Over the last few years, a phenomenon in alternative healing methods known as “crystal healing” has been on the rise. Advocates of crystal healing claim the use of crystals, such as quartz or lapis lazuli, can rid the body of diseases and mental ailments. Though numerous scientific sources state crystals have no healing properties, the placebo effect may be real enough to inspire true change in an individual’s physical health.

The practice of crystal healing is based off the reallocation of stress in chakra points, which are areas of the body where stress is thought to accumulate in Eastern medicine. Various types of gems and crystals are used to “rebalance the body’s energy,” thus making the patient feel well again. Gems are thought to have unique healing properties; for example, wearing rose quartz is said to increase one’s self-esteem and feelings of self-love.

However, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. An article titled “Crystal Healing: Stone-Cold Facts About Gemstone Treatment” from LiveScience states crystal healing “is not popular with most medical doctors and scientists, (and) many of whom refer to it as a pseudoscience.” Using the scientific method, crystal healing has been put to the test for any discernable physical and emotional benefits to its implementation, but results have consistently come up negative.

Yet even with science’s disapproval of this alternative art, crystal healing has many believers who claim to experience positive results after using crystals. On YouTube, videos from crystal healing practitioners often report feeling emotionally uplifted after a session, even though crystals are scientifically proven to not cause any physical change in the body. To explain this, one must consider the strength of the placebo effect.

The placebo effect refers to the practice of providing a fake treatment alongside an actual treatment in order to determine a causal relationship between the real treatment and the prevention of a disease or disorder present in a patient. Though one would expect patients receiving the placebo to not experience any physical change in medical trials, WebMD states in an article explaining the placebo effect that positive effects can be felt with disorders like depression and chronic pain, even if the patient is aware that the medicine they’re taking is a placebo.

The aforementioned LiveScience article mentions a study conducted by Christopher French, head of anomalistic psychology research at the University of London. He examined people wishing to try crystal healing by using real and fake quartz to test the crystal’s healing properties. French found that “the effects reported by those who held fake crystals while meditating were no different than the effects reported by those who held real crystals,” indicating that any reported recoveries were likely just placebo tricks of the mind.

However, if real mental effects are experienced by the patients, one could argue crystals do, in fact, aid believers of crystal healing in real ways that benefit their lives. The mind is a powerful tool, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be tricked into feeling better even when scientific evidence says otherwise.

Psychology Today reported in an article from 2011 that a person’s beliefs can affect the strength of the placebo effect. In a study performed with energy drinks, a person who noted before drinking that they expected the drink to strongly influence their mental ability performed better at a word unscrambling task than people who did not believe it would affect them. When applying these findings to crystals, it’s possible that people who strongly believe in crystal healing may experience real effects due to the strength of their placebo effect. This could result in experiencing symptoms such as less muscle tension, fewer headaches and an overall improved outlook on life.

Unfortunately, taking this one step further by using crystals in place of modern medicine to cure severe physical ailments is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted. Patients considering sessions of crystal healing over institutionalized medical care risk their disease persisting and potentially worsening as a result. If anything, crystals should be used for minor physical or mental grievances only.

Though crystal healing does not have a place in the science or medical fields, it still finds a home in many ritual religious practices in cultures around the world today, where its practitioners frequently include them for their positive effects. New Age practices may not be based in science, but this does not mean they can’t inspire real mental change.