Crystal healing is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine technique that uses semiprecious stones and crystals such as quartz, amethyst or opals. Adherents of the technique claim that these have healing powers, although there is no scientific basis for this claim.
In one method, the practitioner places crystals on different parts of the body, often corresponding to chakras; or else the practitioner places crystals around the body in an attempt to construct an energy grid, which is purported to surround the client with healing energy. Despite this, scientific investigations have not validated claims that these “energy grids” actually exist, nor is there any evidence that crystal healing has any greater effect upon the body than any other placebo; for these reasons it is a pseudoscience.
When the practice is popular, it creates commercial demand for crystals, which results in environmental damage and exploitative child labor to mine the crystals.
Precious stones have been thought of as objects that can aid in healing — in a practice known as lapidary medicine — by a variety of cultures. The Hopi Native Americans of Arizona use quartz crystals to assist in diagnosing illnesses. Both Pliny the Elder and Galen claimed that certain crystals had medicinal properties. In Europe, the belief in the healing powers of crystals (and in particular crystal amulets) persisted in to the Middle Ages. The alleged medicinal properties of precious stones, as well as other powers they were believed to hold, were collected in texts known as Lapidaries, which remained popular in Medieval and Early Modern Europe until the 17th century.
In the English-speaking world, crystal healing is heavily associated with the New Age spiritual movement: “the middle-class New Age healing activity par excellence”. In contrast with other forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), participants in crystal healing view the practice as “individuated”, i.e., dependent on extreme personalization and creative expression. Practitioners of crystal healing purport that certain physical properties—e.g., shape, color, and markings—determine the ailments that a stone can heal; lists of such links are published in commonly distributed texts. Paradoxically, practitioners also “hold the view that crystals have no intrinsic qualities but that, instead, their quality changes according to both” participants. After selecting the stones by color or their believed metaphysical qualities, they place them on parts of the body. Color selection and placement of stones are done according to concepts of grounding, chakras, or energy grids.
There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence that crystal healing has any effect; it is considered a pseudoscience. Alleged successes of crystal healing can be attributed to the placebo effect. Furthermore, there is no scientific basis for the concepts of chakras, being “blocked”, energy grids requiring grounding, or other such terms; they are widely understood to be nothing more than terms used by adherents to lend credibility to their practices. Energy, as a scientific term, is a very well-defined concept that is readily measurable and bears little resemblance to the esoteric concept of energy used by proponents of crystal healing.
In 1999, researchers French and Williams conducted a study to investigate the power of crystals compared with a placebo. Eighty volunteers were asked to meditate with either a quartz crystal, or a placebo stone which was indistinguishable from quartz. Many of the participants reported feeling typical “crystal effects”; however, this was irrespective of whether the crystals were real or placebo. In 2001 Christopher French, head of the anomalistic psychology research unit at the University of London and colleagues from Goldsmiths College outlined their study of crystal healing at the British Psychological Society Centenary Annual Conference, concluding: “There is no evidence that crystal healing works over and above a placebo effect.”
Crystal healing effects could also be attributed to cognitive bias (which occurs when the believers want the practice to be true and see only things that back up that desire).
Crystal healing techniques are also practiced on animals, although some veterinary organizations, such as the British Veterinary Association, have warned that these methods are not scientifically proven and state that people should seek the advice of a vet before using alternative techniques.
Sales and industry
Worldwide, retail sales of crystals amount to more than one billion US dollars per year.
India, China, Brazil, and Madagascar are the main producers of crystals. In Madagascar, one of the sources of crystals, most crystals are mined in unsafe, non-industrial or “homemade” mines, with parents and children working together to dig crystals from pits and tunnels they dig with shovels.
The miners are usually paid between 17 and 23 cents per kilogram for rose quartz (less than a penny per ounce). The miner’s income may be just 0.1% of the final retail price. Some people in the industry say that the low pay for miners is because customers in developed countries want low retail prices; others say that it is due to shops in developed countries wanting to be more profitable.