Indian black salt, also known as kala namak or sanchal, is a type of Indian volcanic rock salt commonly used in India, Pakistan and other Asian countries. The “black” salt is actually pinkish-grey due to the presence of iron and other minerals. Indian black salt has a very distinctive sulfurous taste, often compared to hard-boiled egg yolks. Its health benefits are numerous according to ayurvedic medicine, but the claims are largely anecdotal as no scientific research has been conducted on Indian black salt to date. Consult a naturopath or ayurvedic practitioner about the potential health benefits of Indian black salt.
Indian Black Salt
Indian black salt has been used as a condiment for many hundreds of years in Asian countries surrounding the Himalayan mountains. It was originally obtained from either natural volcanic mines in Northern India and Pakistan or the surrounding salt lakes of Sambhar or Didwana. Traditionally, the salt was processed with heat, charcoal and plant material, which yielded a dark crystal rich in sulfide compounds. The traditionally made salt is also high in iron and many other minerals. Modern manufacturing processes can make the salt synthetically, which looks similar to the traditional form, but it has less mineral content.
Indian black salt consists primarily of sodium chloride, which is the main component of table salt, and trace impurities that include sulfates, sulfides, iron and magnesium. The sodium chloride provides the salty taste, the iron sulfide provides its pinkish-grey color and the hydrogen sulfide provides its distinctive smell. Hydrogen sulfide is also one of the causes of rotten egg odor, although Indian black salt is often said to resemble the smell of boiled egg yolks.
Potential Health Benefits
Indian black salt is considered a cooling spice in ayurvedic medicine and is recommended for many health issues such as constipation, indigestion, heartburn, bloating, flatulence, goiter, poor eyesight and hysteria, according to the book “Herbs that Heal.” In India, black salt is sometimes recommended to people on low-salt diets due to hypertension because it’s believed to be lower in sodium content compared to regular table salt. Of course, the composition of Indian black salt varies quite a bit and depends mainly on whether it’s manufactured using traditional or modern techniques. Synthetically made black salt has a sodium content very near to regular table salt. Discuss your salt options with your doctor if you have high blood pressure.
Indian black salt is used extensively on Indian food, including chutneys, yogurts, pickles, salads and all kinds of fruits. It’s often appreciated by strict vegans because it mimics the taste of eggs in tofu and other vegetarian dishes. During the hot Indian summer months, it’s also sometimes used to flavor cool drinks, which is a practical way to replace sodium lost through excessive perspiration.
- Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition; Benjamin Caballero et al.
- Herbs that Heal: Prescription for Herbal Healing; Michael and Janet Weiner