Spiritually Curious: what is crystal healing therapy, and does it actually work?

Spiritually Curious is a column investigating practices and rituals that have been adopted by the modern wellness movement – techniques that fall outside of traditional medicine, but which nevertheless promise physical, mental and/or emotional benefits. Here, Stylist’s junior beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher tries out crystal healing. This is for anyone who’s slightly sceptical, but open to being convinced - in other words, spiritually curious. 

Crystals are everywhere. Whether they’re nestled between painted plates in Anthropologie, sat on your colleagues’ desks or used as a prop on Instagram, we’re bumping into them more often than ever before.

While there’s a lot of scoffing cynicism around these special stones, increasing numbers of people are delving into the crystal craze – there’s been a steady 40% increase in Google searches since 2013. And it’s not just because they’re ridiculously pretty, either. Proponents of crystals’ wellbeing benefits claim they can channel different energy frequencies in themselves and into our bodies, something that can supposedly have a range of positive effects: from creating a profound sense of calm to connecting you to your ancestors or banishing negative energy. Some people even hold on to crystals while sleeping, using them as a kind of adult comfort blanket.

When handled by a practitioner in a “healing session”, crystals supposedly become even more powerful, and can be used to restore a sense of balance and undo emotional stress. As the owner of quite a few crystals, I’ve definitely bought into them but have never had them used in a designated healing session before with a professional. I recently tried it out for the first time, expecting nothing more than simple relaxation, but got way more than I could have anticipated. Here’s how it went. 

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What is crystal healing, and where did it originate?

Crystals have existed for millions of years, and the use of crystals, amulets and talismans has been recorded since the start of humankind (around 60,000 years ago). The ancient Sumerians used precious stones like lapis lazuli and quartz in “magical” formulas, and the ancient Egyptians wore topaz and peridot to treat night terrors.

Today, many of the words we use to label crystals stem from ancient Greek. “Crystal” itself comes from the Greek word for “ice”, while “amethyst” – which was worn by the Greeks as an amulet to prevent intoxication and hangovers – translates to “not drunken”.

Western values shifted towards relying on evidence-based medicine following the Enlightenment of the 17th century, but many people still revere crystals. Stones are said to enable and heighten ‘gifts’ such as clairvoyance, past-life regression (seeing who you were in past lives to learn about yourself today) and energy work (working on your aura and chakras). That’s why spiritual healers often incorporate crystals in their practices, as they’re believed to absorb, direct, and focus the energy within a person’s body’s energy field (or aura).

What are the supposed benefits of crystal healing?

Some people report experiencing a heightened sense of calm and/or emotional clarity during and after a crystal healing session. Others feel no effect at all. While crystal healing is definitely not advised as a replacement for any medication or therapy, it may be able to aid relaxation, in a similar way to meditation.

How does one become a professional crystal healer?

There are several courses you can take to become certified to professionally practice crystal healing on others. The British Academy of Crystal Healing offers a two-day FHT (Federation of Holistic Therapists) accredited course, with no previous experience needed.

Is there any scientific evidence that crystal healing actually works?

Um… no. As is the case for many spiritual practices, there’s a notable lack of hard evidence for the benefits of crystal healing. Like reiki practitioners, crystal healers rely on positive client testimonials to validate their claims.

However, that doesn’t mean that no scientific research has been done on crystal healing. One study from 2001 suggests that crystals may induce a placebo effect on those who use them: after five minutes of meditation while holding a quartz crystal, all 80 participants in the study reported a warm sensation in their hand and an increased sense of wellbeing, despite half of the stones being fake.

Our advice? Don’t invest too much in crystals, financially or medically, but feel free to keep an open mind. They don’t cause any harm, and having something tangible to focus on may aid meditation – even if it’s just a placebo effect. 

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What happens during a crystal healing session?

I visited Emma Lucy Knowles – London’s queen of crystals and author of The Power of Crystal Healing: Change Your Energy and Live a High-Vibe Life – at her home studio. Knowles is a multi-hyphenated healer, so uses energy work and clairvoyance to assess what her clients need while visualising their future in vivid imagery.

As soon as I walked in, Knowles told me I was about to change jobs. I was – in a couple of weeks – and she said she could physically see the change all around me. She handed me two crystals to hold based on what she perceived I needed: carnelian for energy and clear quartz for clarity. 

I lay down fully clothed, and Knowles placed a couple more crystals on my forehead and throat, including kyanite for chakra alignment, absolution, and to help me transition into a deep meditative state. (During a crystal healing session, a practitioner may also place crystals in your hands, depending on what they think you need.)

In many ways, crystal healing is similar to reiki. After lying down, you’ll be led into a guided meditation with deep breathing, and you may also be asked to visualise a bright light while the healer places their hands on or above various points on your body to ‘read’ and ‘redirect’ energy.

As Knowles placed her hands on my chakra points (supposedly to help energy ‘flow’ where it needs to go), I slipped under almost instantly. Behind my closed lids, my eyes kept drifting upwards to the middle of my forehead (where the third eye chakra, the site of intuition and foresight, is said to be), and my palms started to pulsate around the crystals.

At times, one side of my body would get hot with a strong pulse, while the other half lay still and silent. Then the sensation would switch sides. Knowles later told me that this was a sign my energy was flowing to the places that needed it the most.

After being gently woken out of my trance (that’s the only way to describe it), Knowles sat beside me and recounted all the visions that came to her while she was working on me, recording everything on her phone. Some of these visions were surreal and metaphorical, some were visualisations of my energy and how it’s set to change, and others detailed how I’d grown up and the person I’ve become.

All of these visions were so eerily spot-on that I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. Things I’d subconsciously felt and thought had been brought to the surface. The experience felt vulnerable, but not intrusive.

For the next three days, Knowles and I set aside half an hour each day to do some ‘distant healing’ via our phones. She’d send me the voice recording, which I’d listen to before putting on some celestial-sounding music that she’d recommended. I’d then lie down and meditate for half an hour, while Knowles “tuned into me” from afar. These sessions didn’t have as much of a profound or obvious effect as our initial meeting, but I still emerged from them feeling seriously rested, calmer and more clear-minded.

Time will tell if any of Knowles’s premonitions come true. I won’t live my life by them, but I will bear them in mind.

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Does crystal healing have any side effects?

Crystal healing shouldn’t produce any negative side effects other than a headache, which Knowles warns could happen as a result of energy flowing in different directions throughout the body.

Although there are no long-lasting negative side effects of crystal healing, it should only be used alongside (not instead of) traditional treatments like medication and therapy for conditions involving serious depression, anxiety or pain.

What should you do before and after a crystal session?

Two days before my session with Knowles, I doubled my intake of water and ate mostly healthy food (apart from a toasted reuben sandwich with lots of melted cheese, oops) as per her instructions. This was supposed to reduce blockages in my body, and allow me to receive energy more freely.

After a crystal healing session, be sure to drink plenty of water – this really saved me and helped my headache. I felt a bit spaced out and moved more slowly, but unfortunately I had a couple of crowded work events to go to afterwards and was not in the right headspace to be around so many people. I’d definitely advise having a good meal afterwards and settling into your own space alone, to let your mind and body process everything.

How much should crystal healing cost?

A session can cost anywhere between £50 and £400, depending on the healer and how much they offer – but always choose a practitioner based on recommendations and reviews.

Luckily, you don’t have to book multiple healing sessions at once: just one session is fine to dip your toes into the experience. You can always book in for another session when you feel in need of some insight or to deeply meditate.

Core sessions with Emma Lucy Knowles cost £280 for a one-to-one session and three distant healing sessions. Book at 

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