Health Psychology Home Page
Papers written by students providing scientific reviews of topics related to health and well being
|Search||Home | Weight Loss | Alternative Therapy | Supplements | Eating Disorders | Fitness | Links | Self-Assessment | About this Page ||
What is Crystal Therapy?
Crystal Therapy is the use of crystals on or around the body to effect beneficial changes and redress imbalances. It treats such conditions as blindness, bursitis, cancer, depression, forgetfulness, tension headaches, hemorrhages, indigestion, insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatism, and thrombosis (http://www.canoe.ca/AltmedDictionary/c.html). Crystal healing fully incorporates all aspects of the patient’s life, and aims to restore the balance and well-being of the whole person. According to Jacquie Burgess, the author of Healing With Crystals, crystal healing works by, “assisting us to tune in to the rhythms of life, to respect creation, to balance the forces and influences that play through our lives, releasing attitudes and habits which no longer serve us” (http://homepage.tinet.ie/~herbie/hwc.html).
Crystals are thought to boost low energy, screen out damaging energy, release stagnant or blocked energy and transform destructive patterns by drawing light and color into the body’s aura, which in turn elevates its frequency to allow the emergence of healthy lower frequency energies to enter the body. (http://homepage.tinet.ie/~herbie/hwc.html) and (http://www.canoe.ca/AltmedDictionary/c.html. While many people may have their doubts regarding the power of crystal and gemstone therapies, the sources included in this document provide one with evidence that while no scientific studies on the legitimacy of crystal therapy have been executed, a strong patient-provider relationship and a reliance on the placebo effect can influence the patient that crystal therapy can in fact positively impact one’s physical and mental well-being.
What Is The Purpose?
The site creators of www.crystaltherapy.co.uk/uses.html believe that crystalline energy helps the body regain its natural rhythm. Each individual crystal is said to have a unique, yet perfectly atomic structure, and is believed to emit a resonance of perfection throughout the body when the two come in contact. This resonance is said to be so strong that, “The body has no choice but to surrender to the power of perfection” (www.crystaltherapy.co.uk/uses.html). The essence of crystal therapy is to assist the body in healing itself, while giving the patient time to connect with his place of inner peace and healing. Crystal therapy can help with a myriad of conditions, and can assist with: deep relaxation, self development, stress relief, improved self confidence, focus, self awareness, balance between mind, body, and spirit, life path, creativity, spiritual development, and moving through change (www.crystaltherapy.co.uk/uses.html).
The Origins of Alternative Medicine
In order for one to fully understand the healing properties of crystals, one must first become familiar with the realm of alternative medicine. “Alternative medicine is made up of a rich array of techniques, modalities, and medical systems that are, for the most part, still unfamiliar to the majority of the public. They are, therefore, as a whole, ‘alternative’ to what most Americans are using when they need health care” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). Many practices and ideas that are labeled as alternative medicine come to us from other cultures or ancient healing traditions. “For example, acupuncture comes from Ancient China and has been documented as being in use as early as 2697 B.C.”(http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). According to www.healthandfitnesstips.com, the indigenous people of the America and Australia incorporated crystals in their religious ceremonies and healing procedures. The same site also believes that the ancient inhabitants of the lost island of Atlantis were perhaps the most popular users of crystal energy. “Atlanteans recognized that the source of disease lay not in the physical, but rather in higher bodies. Therefore, they always first cured the auric body, not the physical. Once the subtle bodies had been healed, the physical body’s healing would follow” (www.healthandfitnesstips.com). However, certain categories of alternative medicine have their roots in the United States. Examples of these forms include chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, and osteopathic medicine (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510).
Despite the name “alternative medicine” many alternative medicine techniques are used every day by people around the world. “The World Health Organization estimates that between 65 and 80 percent of the world’s population rely on traditional (alternative) medicine as their primary form of health care. They further state that when these traditional medical treatments are introduced into Western culture, they are seen as complementary or alternative” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510).
What Are the Main Differences Between Alternative and Conventional Medicines?
There are 6 main differences between alternative medicine and conventional medicine, according to http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510. Perhaps the most important difference is that alternative medicine is founded on a deep belief that the body possesses a natural ability to heal. The practitioner believes it to be his job to aid this innate healing ability within his patients. Conversely, conventional medicine has, “historically tried to replace the body’s natural healing response by quickly removing symptoms” and places “more value on the technique and technology rather than on the inherent healing power of nature…” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510).
