Ashland has a salt cave on Main Street, walled up with Himalayan salt bricks, a place where you can go and sit, meditate, lay down or just read a book, subject yourself to an infusion of “negative ions,” which are thought to lift spirits, dispel stress and wash out toxins that we accumulate in our busy, unhealthy lives.

It’s called Zagorska Oasis and, to celebrate one year in business and to offer relief from our siege of toxin-rich smoke, owner Michele Zagorski is offering locals free sessions, including herbal neck wrap and sound therapy, normally $30 per half-hour. The offer goes for the duration of our fire-smoke episode, then will go to just Tuesdays, as toxic smoke symptoms take time to dissipate.

You are also welcome to bring your children or grandchildren and there are coloring books for them to play with. It’s a peaceful, dry room and you wear your regular clothes. Salt bricks cover windows, presenting a lovely pink-orange play of colors. Fans circulate the negative ions for you to breathe.

Zagorski is a Purdue-educated engineer who discovered she wasn’t that crazy about engineering and, 20 years ago, wanted to settle in Ashland with husband, Jacek, and raise their two children. She started out by making organic, natural skin care products — tinctures, oils, extracts and botanicals — which are offered in her apothecary.

It’s not a "one-size-fits-all" spa. She and her staff evaluate each patient as to what kind of massage, facial, waxing and salt treatment is right for them, she says. Her ingredients are certified by EcoCert.

The salt-cave idea originated in Poland (where her husband is from), where salt miners were found to have amazing health and longevity, she explains, and even made magnificent sculptures and cathedrals out of the very hard salt. Why?

“Well, negative ions are really good for us. They’re great for Seasonal Affective Disorder. They make you feel really good. They help with asthma and allergies. They do what forests and waterfalls do for us.”

Nasty positive ions are all around us, she says, in air conditioning, our many screens and our stresses and we get grouchy and depressed. With smoke, it’s worse, as we get small particles in our lungs and they can’t get out. Our bodies are working hard to get them out.

“In the salt cave there’s a high concentration of negative ions and they have wonderfully positive effects on our mind and body. A lot of people are really refreshed from it. A lot of people brought in kids who’ve had headaches, coughs and other symptoms from smoke and it helps a lot.”

Hours are 10 to to 6, Monday through Saturday. Walk-ins are OK. Call and check for space on the free offer, as it can get crowded. The limit is eight. The spa is at 111 East Main St., to the left of Paddington Station. It’s downstairs.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at