What's Crystal Healing and Does it Work?

"I have a Shaman and an astrologer, and I also have a podiatrist, a GP, and an acupuncturist," says Melinda Lee Holm, a Tarot reader and one of Los Angeles' premier Crystal Energy Specialists. "Personally, my spiritual and metaphysical practice filled in the gaps that therapy couldn't. And I'll take antibiotics for an infection, but I'm also going to be sleeping with bloodstone and selenite under my pillow."

This is the new crystal healing. Once a prominent part of the New Age movement of the 1970s, crystal healing has wiggled its way into the mainstream—and online. There are over 600 thousand posts tagged on Instagram with #healingcrystals—for #crystalhealing, over 900 thousand.

raw crystals

Live Science defined crystal healing as "an alternative medical technique in which crystals and other stones are used to cure ailments and protect against disease." People can do this by wearing crystals, holding crystals, or being near them. But not everyone who uses crystals uses them in the same way. 

Amythest Crystals

"There are tons of ways people use crystals for healing," Jessica Miller, a crystal healer, told ATTN: via email. "You can wear them, meditate with them, place them on parts of the body to focus the energy (as in Reiki energy work). Some people sleep near them or place them (only certain ones, for safety reasons!) in drinking water. I personally wear them and meditate with them." In doing so, people may help to try to "cleanse auras" or simply make themselves feel better — however they define "feel better" for themselves.

Healing Crystals

Why do people believe crystal healing works?

"I believe that a combination of the physical properties of the gemstones, coupled with our own psychological expectations, is what makes them so effective," Miller offers. 

citrine crystal

Here's what research says about it.

"While there are no scientific studies on the efficacy of crystal healing, there is a study that suggests that crystal healing may induce a placebo effect in a patient who receives this type of treatment," Live Science reported. They pointed to Christopher French, founder of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at University of London.

rock crystal

The placebo effect is the phenomenon associated when people perceive that treatment works, regardless of whether the treatment actually does. An article from Harvard Medical School on April 30 expanded on the "power" of the placebo effect, writing, "your mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance." And it's more than simply thinking positively:

"'The placebo effect is more than positive thinking — believing a treatment or procedure will work. It's about creating a stronger connection between the brain and body and how they work together,' says Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, whose research focuses on the placebo effect."

They continue, emphasis ours:

"Placebos won't lower your cholesterol or shrink a tumor. Instead, they work on symptoms modulated by the brain, like the perception of pain. 'Placebos may make you feel better, but they will not cure you,' says Kaptchuk. 'They have been shown to be most effective for conditions like pain management, stress-related insomnia, and cancer treatment side effects like fatigue and nausea.'"

French conducted a study of 80 participants that asked them to meditate while holding a crystal — but half of them were holding fake ones. Still, they reported effects from holding the crystal even though it wasn't real quartz. As French told Live Science, "there is no evidence that crystal healing works over and above a placebo effect."

Crystal Fountains Shop

And as Miller points out, "psychological expectations" play into why people believe they are being healed from a stone. "In my personal experience, I do feel different after a meditation session with a gemstone," she says. "Many of my friends who also practice notate many of the same results. Depending on the goal, I may feel more relaxed, more positive, more open, more self-aware; I may feel energized, healed, introspective, loving, empowered... It depends on the stone."

And likely, on the attitude of the participant. If you believe in the power of crystals, you'll feel better. "Those seeking a crystal healer, however," Live Science warns, "should be careful not to forgo legitimate treatment for life-threatening disease." Basically, use crystals as a supplement — not as a cure — and not as your only treatment.