Many alternative therapies abide by the principle, “Always use the least drastic harmful therapies first”, meaning that practitioners generally choose the least harmful remedies first in hopes of achieving a cure. Conversely, conventional medicine’s main concern appears to be to “remove symptoms as quickly as possible-even if additional physical problems are created in the process” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). This quick-fix process may never address the true cause of the illness, due to its haste to alleviate the patient of his symptoms.
Results generally take longer in alternative medicine. A primary goal held by alternative practitioners is to aid the body’s natural healing response, allowing nature to take its course. Nature will then allow true healing to occur, which will decrease the chance of a return of the symptoms. However, those who are used to the timely recovery rates of conventional medicine need to be patient in order to cope with the slower recovery rate of alternative medicine. (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510).
Alternative medicines incorporate the uses of natural herbs and botanicals as well as whole foods to treat illnesses because the healers believe that they will be easier for the body to handle than something that is synthesized. While many synthesized pharmaceuticals may be fast-acting, they are ridden with side effects. “Most over the counter and almost all prescribed drug treatments merely mask symptoms…drugs almost never deal with the reasons why these problems exist, and frequently create new health problems as side effects of their activities,” states John R. Lee, M.D. (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). On the other hand, natural substances may not have side effects, but they may take longer to work.
Alternative medicine offers its patients a higher standard of health. “Alternative medical systems have long been founded on the premise that health is a dynamic process that most consider more than just the absence of illness” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510) All aspects of the patient, from his diet and lifestyle to his emotional health, are evaluated when one’s state of health is being determined. In conventional medicine, “Little if any, consideration was given to lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, or personal or psychological issues” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510).
The Importance of the Patient-Provider Relationship
Alternative medicine is more patient-centered than physician-centered. “Biomedicine has historically been perceived as more ‘physician centered,’ in which the doctor’s opinions and beliefs are considered more important than the patients’” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). Alternative medicine, however, is highly patient centered, and the opinions and feelings of the patient are held in the highest regard by the healer, and are essential components in the treatment as well as decision-making. Conventional medicine is said to only view the patient as his disease, and not who he is as a person (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). Also, the role of the patient is a passive one, in which he is subjected -to the decisions of the doctor. However, most alternative healers treat and view their clients as individual human beings, not a diagnosis. They hold firm to the ancient Hippocratic notion that, “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has” (http://www.healthy.net/scr/Article.asp?Id=510). This genuine empathy for the patient by the practitioner is thought to be one of the main reasons why alternative therapy has increased in popularity.
Evidence of the Benefits of Having a Good Patient-Provider Relationship
A strong relationship between the practitioner and his patient is crucial in order for healing to be accomplished. According to researcher A.K. Shapiro, (1969), “The practitioner-healer must expertly play the role of heroic rescuer to facilitate a placebo effect.” As evidence of the importance of a practitioner’s attitude, 25 random controlled studies were found that examined the impact of randomly assigning patients with physical illnesses to different levels of expectancy and emotional support. Although is was concluded that more research needs to be done, researchers discovered that, “enhancing patients’ expectations through positive information about the treatment or illness, while providing support or reassurance, seemed to significantly influence health outcomes”(Di Blasi, Harkness, Ernst, Georgiou, and Kleijnen, 2001). Because practitioners of alternative medicine do not have to strictly adhere to scientific objectivity like their counterparts in conventional medicine do, their attitudes are sometimes more optimistic and positive than those in conventional medicine.
Many studies indicate reveal that a strong patient-provider relationship and a mutual agreement on the cause of the disease or problem can hasten the patient’s recovery. One study examined 200 patients, all of whom had symptoms, but no abnormal physical signs, thus no clear diagnosis could be made. “The patients were randomly assigned in a 2x2 design to either receive treatment or not be treated, as well as to a positive consultation, where they received, ‘a firm diagnosis and [were] told confidently that they would be better in a few days,’ or a negative consultation, in which they were told that their condition was uncertain. Although provision of treatment made no difference, positive interaction between patient and provider produced significantly faster recovery” (Thomas, 1987).
Consultation in alternative medicine is more likely to produce a specific diagnosis based on the perceptions and symptoms of its patients than a consultation in conventional medicine. “When it is considered that 40-60% of patients may never receive a firm diagnosis in conventional medicine, (Thomas, 1987, and Alder and Hammet, 1973), an alternative diagnosis may be a potent form of nonspecific healing that changes the circumstances under which the patient exists”(Brody and Waters, 1980). Aside from merely diagnosing an ailment, the provider also establishes goals for his patient and the course of illness. Due to heavily relied upon notions such as “holistic medicine” and “body, mind, spirit,” alternative medicine can have extremely broad therapeutic targets, thus resulting in diverse treatment aims (Csordas, 1983).
