The truth about healing crystals

Healing crystals are a type of alternative therapy that seems to be experiencing a boom in popularity lately, endorsed by celebs including Katy Perry, Khloé Kardashian, and (of course) Gwyneth Paltrow. Once the purview of fringy new-age types, crystals have gone mainstream and can readily be purchased from retailers — even Target. In fact, crystals have found their place in makeup. Crystal expert Daniel Trinchillo, quoted in Fast Company, estimates the crystal healing industry as having a net worth of at least a billion dollars.

Carnelian, meant to boost courage (via WebMD); Baltic amber, said to soothe teething toddlers (via LiveScience); amethyst, used to promote intestinal health, cure hangovers, and even treat addiction (via VICE)… it seems that all the minerals (or at least the pretty ones) seem to have their own associated ailments that they are said to cure via some kind of healing energy or vibration. But is there any truth whatsoever to these alleged healing properties? Science says no… but also maybe kind of yes.

What healing crystals won't do

Time describes a study conducted in 2001 where 80 participants were asked to meditate using crystals. Ahead of time, the research subjects had filled out a questionnaire gauging their belief in paranormal phenomena. For meditation purposes, half of the subjects were given a quartz crystal, while the rest had a “crystal” made of glass that they were told was real. 

While many subjects reported feeling tingling and vibration while holding their meditation aids, there was no difference between the group with the real crystals and the one whose crystals were bogus. Perhaps not surprisingly, subjects in either group who’d self-reported stronger belief in the paranormal felt more powerful sensations. Christopher French, psychology professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, interpreted the results to mean that crystal healing is basically “a result of the power of suggestion, not the power of the crystals.”

The placebo effect of healing crystals

In other words, a healing crystal is nothing more than a pretty placebo. But then, there’s something to be said for that, after all — the placebo effect can be quite powerful. 

Even French acknowledges this, saying, “If people believe that a treatment will make them feel better, many of them do feel better after they have had the treatment, even if it is known to be therapeutically worthless.” 

So if you feel your amethyst is really working to cure your morning-after blues and your carnelian makes you brave enough to ask for a raise, more power to you and your crystals — whatever works, works. Simple as that.

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