Mention the word ‘lithotherapy’ and from those people who know what the word actually means you are likely to elicit a cynical response. A sort of ‘Woo…! The power of the stones’ type skepticism. From those who have no idea what it is and force an explanation, you are likely to receive the same eye-rolling, tongue-tutting cynicism encountered by any new-found fad that promotes physical and spiritual well-being before the conversation is moved swiftly on, but there is nothing new-found about lithotherapy. Coming from the Greek words ‘lithos’ meaning ‘stone’ and ‘therapeia’ meaning ‘care’, the word lithotherapy is taken very literally means ‘stone healing’ and this type of alternative medicine precedes even ancient Greece.
In order to understand the theories and beliefs behind lithotherapy it is necessary first to take a look at its history and this means going back, back as far as it is possible to go. Earth is an estimated 4.543 billion years old. Now since its formation or creation (depending on which school of thought you belong to), its surface has been shifting; mountains, rocks, and deserts have formed, plants have lived and died and, as a result, crystals and minerals have developed. At the heart of stone healing is the belief that having come into being as part of the power of nature and the cosmos, these stones possess the power to heal whatever ails us.
The first practitioners of lithotherapy came, surprisingly, from prehistoric times with the formation of the belief that certain stones ground down into a medicinal potion or carried on the person, could assist them in what they saw as the fundamentals of life; the power to hunt, to improve fertility and to protect them from whatever evils were lurking in the shadows.
The ancient Egyptians also practiced stone healing in the production of ground elixirs and were the first to suggest the relationship between the colour of a crystal/mineral and the organ of the body and/or the resulting fluid produced by the illness, a theory that was still being developed in the middle ages. Records tell us that lithotherapy was also practiced in China, India and by the Aztecs, who were believed to have been the first to have practiced the placing of stones on the affected part of the body. Other notable practitioners were Aristotle (384 – 322BCE), Pliny the Elder (23AD – 79 AD) and Albertus Magnus (1200 – 1280).
As an alternative therapy, harnessing the natural power of ancient stones to promote physical and spiritual well-being, lithotherapy is still practiced widely and exists and forms a part of many different alternative treatments including past life regression, auric cleansing, massage, and meditation. However, lithotherapy is probably best known for its association with Chakra healing, balancing, and cleansing. Put very simply, central to this practice is the belief that the human body can be divided into seven unique chakras, each with its own corresponding colour and individual area of responsibility. The first of these is the ‘root’ chakra situated at the base of the spine. The colour associated with this chakra is red, so examples of the stones believed to promote healing within this chakra would be fire agate, bloodstone etc. The same theory follows with the remaining chakras:
The second chakra is the ‘sacral’ chakra situated beneath the naval. The colour associated with this chakra is orange, so crystals such citrine and coral would be used in its healing. A healing chart for the remaining chakras is suggested below:
|Chakra||Area||Colour||Crystals and Minerals|
|3rd||Solar Plexus||Yellow||Citrine, Topaz|
|5th||Throat||Blue||Lapis Lazuli, Turquoise.|
In chakra healing the crystals/minerals are either placed in the affected area, carried by the patient or worn as jewellery. In the cases were multiple chakras are presented as needing treatment, multiple combinations of stones are used. What is important to remember about chakra healing is that although the stones are believed to possess the universal power to heal, they can only do so my establishing a connection between, and harnessing the body’s own physical and spiritual powers. Positive belief is necessary for the patient to achieve the maximum effect. Chakra/Stone healing has received criticism within the medical community with claims that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this alternative treatment is effective, but this does nothing to quell the enthusiasm of patients who believe strongly that, as a part of a combination of treatments, lithotherapy has helped aid their recovery.
Over the last twenty years or so, as the popularity of alternative medicines has increased, so has the belief in the spiritual and physical powers of stone therapy, this is both evident in the recognition of the healing powers of multitudes of crystals and to their increasing popularity as items of jewellery. What must be remembered is, as, with chakra healing, it is not simply a case of choosing the item of jewellery that you find the prettiest, although there is an argument for selecting the crystal you feel the most drawn to. Each crystal or crystal combination must be relevant to the area of the body or indeed soul that needs cleansing, balancing or healing. There are too many crystals/minerals to discuss them all here but some examples are:
Black Agate: Which is used to stabilise the ‘self’, promoting self-acceptance and centring. Protecting the wearer from the imbalance of the positive and negative forces in the universe.
Emerald: Is used to assist in insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Garnet: Symbolic of love it intensifies sexuality and is also used in anger management therapy.
Hematite: Provides protection. Assists those with self-esteem issues and increases confidence.
The recent increase in the popularity of this type of jewellery in both men and women is also reflective of something else. That the demands of modern life often can deny us contact with our spiritual selves causing us to feel lost, abandoned even. The touch of stone jewellery reminds us of the power of the soul, providing us with the assurance that by making the connection, universal help is at hand.