Whether hashtag “healing crystals” has made its way into your Instagram feed or not, these natural stones that claim to contain energy are gaining popularity—again. Proponents of the practice and crystal sellers say ancient Egyptians once believed these gems had the power to restore health—so much so that they even buried deceased family members with them. Today, these mystical objects’ recent resurgence might serve a more plausible purpose in our tech-obsessed world. They might not heal your ailments (no science supports this), but they may soothe the soul.
“Engaging with technology all day is draining to our systems, so people are seeking natural means of restoring and replenishing their energy,” says Krista Mitchell, a spiritual teacher and author of the new book Change Your Energy: Healing Crystals for Health, Wealth, Love & Luck. Mitchell, who works with crystal healing, uses these precious gems that come in all sizes in four specific ways: “To help clear unwanted energy like stress from the system, dissolve blocked energy like pain or tension, increase the flow of energy and vitality through the body, and infuse or increase a type of energy, like calm or optimism.”
Framed in this context, healing crystals won’t suddenly make surgery for a torn ACL unnecessary. But rather they may function as a coping mechanism for folks who need help finding peace in an increasingly stressful day-to-day life. “I think we’re turning back to the old [traditions] because we’ve exhausted our present options and resources, and because ancient remedies and systems have stood the test of time,” Mitchell says. “What I see in people who seek crystal healing is a desire for something more than their everyday work lives and personal obligations.”
How do healing crystals work? In a typical session, the subject will lay down, and a practitioner, like Mitchell, will place crystals on different energy points, or chakras, of the body. This process can last anywhere from minutes to hours. Some practitioners also suggest carrying crystals with you throughout the day, placing them in your home, and holding them in your hands while you meditate to get their full effects. Though there are many different types of crystals (more on this below), the goal in a healing ritual is always the same: To make someone feel better.
To be clear, healing crystals are not medicine. They will not actually improve a medical diagnosis. But if you believe in them, they might improve your mood. “I believe crystals work with the core mental, emotional, or spiritual discord that is causing illness in the body and not the physical illness itself,” explains Deborah Hanekamp, owner of Medicine Readings, a spiritual reading and healing service available in New York City and via Skype worldwide. Call it a placebo effect or a way of dealing with a difficult situation. Scientists may never give these stones the time of day, but healing crystals may help you mentally feel more mindful and resilient. Grab a stone and feel the good vibes for yourself.
One thing to keep in mind is that healing crystals can’t fix all bad attitudes. “Compassion is the highest form of spiritual wisdom. If you’re not a nice person, sleeping with crystals under your pillow doesn’t necessarily make you less of a jerk. If you want to be more conscious, you also must learn to be more kind,” Hanekamp says. While these crystals can’t turn you from the Grinch to Mother Teresa, they could help you get in touch with your emotions in a way that can help you move forward from whatever you’re going through.
As noted above, each kind of crystal serves a different purpose. Below, Mitchell breaks down a few variations. Before you invest in any crystals, Hanekamp recommends making sure your purchasing process is well-researched so that you know where they were sourced in order to be sure it was done ethically . Look for dealers and websites that sell stones that were hand-mined. This process is less damaging to the environment than mining via explosives. It’s important that suppliers also disclose exactly where their crystals are sourced from, so you can be sure they’re coming from a conflict-free zone. Crystals are usually sold as stones and slices that can fit in the palm of your hand, but also come in many other shapes and sizes, such as asymmetrical larger blocks. Generally, bigger crystals that include multiple colors or incorporate more than one mineral are more expensive because they’re much rarer. In most cases, you can find very elaborate large crystals for over $500 as well as small versions of the same stone for under $10.
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Rose quartz: For nurturing, soothing, self-loving energy that boosts our spirits, heals our hearts, and can help attract more love into our experience. Rose quartz is mined all over the world, but especially in Brazil, Madagascar, and the U.S. Since it’s the crystal of love, it can often be purchased in a heart shape.
Black tourmaline: To protect us from harmful energy like stress, negativity and ill-wishing, and to help neutralize the effects of technology and stress on our systems. This crystal is quite common and mined all over the world.
Smoky quartz: To help absorb and dissolve stress from the body. It has a grounding effect on our energy, meaning that it helps us to feel more centered and present in our lives. Smoky quartz is mined in U.S., Brazil, and Australia, among other locations.
Amethyst: An epic crystal multitasker: it boosts our intuition, reduces feelings of anxiety, stress, and anger, protects us from invasive energies like bullying and envy, and helps us to break bad habits and negative patterns of thought. It has also been believed throughout the ages to support sobriety. Amethysts come from all over the world, but most are mined in Zambia.
Green aventurine: To help bring us back into balance when we’re feeling unworthy and increase vitality and feelings of abundance. Green aventurine is most commonly found in India, Chile, and Spain.
There’s no governing body or seal indicating ethical practices for crystal mining as of now, but many sites explain exactly where and how theirs are mined. The environmental concerns have to do with using explosives to mine them as well as disrupting the natural habitats of the locations where the crystals are being mined. Some sites are committed to only selling “hand-mined” crystals for this reason.