities and the construction of roads. Such is the case of Salzburg, Austria, which literally is defined as the “city of salt,” and Salaria, which is “the road of salt” in Italy.
The first documented salt production in the new world was by the Onondaga Indians in New York state around 1650, but it is believed that Native Americans had been producing salt for over 500 years. During this time, salt was produced by boiling brine from salt springs, and this method was used extensively during the times of the American constitution and the civil war.
The American revolution was controlled by the British, who gave the first patent for salt production to Samuel Winslow of the Massachusetts Bay Company with the understanding that they were not to supply salt to the American rebels. After the revolution, the land act of 1795 included a provision to prevent monopolies like this.
Around 1800 the drilling method was considered the most efficient, but in more modern times, there are three basic methods to harvest salt. The first is conventional shaft mining or solid rock salt; the second method is solution mining, where water is pumped underground, dissolving solid salt and then pumping out the salty brine, which is then crystallized. The third method extracts salt from oceans and saline lakes and then uses evaporation and the solar process.
In 1825 the famed Erie Canal opened, referred to as "the ditch that salt built," and solved many transportation obstacles at the time. In 1864 salt played an important role in the Civil War when Union forces fought a 36-hour battle to capture Saltville, Virginia, the site of a salt processing plant essential to sustaining the South's armies.
In 1807 Humphrey Davy separated salt into its constituent parts of sodium and chloride (NaCl), which did not have much importance at the time. Still, his achievement has become the bedrock of many industries and products, including hydrochloric acid (used to make PVC), chlorinated hydrocarbons (used in dry cleaning and bleaching powders and making water safe), sodium carbonate (used in water softening), sodium sulfate (used in washing powders and baking soda), sodium phosphate (used by bakers to lighten and soften bread & cakes), and sodium hydroxide (used in the pulping of wood for making paper).
In the1900, the Morton salt company came into existence and made it a very recognizable name in American commerce. Today the U.S. and China dominate the world's salt production, with 40% of the world's quarter billion tons of salt produced each year, and the largest use of salt today is for highway safety during the icy winter.
There are many beliefs, religious customs, myths, and magical rites throughout history involving salt. Many Europeans believe if you through a handful of salt into a coffin before burial, it will keep the devil away, and Buddhists believe that throwing salt over the shoulder before entering your house after a funeral scares off evil spirits. On the Sabbath, the Jews use salt to remember sacrifices, and before Vatican II, the Catholic Church placed salt on a baby's lip at his or her baptism for purity.
In India, salt is a symbol of good luck, referring to Mahatma Gandhi's liberation of India and symbolic walk to the sea to gather tax-free salt for the nation's poor in 1933, the Dalai Lama was buried sitting up in a bed of salt for eternal purity.
The Bible has more than 30 references to salt, including the well-known expression "salt of the earth,” which refers not to being corrupted by sin, and the expression "not worth his salt" stems from the practice of trading slaves for salt in ancient Greece.
As a portable commodity, salt has long been a cornerstone of economies throughout history, and researcher M.R. Bloch believed that civilization began along the edges of the desert where natural salt deposits were found. The first war was fought near the ancient city of Essalt on the Jordan River because of the city's precious salt supplies.
In 2200 BC, the Chinese emperor Hsia Yu levied one of the first known taxes on salt, and the Romans used salt as salary for their army, which was known as "salarium argentum" and was the forerunner of the English word "salary." In Tibet, Marco Polo noted that tiny cakes of salt were pressed with images of the Grand Khan and used as coins, and in France, Charles of Anjou levied the Gabelle salt tax in 1259, which financed the French Revolution.
Used in Ayurvedic medicine as a heart tonic, anti-diabetic, and for bone health by an iodine deficiency. Salt intake reduced the risk of heart attacks, stroke, or death, and in 2014 the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) cited similar findings. The WebMD suggests 2400mg daily, and excessive use can lead to high blood pressure.
It should be noted that the American Heart Association (AHA) still recommends a low-salt diet of 1000mg/day for optimal cardiovascular health. However, there is not a lot of science backing this up. In 2011 the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that lowering salt intake reduced the risk of heart attacks, stroke, or death. In 2014, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) cited similar findings. The WebMD suggests 2400mg daily, and excessive use can lead to high blood pressure.
Here are the kinds of salts most available:
Table salt is refined with most minerals removed, available in plain or iodized. It was introduced in the 1920s in cooperation with the government after many Americans were found to be suffering from goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland) caused by an iodine deficiency.
Kosher salt is a coarse salt which contain no additives, and Kosher refers to use of this salt to draw out as much blood from meat as possible before the cooking process in the Judaism.
Himalayan Pink salt is mined in the Punjab region of Pakistan and is considered one of the purest forms of salt containing 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. Used in Ayurvedic medicine as a heart tonic, anti-diabetic and for bone health.
Himalayan Black salt is actually more purple and redder than black and its formal name, kala manak, translates to “black salt.” The color comes from the mineral greigite, and its pungent smell comes from its sulfur content.
