Alternative medicine refers to various therapeutic practices straying from mainstream science and are not usually found in conventional medical schools.
In the U.S., one such practice has experienced an upward trend this past decade: healing crystals.
The technical definition of “crystal” refers to a solid substance that is usually clear or transparent, said Silver Pyramid manager Sheryl Baird. A quartz crystal is a common example.
Silver Pyramid is a retail shop that deals with a diverse range of metaphysical products, including jewelry, incense, tarot cards and gemstones. However, in terms of the metaphysical, an abstract philosophy focused on the nature of being, “crystal” represents any stone, rock or mineral, transparent or not, she said.
These crystals may be used to treat ailments on multiple levels — physical, mental and emotional, Baird said. Each has a certain energy and vibration, which can assist in healing on a specific level.
People turn to crystals for real health issues, said Hank Mason, founder and chief writer of Crystal Vaults, a website dedicated to the benefits and uses of gems and stones. Certified by the Gemological Institute of America, Mason has written books and taught about the subject.
At its core, crystal healing is rooted in three principles: belief in a universal life force, in the human mind and in the power of crystals to combine, focus and amplify the power and energy of the universal life force and the mind to heal the human body and spirit, Mason said.
Currents of this universal life force — also known as chi, qi, astral light, cosmic energy or prana — descend upon the earth in varying forces, depending on the astrological relationships and planetary locations or alignments, he said. Crystals are conduits for this energy, which can physically manifest itself in healing the body, mind or spirit.
Crystal healing is a practice that has been around for thousands of years, tracing back as far as the times of ancient Egypt, Baird said. They seemed to understand that the vibrations and energy of the crystals may assist with physical healing, personal strength and mental clarity.
“Everything is energy,” she said. “It’s about the vibration or frequency of the energy.”
Negative emotions, sickness, discomforts and ailments are the result of low energy or low vibrations, Baird said. Crystals can be used to amplify good vibrations or high energy to combat these feelings.
It literally means “good vibes,” she said.
Another thing to remember is that humans have internal energy centers designated in certain points of their body, or chakras, Baird said. There are seven main chakras, aligned from the top of one’s skull to the base of the spine: the crown, the third eye, the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, the sacral and the root.
Each chakra has a different color and represents one aspect of a person’s being, she said. For example, the root chakra, which is red, is associated with a person’s physical needs, survival and security. Imbalances or blockages of this chakra may cause feelings of anxiety, fear and physical health issues.
Crystals can be used to right these imbalances, Baird said. Many of those who have tried crystal healing reported an overall sense of comfort and well-being. Others reported little to no physical sensations — although that does not mean the crystal energy is not working, she said.
Mason said belief may play a big part in how these crystals work, as well. Scientific evidence suggests that if people believe a treatment will work, it usually will.
“Your brain decides how effective a treatment will be,” he said.
Organizational communication senior Allison Mulryan said she does not put much faith into crystal healing.
“I’m a really big critic of — just, really, everything — until I see proof,” she said. “I have to see it to believe it.”
Still, Mulryan said she didn’t begrudge others for practicing this type of alternative medicine.
Today’s treatments involve pills and drugs, she said. More and more people are looking for natural, nonprescription-based remedies, and if this technique works for them or gives them a peace of mind, it is their choice. For herself, Mulryan expressed a more open-minded policy.
“If someone could show me, then I might become a believer,” she said.