The Woo of Crystal ‘Therapy’

The Woo of Crystal ‘Therapy’ October 15, 2013

One of the ways you can be quite certain that you’re dealing with some serious weapons-grade bullshit when it comes to medicine is when you hear phrases like “positive energy” and “restoring balance.” Christopher Wanjek takes a skeptical look at one of those “healing” techniques that utilizes such meaningless twaddle, crystal therapy.

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…

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…

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.

Because it’s total nonsense.

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  • Anthony K

    Wait—even Swarovski crystals? Is retail therapy not a thing?

  • Karen Locke

    I beg to differ. A session looking at crystals in thin section under a geologic microscope is very good at restoring positive energy. Especially when you occasionally scream “Come look at this!” and your poor, busy professor indulges you and comes to take a look. Bless that professor!

  • daved

    I remember that crystals made Spy Magazine’s “Spy 100” one year. Their comment was that the fascination with crystals by celebrities proved that these famous people were morons who could be entranced by shiny objects.

  • jamessweet

    No skeptical look at crystals is complete without linking to this clip from Peep Show:

  • I saw Chi and Chakra at the Forum back in ’05. Legendary fight. I’m told they had a grudge against each other.

  • I don’t know what you are talking about. Watching my cats chase the light reflections from the crystal hanging in my window is excellent therapy. Especially when they try to climb the walls or pounce on the same beam of light simultaneously. It’s even better when one of the reflections is on the dog and both cats tackle him.

    I should totally apply for a grant to study this form of therapy.

  • blf

    There was some sort of crystals fad in USAlienstani back in the mid-1980s. My only recollection of it now was a dufus asserted on a billboard system that by putting crystals in your car’s petrol (gasoline) tank, various magical things happened (less emissions, better mileage, and so on). Dufus was broadly correct, but not for the “reason” he claimed. Crystals in yer fuel will probably plug up the filter, starving the engine of fuel, preventing it from running. Bingo! Lower emissions, et al.

    The funniest bit was watching dufus being completely taken apart by the motorheads. The most effective / vocal of which happened to be a woman, which was no surprise to anyone who knew her. Dufus, as I now recall, had no idea how to respond, either to the logic, the number of people pointing out he was an idiot, or that the “leader” didn’t fit what became clear was his preconception of a motorhead.

  • shouldbeworking

    @2 Yes I remember my petrology and mineralogy labs, so many thin sections, so little time and so colour blind. Those were the days….

  • exdrone

    Crystal healers are scam artists. When they use crystals, they hide magnets in their hands to divert blood flow around your body and ley lines away from you. They say that it’s chi or chakras, but I know … I know.

  • I agree with WithinThisMind (@ #6)

    It’s really hard to not be happy and content watching cats at play. Or sleeping. Or snuggling with a kitty. Or two. Or three. Or four. More. Cuddle Puddles are the best.

    BRB, gotta find Gracie, need a kitteh-fix.

  • coffeecat

    Whenever I hear someone talk about the power of crystals, I just want to hand them a salt shaker and tell them to knock themselves out.

  • uzza

    Well, I dunno. I’ve got a neighbor who gets tremendous energy from crystals. ‘Course, he smokes his,

  • coragyps

    I see the problem with all you so-called skeptics!

    Chrystals are the things that work!! Not these crystals you’re babbling about!

  • had3

    Ah, the soothing sounds of chakra-khan.

  • Konradius

    @9: Lol, love the sarcasm without possibly being a poe.

    @Ed, I had an advertisement about low chakra’s above this topic earlier… Unfortunately browsed away before I could make a screenshot.

  • shouldbeworking

    The only people who truly understand the power of crystals are Scotty and Geordie Laforge.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Do the suckers follow their crystal healers all the way to the death bed, or do they eventually wise-up and go to a proper doctor?

  • I have been told by several women that if I wanted to have a steady diet of wild sex and slavish devotion that I merely needed to place a specific sort of crystal, to wit, one with the following properties:

    “…a transparent, optically isotropic crystal with a high dispersion of 0.044, a refractive index of 2.42, and a specific gravity of 3.52.”


    ” hardness value of 167 GPa (±6) when scratched with an ultrahard fullerite tip…”.

    suitably mounted in a white gold (or, better yet, platinum) ring and applied to their ring finger.

    Having a number of friends who had partaken of this therapy on more than one occasion with decidedly mixed results, I have eschewed it in favor of various other forms of therapy, such as BEGGING!

  • oranje

    @18: “a steady diet of wild sex and slavish devotion…”

    Okay, now I KNOW you aren’t talking about marriage.

  • @19:

    I was extremely naïve when I was younger; now I’m, like, just sort of averagely naïve.

  • Canadian Yankee

    When I was in grad school (for solid-state physics), I’d often find myself at a party with a bunch of graduate/professional students from all sorts of different disciplines who might ask, “So what is your research about?” My one-sentence description for the layperson was, “I simulate crystal structures on the computer.” Occasionally the response was, “Oooh! I love crystals!” That was the point where I knew to wrap up the conversation and move on.