A Brief History of Salt

by | May 2023

Midsection of woman sprinkling salt in flour before mixing. Female is preparing sourdough bread on marble counter. She is in kitchen.


If the historical significance of a food can be measured, then the significance of salt is virtually unrivaled.

Ancient civilization evolved around salt. Long before purposely constructed roadways were built, “salt roads” formed overland routes by which salt-rich provinces supplied salt-starved ones. Salt was a means of preserving food, disinfecting wounds and keeping soldiers hydrated during battle, making it a cherished treasure to ancient societies.

Being so valuable, soldiers in the Roman army were sometimes paid with salt instead of money. When soldiers were given their monthly allowance, it was called “salarium,” which is where the English word “salary” originated. At one point in history, the demand for this white crystalline substance was so high that it was traded ounce for ounce with gold.

To put this into context, the current monetary value of salt is 8 to 80 cents per ounce, while gold sells for more than $1,850 per ounce. But is the low cost of salt today an accurate indicator of its true value? Surely not.

Next to clean air and water, salt is one of the most invaluable substances on the planet. Many physiological mechanisms require sodium to function. It’s needed to transmit nerve impulses, contract and relax muscle fibers (including those in the heart and blood vessels) and maintain proper hydration and fluid balance.

The life-saving fluids delivered during intravenous (IV) therapy are a combination of sodium chloride (salt) and sterile water. The fluids rehydrate the body and the sodium chloride provides electrolytes.

Salt consumption remains a controversial subject in the field of nutritional sciences, but undoubtedly plays a vital role in sustaining life. Take that with a grain of salt.

Contributed by Timothy Borowski, M.S., a natural healthcare professional and the founder of Axon Movement, located at Statera Health in Edina. You can find him at @axon_movement on Instagram.


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