The Placebo Effect
Placebos have been regarded as powerful deceptive therapies for many centuries. The recently accumulated knowledge on placebo may offer medicine a unique opportunity to expand the therapeutic processes within the biopsychosocial field. (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/servlet/useragent?func=synergy&synergyAction=shov...)
“The placebo effect is the measurable, observable, or felt improvement in health not attributable to treatment” (http://skepdic.com/placebo.html). Many people believe that the felt effect can be attributed to the placebo effect. According to sources at http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/placebo.html, “The placebo effect is a beneficial response to a substance, device, or procedure that cannot be accounted for on the basis of pharmacologic or other direct physical action.” A placebo is often used to convince a patient that he is receiving treatment for an ailment, oftentimes in the form of a sugar pill. The patient expects the “medication” to cause improvement, and sometimes it does. The term “placebo” is derived from the Latin phrase “placebo” which means, “I shall please.” Placebo actions may relieve the body’s psychosomatic symptoms by lessening its levels of anxiety (http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/placebo.html).
High confidence levels of the patient and practitioner make it more likely that the placebo effect will occur. Accordingly, awareness that something has been done is the only requirement for a placebo effect (http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/placebo.html).
Doctors involved in conventional medicine often deal with patients who complain of various symptoms that are in fact reactions to nervous tension. According to http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/placebo.html, “Far too often, instead of finding out what is bothering them, doctors tell them to take a tonic, a vitamin, or some other type of placebo.” Medical doctors who use vitamins as placebos encourage people to resort to using products that they don’t need, thus financially and mentally exhausting their patients (http://www.canoe.ca/HealthAlternative/placebo.html).
Evidence of the Placebo Effect
There is hardly any empirical evidence that a certain type of alternative medicine used to treat a certain condition has an increased placebo effect. One example from a random controlled study may allow one to envision an enhanced placebo effect. “In a four-arm crossover RCT involving 44 patients with chronic cervical osteoarthritis of more than 6 month’s duration, acupuncture, sham acupuncture, and diazepam were all equivalent and were superior to a placebo pill” (Thomas, Eriksson and Lundeberg, 1991). “In this study, the outcome of the ritual of acupuncture (real and sham acupuncture were not different) equaled the outcome of an effective drug” (http://www.annals.org/issues/v136n11/full/200206040-00011.html). Therapeutic characteristics that may enhance placebo effects appear to be very prominent in alternative medicine, yet more research is needed in order to make such an assertion.
How Does Crystal Healing Work?
Crystals have been integral in orthodox medicine throughout history, and their use is still widely popular in the modern world. Due to the fact that crystals claim to redress vibrational imbalances in the electromagnetic field of the human body, they are believed to successfully treat individuals who suffer from depression. One example is Kunzite, a variety of the crystal group spodumene, which has become the prime source of Lithium. Lithium is an important drug in the prevention and treatment of manic depression. (http://homepage.tinet.ie/~herbie/hwc.html). Crystals work by transforming kinetic energy into electrical energy. This process is known as the Piezo-electric effect. When crystals are given a measured amount of electricity, the degree of vibration it produces is equal to the amount of energy received (http://www.lifepositive.com/Mind/psychology/stress/relaxation-techniques.asp).
What is the Rationale Behind Alternative Medicine and Crystal Healing?
“One of the defining characteristics of alternative therapies is the respect for and awareness of our natural healing energy” (http://www.heartlandhealing.com/pages/archive/crystal_therapy/). Color is an indicator of one of the characteristics of energy in that it represents various frequencies. Color is a function of light, and it is determined by the frequency of the light wave observed by the human eye. The visible light spectrum, in order from lowest to highest, is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Crystals and gems are easily identified by color, which gives practitioners a general guide for the frequencies on which they operate best (http://www.heartlandhealing.com/pages/archive/crystal_therapy/).
