Lithotherapy is an ancient technique using stones and minerals to improve one’s well-being. The term lithotherapy is derived from the Greek word lithos meaning stone. The first historical references to the use of crystals came from ancient the Ancient Sumerians, who included crystals in magic and healing formulas. Stones were used in ancient Egypt as early as 3000 BC. Amulets and talismans were cut from agate, lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise. The first known reference to the healing powers of crystals came from an Egyptian medical papyrus dated around 1600 BCE, which gave directions for their curative use. Beads of lapis lazuli, malachite and red jasper were worn around the necks of sick people so that the disease could pass through them and dissipate. The practice of placing or wearing stones on various areas of the body was not the only way that ancient healers used crystals. A popular method was to make an elixir to drink. The elixirs used were often chosen for their color – yellow beryl for jaundice, bloodstones for bleeding and blue lapis for restricted circulation. The Egyptians organized and classified stones for their healing properties. Throughout recorded history, scholars, alchemists, philosophers, and doctors have studied these classifications until their effects were established with more certainty.
The history of the use of crystals is rich in legends, folklore and belief systems in every ancient civilization throughout history. In Asia, jade was a noble stone and considered a remedy for all diseases. Breaking a jade object was immediately punished by death. The poor were allowed to rent or borrow stones when needed for lithotherapy. During the medieval period, the powder obtained from scratching the stone walls of a church was known to cure many illnesses. From North Africa to Arabia, precious stones were charged with symbols and believed to create magical powers. Wearing turquoise ensured victory, while carnelian and amber gave protection from evil eye. In Celtic traditions, stones were associated with fertility. Woman would rub their bellies with stone powder obtained from sacred monuments to become fertile. Tribes in West Africa place granite between the legs of a laboring woman to aid in child birth. Many references to stones and symbolism are scattered throughout the Bible. The twelve stones used to build the city walls of the New Jerusalem; jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryle, topaz, chrysoprase, hyacinth, and amethyst were not just used for their beauty but were believed to be beneficial to the city.
The scientific study of gems and minerals began with Aristotle (384-322BC) with the recording of observations, documenting of sources, and the cataloging of legends and folklore. Many writers throughout history studied and recorded gemstones and their properties. Greek writer Thiophratus (ca. 372-287 B.C.) a student of Plato and successor to Aristotle, is credited with writing the first known treatise dedicated to gems. Pliny the Elder (23AD – 79AD) wrote his book on Natural History about gems from a reported two thousand sources. It stands as the chief source from which future historians have obtained informative descriptions of life in the first century. Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) is considered one of the most important mineralogical/gemological works of all time. Unlike his predecessors, he provided comments of considerable accuracy on the nature, properties, and treatment of gemstones.
Since the beginning of time, stones have held a powerful influence over every ancient civilization. So powerful, that great minds throughout recent history have attempted to delve deeper into the energetic properties that stones offer. This slow transmission of knowledge and research over thousands of years is the basis of modern lithotherapy.
A Brief History of Crystals and Healing. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 20
Egyptian energy healing & spirituality – ancient Egyptian wisdom – Healing with Crystals. (n.d.). Retrieved August 11, 2014.
Knuth, B. (n.d.). A Brief History of Gemstone Writings. Retrieved January 1, 2014.Megemont, F. (2003). The Therapeutic Uses of Gemstones and Crystals. In The Metaphysical Book Of Gems and Crystals (p. 312). Rochester: Healing Arts Press.