Specialized needles, below-freezing temperatures, salt air and other unconventional forms of therapies have made their mark in Austin’s alternative health care scene.

The practices, from cryotherapy to salt rooms, are hosted in specialty clinics throughout Austin. Services may require appointments, but some businesses accept walk-in visits.

Alternative health and Austin go hand in hand, said Jim Donnelly, owner of Restore Cryotherapy, a cryotherapy clinic in Southwest Austin that opened in June 2015.

Gayl Hubatch, owner of holistic- living and Chinese medicine clinic Blue Heron Center in Lakeway, said she has practiced since 1994.

“I started [Blue Heron Center] in Lakeway, and honestly I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stay. But the community has really opened their doors, and I have seemed to fit a need here,” Hubatch said. “Because Austin is progressive, people are healthy or want to be healthy, are interested in natural medicine, and Chinese medicine is a natural medicine.”


This form of therapy includes stepping into a chamber that emits nitrogen at minus 148 degrees Celsius onto one’s bare skin for three minutes, moving blood away from extremities to the body core.

After the three-minute session, oxygen-and-nutrient-rich blood rushes throughout the whole body, potentially providing pain relief.

Southwest Austin’s Restore Cryotherapy, in the Shops at Arbor Trails, now has the ability to apply cryotherapy on specific body parts. Localized cryotherapy machines allow pain reduction in specific areas, Donnelly said.


Because many Austinites experience allergies, rooms lined with salt from ceiling to floor have been built in the area may help alleviate symptoms.

At Austin Salt Cave in Lakeway, customers wear protective foot coverings and breathe inside a 500-square-foot salt-lined room for 45 minutes. Inside the room, pink Himalayan salt covers the floor and walls, salt lamps light the room and salt air is pumped into the room, said Jack Cramer, owner of Austin Salt Cave.

“The tiny salt particles are wonderful for myriad respiratory conditions,” Cramer said.


Acupuncture, the practice of inserting sterilized needles into the skin at various energy points, originated in China, Hubatch said.

“Acupuncture stimulates energy in the body,” Hubatch said. “It helps the body heal itself.”

For children, Hubatch uses acupressure. Similar to acupressure’s focus on specific energy points, therapist’s fingers are used instead of needles. People who do not like needles may also use acupressure instead.

The practices may help with physical and neurological disorders, she said.

Chinese medicine

Blue Heron Center also specializes in Chinese medicine made from herbs.

“Chinese herbal medicine is the most sophisticated herbal medicine in the world,” Hubatch said. “It’s just amazing how long-standing and effective Chinese herbs can be.”

The medicine can be used for diet cleanses, allergies or inflammation, Hubatch said. One example is a green powder to be used as a breakfast shake. Blue Heron Center also carries medicine in tablet form.

Hubatch will ask a customer what his or her symptoms are; then she will choose the right medicine, she said.

View a map of local health care providers