The body has frequencies of energy waves as well, and there are specific areas of the body that are the main centers for the flow of energy, according to Michael Braunstein, site author of http://www.heartlandhealing.com/pages/archive/crystal_therapy/. These energy centers are referred to as “chakras.” According to webpage creator of u , one of the reasons that people become ill is their chakras either become imbalanced, or there are internal blockages which restrict the free flow of the body’s energy. There are 7 major chakras, and all play an extremely active role in all crystal healing treatments. Healers are able to use quartz crystals to re-balance all of the chakric centers, and once the chakras have all been properly balanced, the body will gradually return to its normal state. The webpage author of http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm, believes that the 7 chakras are located in the following areas and help the following:
The first chakra is located at the bottom of the spine, and is associated with the color red. By working with quartz crystals, the site manager claims to be able to “release a great deal of physical stress and tension of the nervous system….” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm). The second chakra is located near the spleen, and is associated with the color orange. “Usually people suffering from sexual blockages need healing here” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm). The third chakra is the solar plexus and is located right below the navel. It is associated with the color yellow, and stores physical energy and power. The fourth chakra is the heart center, and is located in the center of the chest. The colors associated with this chakra are green and pink. “I use the heart chakra to help people suffering from emotional traumas and problems in their relationships. I find that by using a piece of rose quartz I am able to help release their inner emotional tension and trauma” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm).
The fifth chakra is the throat center, and is located in the center of the throat. Its associated colors are blue and turquoise. “When people suffer from headaches and tension within the neck and shoulder muscles I find that often the basic cause is that the throat chakra has become blocked” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm). The sixth chakra is the third eye, and is located between the eyebrows. Purple is the color most often associated with this chakra. “When helping people develop their own spiritual intuition I find that amethyst… [is the] ideal stone with which to work” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm). The seventh chakra is the crown center, located on top of the head. The color most often associated with this chakra is white. “During any crystal healing session this chakra needs to be open. It is the chakra through which you obtain the highest understanding and the highest knowledge” (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm).
What Does A Typical Crystal Therapy Session Entail?
The overall intention of crystal and gemstone therapy is to ensure that clients receive the care that is suitable for them to become more synchronized with their bodies and more familiar with the overall healing experience (www.crystaltherapy.co.uk/Session.html). The healer’s main objective is to help the patient help himself. The healing session is conducted in a dark, quiet space, and the patient either sits in a chair or lies on a couch, according to personal preference. The healer then helps his patient relax with visualization exercises or music. Crystals and the necessary gemstones are placed on or around the patient, depending on the ailment. For example, if one’s chakras are imbalanced, the site creator of http://www.netcomuk.co/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm) commences the healing process by having the patient lie down on his back. Two quartz crystals are then placed on the third eye chakra, with their points facing downwards. Two quartz crystals are placed on the palm, pointing upwards, and two are placed on the chest area, also pointing upwards. Lastly, two quartz crystals are placed on the tops of the thighs, with their points upwards as well. The patient is told to lie quietly for about 15 minutes, and the chakras are said to re-align themselves within that 15 minutes. (http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~asclepus/hcrystal/chakras.htm).
The healer must work intuitively to determine where there are blockages in the client’s body. Specific crystal layouts are used to execute the cleansing, and the subtle vibrations radiated by the crystals are used by the healer to clear, balance, and reorganize the body’s energy fields. The application of the correct crystal for each individual person affects their energy field and sets the healing process in motion (www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Healing/lettie18.html). While the patient is receiving crystal therapy, he will experience a sense of deep relaxation and well-being. This relaxation will inevitably aid in the alleviation of stress. Thus, by experiencing feelings of deep relaxation and content, the patient is able to connect to his place of inner peace and healing (www.crystaltherapy.co.uk/Session.html). “The session is then completed with a protective grounding of the energies to ensure that the client receives maximum benefit from the powerful healing energies” (www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Healing/lettie18.html).
And the Top 10 Healing Gemstones Are…
A summary of10 popular gemstones and their uses, according to the website http://healing.about.com/library/weekly/aatp_gemstones.html, are:
* Rose Quartz: considered the “heart healer” of physical heart ailments and emotional heartbreaks.
* Fluorite: helps guard people against negativity, and keeps negative energies at bay.
*Kyanite: helps facilitate channeling and opens communication centers to balance the properties that align the chakras.
* Lapis: a stone that is said to unlock mysteries because it enables one to move steadily through confusion and emotional issues.
* Hematite: a grounding stone, meaning that it aids those who readily avoid dealing with their problems.
* Snowflake Obsidian: is said to allow people to let go of negative habits, and is said to bring about opportunity for change, serenity, and clarity.
* Jade: a stone that teaches people acceptance, and carries serene and calming energy. It is said that it helps people become less critical of self and others. (http://healing.about.com/library/weekly/aatp_gemstones.html).
Does Crystal Therapy Truly Work?