Persian Blue Diamond salt is from the salt mines in the Semman province of ancient Persia (now Iran) and has flecks of blue from its mineral content.
Rock salt is less refined and grayish in color and is used as a bed for ice beds for oysters, in ice cream machines and to incrust foods (meats, fish and poultry) for roasted and baking purposes.
Redmond salt is from a prehistoric salt deposit in Redmond, Utah and is an unrefined and natural salt free from any additives or any kind and Its unique pink appearance and specks of color originate from over 60 natural trace minerals.
The Salts of Ayurveda Medicine
Saindhava Lavana, also known as Himalayan salt coming from the Punjab region of Pakistan and similar to Redmond salt in Utah, best suited for pitta because of its cooling energetics.
Samudra Lavana is sea salt which is heating in nature and should be used sparingly. It is purgative, alleviates colic and aids digestion. Best suited for Kapha dosha and imbalance
Vida Lavana has a slight alkalinity taste and is believed to be infused with Amalaki or by burning wood, mud, or dung in brick kilns. Best suited for Vata and Pitta doshas.
Sauvarchala Lavana is black sulfurous salt, heating, light, and pungent in nature. Detoxificant, heart tonic, and digestive and is beneficial for colic and good for Kapha imbalances.
Romaka Lavana is harvested in Rajasthan and is intensely heating and sharp salt. Pungent and light, it calms and moistens vata and benefits kapha as a purgative and diuretic.
Audbhida Lavana is an extremely heating and sharp alkaline salt that can have a burning, penetrating, and corrosive action, relieving indigestion and ama.
Sea & Ponds Salts
Sea salts comes from evaporated sea waters and can be found either fine or coarsely ground, and is nutritionally superior because it naturally contains trace minerals.
Italian Sea Salt originates from a saline spring in Epsom, England, with a natural balance of magnesium and sulfate (MgSO4). It is a natural anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, liver and gallbladder detoxicant, purgative, balances blood pressure, and relieves stress—very mild salt flavor.
Kona Deep Water salt is brought up from depths of about 2,200 feet off the Hawaiian coastline and is then evaporated in the sun and has salt has only 78 percent sodium.
Alaska Flake sea salt is harvested directly from the seawater around Sitka, Alaska and has a nice, clear, brittle flakey nature.
Fleur de Sel “Flower of Salt” comes from the Guérande region of France, and is made up of crystals that form naturally on the surface of salt evaporation ponds.
Celtic salt is harvested via a 2,000-year-old method of solar evaporation with less sodium chloride and comes from the Celtic Sea marshes in Brittany, France and is referred to as Sel Gris.
Hawaiian Black Lava salt comes from sea water that evaporates in pools on hardened lava flows, and then is mixed with activated volcanic charcoal and is considered a detoxicant.
Hawaiian Alaea red salt is made from standard Hawaiian sea salt combined with the red volcanic clay Alaea, which is said to have detoxifying properties and is lower in sodium content.
Cyprus Black Lava salt hails from the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea and are large pyramid-shaped crystals are formed during natural solar evaporation. They are mixed with activated charcoal and look like actual pieces of charcoal with a very mild salt flavor.
Korean Sogeum salt is used for making kimchi, this salt is solar evaporated on a small island off the coast of Korea and looks like little blocks.
New Zealand Lake Grassmere salt is harvested from the ocean and brought to the ponds near Lake Grassmere; at the end of summer, the salt crust is lifted from the bottom of the ponds.
Mexican Sal de Gusano is dried worm larvae that is toasted and ground with rock salt and chili peppers to make this traditional smoky seasoning.
Antarctic Sea salt is carried up the west coast of Africa by the Benguela current, then passes through an underground aquifer on its way to being dried under the severe African sun.
Epsom salt originates from a saline spring in Epsom, England, with a natural balance of magnesium and sulfate (MgSO4). It is a natural anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, liver and gallbladder detoxicant, purgative, balances blood pressure and relieves stress.
Coarse/Grinder salt is large-grained salt crystals mostly used in grinders with less moisture and resist caking. Used for pretzels and corn on the cob because it does not melt.
It should be noted that the American Heart Association (AHA) still recommends a low-salt diet of 1000mg/day for optimal cardiovascular health. However, there is not a lot of science backing this up. In 2011 the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that lowering salt intake reduced the risk of heart attacks, stroke, or death. In 2014 the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) cited similar findings. The WebMD suggests 2400mg daily, and excessive use can lead to high blood pressure.
Pickling salt is used for pickling and brining foods and does not contain any added iodine, anti-caking agents, or many trace minerals that cause discoloration.
Sour salt “citric acid” is not a salt but is extracted from citrus and other acidic fruits such as lemons and oranges and used as an alternative seasoning.
Smoked salts are naturally smoked over wood fires without additives or flavorings.
Flavored salts, such as Truffle, Red Thai Chile, and Chipotle, are found with natural and unnatural flavoring methods.
Finishing salts are considered specialty salts with a unique texture of crystals with a strong crunch and quickly dissolving. Examples of this salt are Flake types like Fleur de Sel.