Every year, a new wellness trend emerges, from eating turmeric to visiting infrared saunas. One of the fastest growing and longest-lasting trends in wellness is actually a very old practice: The use of crystals or minerals to improve health.
“Stones, just like any other kind of energy work, plus acupressure, acupuncture and chiropractic, are all considered CAM therapies,” says Melissa Kepley, owner of The Magickal Attic, a crystal and jewelry shop in Newport News, Va. “CAM therapies, meaning complementary alternative medicines, don’t take the place of allopathic [medicine]. They complement what is going on with allopathic medicine.”
People use crystals or stones for many different reasons, such as for improving sleep, boosting mood or healing heartache, says Kepley, a hypnotherapist, interfaith minister and psychic. Certain stones are said to promote qualities, such as courage, luck or love.
The mineral make-up of the stone can determine how it helps you. For instance, fluorite contains calcium fluoride, a mineral that may work with the calcium channels in the brain. Many people use fluorite to improve memory, perhaps taking advantage of the calcium fluoride.
Understanding the mineralogy is important, but Kepley warns that reading a few books or blogs on crystals may not help you choose the right stone for your needs.
“For a very beginner, stones are going to be very similar to medications,” says Kepley. “Some things you get along with, some things you don’t get along with. Only use books and websites as reference models to get an idea of what you would like to accomplish, then feel out the different suggestions of the stones.”
She suggests people take their time when selecting a crystal to use since many different stones can serve the same purpose. Even different crystals of the same type can give you a different feeling.
“Feeling encompasses a great deal of parameters,” Kepley says. “When I say the word feel, that can be a thought, an idea, an emotion, it can be tactile.”
To receive the benefits of the minerals in a particular stone, Kepley says, you need to spend a lot of time with it, holding it in your hand, carrying it in your pocket, wearing it as jewelry or meditating with it. You’ll only see benefits from the use of crystals if you find a stone with which you connect.
Another Role Crystals Play in Health
At the Williamsburg Salt Spa, one specific type of crystal — salt crystals — plays a different complimentary role in health, particularly for people with respiratory problems. The spa’s warm salt cave houses 15 tons of Himalayan salt and three waterfalls that help churn the salt into the air. As you sit in the cave, you breathe in the salt, which contains 84 different minerals.
“In general, our cave was designed to help people with respiratory problems,” says Agnieszka Drygala, who opened the salt spa 10 years ago. “Salt is anti-bacterial. It clears your lungs if you have congestion, if you have mucus.”
Breathing in the salt cave air is comparable to spending three days on the seaside or using a saline (salt water) rinse. It can loosen mucus so you can clear your airways.
Drygala also recommends salts for taking care of the skin and for relaxing sore muscles. The spa’s float tank contains 900 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt. A session in the tank may help athletes, people with arthritis or people with fibromyalgia.
Does This Stuff Actually Work?
While there’s little published research to support the use of stones or salt in improving well-being, it doesn’t mean the use of these minerals can’t help you feel better.
Meditation with or without stones has been shown to improve mental health. Some studies show taking any step toward better well-being, whether it is finding a stone that speaks to you, undergoing acupuncture or taking part in yoga, can improve your outlook.
In fact, the mere act of doing something to take control of your destiny can often boost hope, brighten mood and improve your ability to cope with a chronic condition, says psychologist Stuart Vyse in his book “Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition.” It might be a placebo effect, but for whatever reason, it works. How about those magnetic or copper bracelets that are said to relieve arthritic pain? Studies haven’t found any hard evidence to show they work, but some users swear by them.
And the placebo effect is actually a real biologic process, says Ted Kaptchuk, a professor and director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School. Placebos can activate specific regions in the brain, triggering the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins, dopamine and natural painkillers.
The use of minerals, meanwhile, poses few risks to your health, though the Williamsburg Salt Spa does recommend you get your physician’s permission to visit its salt cave if you are pregnant or undergoing cancer treatment.
In many ways, your mind and how it affects your body is still a mystery. Complementary alternative medicines like crystals or salt caves, along with your physician’s recommended treatment, may be exactly what you need to improve your well-being.
Beginner’s Guide to Healing Crystals
Think it’s a bunch of hocus-pocus? Maybe not. If you want to give crystals a try, here are 10 good ones with which to start. Keep one in your pocket, or place around the home to amplify energy in a certain space.
Clear quartz: Known as the master healer. Amplifies the energy, thoughts and vibrations of other crystals.
Selenite: Removes negative energy.
Amethyst: Boosts inner strength, provides spiritual protection and enhances intuition.
Citrine: Instills a positive outlook and stimulates the mind.
Rose quartz: Promotes all types of love, helps with emotional balance, calms.
Green aventurine: Good for inviting luck and prosperity into your life. Helps with decisiveness.
Moonstone: Helps with creativity, intuitiveness and fertility.
Lapis lazuli: Promotes confidence and eases communication issues.
Aquamarine: Connects to the calming balance of the ocean. Promotes inner peace, relieves stress.
Black onyx: The crystal of protection. Shields body and mind from negative energy, alleviates symptoms of depression.
Note: Experts recommend “charging” your crystals, which can become depleted from use, negativity and time. Periodically leave them out in sunlight or moonlight.