Crystal therapy is believed to induce deep relaxation, release stress, and promote energy enhancements. It also claims to be effective in treating fatigue and immune deficiency illnesses. Perhaps what makes crystal therapy truly effective is its need and dependence on a strong patient-provider relationship. This strong relationship encourages the patient to place his trust in the healer, and thus the patient will believe that the healer is working to heal him of any illness or imbalances in his body. This amount of confidence placed in the healing powers of the provider can be a direct result of a placebo effect, in which the patient believes that he is going to treatment to get better, and in turn feels better, when in truth the healer may not be healing him.
On a less skeptical level, the site creators of http://library.thinkquest.org/24206/gemstone-therapy.html believe that clear quartz is a perfect example of a healing crystal. They believe that it acts as a purifier, and relates accordingly to the specific needs of each individual receiving the healing. It heals its patient via vibration, which is said to return the body to its least altered state. Clear quartz also unblocks various areas or organs that had previously been unable to transmit or receive the body’s flow of energy. (http://library.thinkquest.org/24206/gemstone-therapy.html).
Crystal therapy has also been used to treat depression, although no official medical journals report any such evidence. According to www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Healing/lettie18.html, the condition of the sufferers of depression had been caused by an aura imbalance as a result of one of the following treatments: chemotherapy, post-natal depression, or a long bout with an illness. If left untreated, the condition could take a long time to heal, and could very well manifest itself in a more severe form of depression. In these particular cases, www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Healing/lettie18.html believes that crystal therapy is most effective. “Due in part to the fact that crystal therapy deals with energy, it follows that it is the ideal healing tool to redress imbalances in one’s energy field”(www.positivehealth.com/permit/Articles/Healing/lettie18.html).
Who Are The Presenters of This Information, and Why Are They Presenting It?
The main presenters of the information are healers who are looking for clients, or are people who strongly believe in the benefits of alternative medicine, and would like to see it become more popular. While it is understandable that the healers are presenting the information primarily for their own benefit, their scientific evidence regarding the potency of certain crystals and gemstones cannot be regarded seriously, because the various medical journal sites yielded no results of scientific experiments conducted to prove the powers or effectiveness of crystal healing. The medical evidence found on crystal therapy was very sparse. However, when the terms “alternative medicine”, “patient-provider relationship” and “placebo effect” were researched, an overwhelming amount of information was discovered. The general trend in the medical data was that a strong patient-provider relationship was necessary for alternative medicine to truly work, perhaps due in part to the patient’s willingness to believe that he is being cured (the placebo effect). Although crystal therapy is not yet widely accepted in mainstream medicine, its effects may contain some validity, and perhaps one has to undergo a session of therapy with a healer before he can condemn the practice.
Crystal therapy is still viewed by many circles as nothing but spiritual fanaticism. Although the research conducted yielded no results on any scientific experiments or clinical trials to test the effectiveness of crystal therapy, that does not mean that crystal therapy can be viewed as ineffective. Its emphasis on energy is actually becoming increasingly compatible with many other alternative medicines, including more widely used treatments such as massage therapy and healing touch. The charka theory that is believed to be the core of alternative medicine is also gradually becoming more widely known by the general public, thus helping crystal therapy gain respect as a legitimate form of alternative medicine.
Adler HM, Hammett VB. The doctor-patient relationship revisited. An analysis of the placebo effect. Ann Intern Med. 1973; 78: 595-8.
Brody H, Waters DB. Diagnosis is treatment. J Fam Pract. 1980; 10:445-9. [PMID 7354290] PubMed.
Csordas, TJ. The rhetoric of transformation in ritual healing. Cult Med Psychiatry. 1983; 2: 346-55. [PMID 6661923] PubMed.
Di Blasi Z, Harkness E, Ernst E, Georgiou A, Kleijnen J. Influence of context effects on health outcomes: a systematic review. Lancet. 2001; 357: 757-62. [PMID: 11253970] PubMed.
Shapiro, AK. Latroplacebogenics. International Pharmacopsychiatry. 1969; 2:215-48.
Thomas KB. General practice consultations: is there any point in being positive? Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987; 294: 1200-2. [PMID: 3109581] PubMed
Thomas M, Eriksson SV, Lundeberg T. A comparative study of diazepam and acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis pain: a placebo controlled study. Am J Chin Med. 1991; 19:95-100. [PMID: 1531552] PubMed.
The Health Psychology Home Page is
produced and maintained by David Schlundt, PhD.
Vanderbilt Homepage | Introduction to Vanderbilt | Admissions | Colleges & Schools | Research Centers | News & Media Information | People at Vanderbilt | Libraries | Administrative Departments | Medical
|Return to the Health Psychology Home Page|
|Send E-mail comments or questions to Dr. Schlundt|