Quackery Exposed: Healing Crystals


What Are Healing Crystals?

Crystal healing is an alternative technique where crystals and other stones are used to cure illnesses or disabilities and protect against disease. The people who practice this believe that crystals are conduites for healing. They are supposed to allow positive, healing energy to flow into the body while negative, disease causing energy flows out. It plays off the scientific law of vibration that everything in nature has a vibration. These vibrations they say is what causes the "healing effect."

Crystal healing is popular with health spas and new age health. It is common in massage therapy and Reiki. The effect is supposed to induce relaxation but there is no science that backs up this claim. 

Stones are assigned different properties. Different healers have different ideas on what stones have what properties. During a treatment, a healer will place different crystals on different parts of the body, which aligns with the chakras. These regions are above the head, forehead, throat, chest, stomach, gut and genital area. The stones used and their positioning could be chosen for symptoms reported by the patient. This practice 

History and Origin

The use of healing crystals dates back over 6,000 year ago to the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia. Ancient Egyptians are the first group of people documented to have worn crystals. These crystals include lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise. They believed that it warded off illness and negative energy. 

Modern healing crystal usage is based on traditions of Asian cultures that have been appropriated. The most notable is the Chinese concept of life energy (chi or qi) and the Hindu or Buddhist concept of chakras. These are vortices of life energy. It is said to connect the physical and supernatural concepts of the body. 

How it Really Works

Even though there is no science backing the healing effects of these crystals, there have been several studies showing that they appear to work through the placebo effect. 

The placebo effect is the effect that accompany treatment that are not due to the treatment but the psychological belief that it works, according to Christopher French, the head of anomalistic psychology research at the University of London.  A person would feel better after undergoing crystal healing but there is zero proof that this has anything to do with the crystals. 

Proof is In the Science

In 2001, French and his colleagues at Goldsmiths College at University of London had presented a peer reviewed article at the British Psychological Society Centenary Annual Conference in Glasgow. They had. outlined their study on the efficacy of crystal healing in this  article. 

In this study, there were 80 participants that were asked to meditate for five minutes while holding a real quartz crystal or a fake one that they believed was real. Before the meditation, half of the participants were asked to notice any effects the crystals might have on them. This includes tingling in the body or warmth in holding it in their hands. 

There were many participants in both groups that felt a warm sensation when holding the crystal in thier hands or a fake crystal. They also reported that there was an increased feeling of overall well being. 

Those who were asked to feel these effects reported stronger effects than those who were not asked. The strength of the effects did not correlate with those who had a fake crystal opposed to a real one. 

Those who believed in the power of crystals, which was quantified by a questionnaire, were twice as likely as non believers to report feeling effects from a crystal. 

French said,"There is no evidence that crystal healing works over and above the placebo effect."

Another study by Pew Research found that 62% of American adults believed in at least one new age believe. This was true for those who do and don't consider themselves a member of mainstream religion. 

Are Crystals Safe?

There are no federal or state laws that regulate the use of healing crystals. In some states, this falls under the category of massage therapy. In some states, crystal healers are required to obtain a license in order to practice. 

The crystals themselves are safe but its where and how its used. 

There are parents who use amber necklaces for teething infant. In 2016, there was a letter published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health by Alexandra Hudson, Kim Blake, and Robyn McLaughlin. This letter discussed the dangers of these necklaces and how they outweigh the perceived benefits. The major concerns were strangulation and choking. There are several documented cases. The authors of this letter mentioned that both the Canadian Pediatric Society and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against these necklace and that parents should be property educated about these crystals. 

Healing Crystals are a Big Industry

Crystals are a big business, celebrities lead this trend.  Spencer Pratt paid more than $1 million for his collection. Kate Hudson, Adele, Kim Kardashian West, the Hadis believe in the so called cleansing ability of these crystals. The celebrity endorsement would explain why google searches for "crystal shops near me" and "Crystal healing" have increased by 35 to 40% since 2013. 

Some of these crystals sell for $45 for rose quartz earrings. They can be found in metaphysical shops and Urban Outfitters. 

The founder of a Canadian metaphysical shop says,"Our revenue is over seven figures annually. I believe it helps." She motioned to a crystal that cost roughly $1000. It was known for "prosperity and abundance" properties. "I cannot scientifically prove if it does anything," she added. 

Like most pseudoscience, it is predatory. 

Unethical Ways Crystals are Harvested

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the word. Under their soil lies these coveted crystals. Rose quartz, amethyst, tourmaline, citrine, labradorite and carnelian can all be found in Madagascar. In this island nation of 25 million people is a key producer of these crystals.  

In this country, infrastructure, capital and labor are not regulated. Humans pull the crystals from the earth, not machines. THere are a few large mining companies that operate in Madagascar, but 80% of crystals are mined by small groups or families. They are paid very low wages. 

Most homes have no electricity, running water, phone or network connections. The things most people take for granted. According to the World Bank, about 80% of people living outside the major cities live below $1.90 a day. About half of parents there had lost one infant due to illness or hunger. 


Sources:
https://www.livescience.com/40347-crystal-healing.html
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/sep/17/healing-crystals-wellness-mining-madagascar
https://www.vice.com/en/article/kzdav3/do-crystals-work-placebo-effect
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/crystal-healing/
https://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20180116/can-crystals-heal-separating-facets-from-facts
https://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2016/09/12/healing-crystals-are-big-business-but-do-they-actually-do-anything.html


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