By Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience Contributor | October 10, 2013 05:37pm ET
Crystal healing is an alternative medicine technique that employs crystals and other stones as conduits for natural healing energy. The stones are said to channel positive energy into the body to cure or protect against disease while removing negative energy.
Crystal healing philosophy taps into the traditional Asian concepts of life-energy (chi or qi) and chakras, which are vortices of this life-energy said to connect the physical and supernatural elements of the body. Yet because crystal healing so often is incorporated into the practice of astrology, soothsaying and modern witchcraft, as well as the belief in reincarnation, intelligent extraterrestrial life and the lost city of Atlantis, even ardent proponents of alternative medicine tend to dismiss it as a useless therapy, if not ludicrous.
No studies have ever demonstrated any therapeutic value for crystal healing. At a purely scientific level, there is no evidence that disease is caused by poor cosmic energy flow — positive or negative — or that crystals and gems can be differentiated by chemical composition or color to treat a particular ailment.
Nevertheless, healing crystals remain popular at health spas and at New Age health clinics, often incorporated into related practices of massage and Reiki. Healing crystals may help induce relaxation, although this would have nothing to do with the physical (or spiritual) properties of the stones used but rather the relaxed atmosphere in which a crystal healer works.
Patients should note that crystal healing is tied intrinsically to the occult. That is, the stones used are not said to be beneficial because of the chemicals they contain — phosphate, copper, silicates, etc. — but rather because they are conduits for a supernatural healing force.
Rarely is crystal healing used to treat any serious disease; even so-called certified crystal healers would be barred by law to practice medicine without a license.
How it’s supposed to work
Crystal healing proponents assert that crystals and gemstones — largely by virtue of their color, shape, and texture — have properties that facilitate healing. Often these properties are referred to as spiritual or magical energy. More recently, some crystal healers have used the term vibrational energy, incorporating a concept of quantum mechanics, although incorrectly.
In short, crystals and stones are said to mediate a type of life-energy called qi, which according to some tenets of traditional Eastern philosophy is an unseen healing force that pervades the universe. That said, crystal healing as practiced today is largely a modern Western alternative medicine practice.
Crystals and stones are assigned various properties, albeit not universally agreed upon by crystal healers. Amethyst is said to be beneficial for the intestines; green aventurine helps the heart; yellow topaz provides mental clarity. Colors red through violet are associated with seven chakra points on the body.
A crystal healer may place various stones or crystals on your body aligned with these chakra points, roughly in the regions above the head, on the forehead, on the throat, on the chest, on the stomach, on the gut, and on the genital area. The stones used and their positioning may be chosen for the symptoms reported by the patient. This is all influenced by the healer’s knowledge of, and belief in, the chakra philosophy of disease and energy imbalances — a concept largely dismissed by practitioners of modern medicine.
Crystal healing also involves the use of amulets, that is, crystals and stones worn on the body or placed under pillows to ward off sickness, to shed negative energy, and to absorb positive energy.
Crystal healers become healers by passing a certification course, often offered over the Internet from unaccredited “natural medicine” universities or clinics. Some accredited health organizations also offer crystal healing certification. Although the doctrines of crystal healing imply the ability to cure life-threatening and chronic diseases, such as cancer, a certified crystal healer in the United States would have no more legal authority to treat medical conditions than, say, a massage therapist.
Crystal healing, more so than most elements of complementary and alternative medicine, is based on a system of beliefs in the supernatural — that is, the mysterious and the unexplainable — and proponents are not easily dissuaded.
Proponents often express disgust or frustration with modern medicine, despite its success in raising the quality of life for billions of people, through the development of vaccines, for example, which save millions of lives per year. Proponents also state that much of what we know of the physical world today would seem magical to humans 200 years ago and that chakras and life-energy fields are merely beyond the limits of our detection.
Crystal healing itself is an unregulated practice, and crystal healers need not demonstrate any knowledge of basic biology to receive certification.
Some medical doctors tolerate crystal healing to a limited degree, seeing it as a therapy that can induce relaxation, which ultimately is therapeutic for stress management. Those seeking a crystal healer, however, should be careful not to forgo legitimate treatment for life-threatening disease.